Pallavi Pinakin presents valuable insights on how to meet your targets

In January every year, millions of New Year resolutions are born around the world. But how many of them lead to real change? Many of us begin the year with ambitious plans and an iron determination but the enthusiasm soon flags – and by February or March, most of our resolutions have been relegated to the rubbish bin!

This failure to follow through isn’t simply limited to New Year promises. Even when it comes to everyday goals – be it at work or in our personal lives – we have a tendency to falter and be derailed along the way. One of the reasons behind this failure is the fact that human beings give their willpower far too much credit. Yes, willpower plays a crucial role in personal transformation but it’s certainly not the only factor.

An enabling environment, the appropriate tools and a network of support are also vital for success. But before any of this, at the very beginning lies the objective itself because it sets the tone for your journey. Albert Einstein once said that if he had an hour to solve a problem upon which his life depended, he’d use the first 55 minutes thinking about the right question to ask because once he knew that, the problem could be solved in less than five minutes.

The same approach can be adopted to fulfil your ambitions. A thoughtfully created goal brings clarity and sparks motivation, making it that much easier to set about accomplishing it. This is why setting SMART goalsis an invaluable addition to your efficiency arsenal.

So here’s how you can set your 2018 targets, and aim with purpose and clarity. It’s the SMART way!

‘S’ FOR SPECIFIC A well-defined goal enables you to focus your efforts – and utilise your resources in the best possible way. Specificity also helps you break through procrastination and take that first step, which is often the hardest.

And remember to ask the five ‘W’ questions: ‘What do I want to achieve and why?’; ‘With whom and where?’; ‘Which resources will I use?’ So instead of coming up with a vague statement like ‘become healthier,’ aim to hit as many of the five Ws as possible. For instance, your goal could be to ‘practise Pilates in the morning with my online instructor via Skype in order to increase my energy and endurance levels.”

‘M’ FOR MEASURABLE By making it possible to track your own progress, you can hold yourself accountable. If you’re trying to be a better and more regular communicator at work, nail down how many times a week you want to schedule meetings or informal chats with your colleagues. You can also make a note of the specific behaviour you want to focus on such as listening attentively, asking questions and building rapport.

At the end of each week, assess your progress. Did you have as many conversations as you intended? And did you practise the behaviour on your list? Finally, remember to work out how you would know when your goal is achieved.

‘A’ FOR ACHIEVABLE Challenge yourself but don’t try to become a ‘new you’ overnight. That simply doesn’t work! Keep in mind that even stretch goals need to be realistic. For the change to be sustainable in the long term, take small steps steadily rather than making one grand gesture that fizzles out. This means taking into account your limitations.

So if you’re hoping to write that long planned novel, avoid setting an impossible agenda or target like writing every single night of the week. Instead, think about how many evenings you will have the time and energy to do so.

‘R’ FOR RELEVANT It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s dreams and goals, so take a step back and ask yourself whether you find the objective to be truly worthwhile and if it fits into your personal big picture. It’s also crucial to retain control over accomplishing your objective.

For instance, you may be aiming to become the head of marketing in your company but remember that the ultimate decision isn’t up to you. So reframe your goal to something along the lines of ‘gain the skills and expertise required to become the head of marketing, and clearly indicate my interest in the job to all concerned parties.’

‘T’ FOR TIME BOUND One of the main reasons behind an incomplete goal is the lack of a clear time frame. Whether it’s boosting your fitness levels, improving communication, writing a book or preparing yourself for a new role, you should be able to see the finish line in order to keep yourself going.

You can set a single completion date or even a series of interim deadlines to keep your efforts on track and hold yourself accountable for the plan of action. Avoid setting a target date that’s too far in the future because it will leave you with such a surplus of time that it becomes difficult to motivate yourself to take regular action.