Happy new year, everyone! Now, let's set solid goals and make real progress this year. It's simpler than you think.

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Have you had time to reflect on 2018 and develop a plan to make 2019 a positive and productive year? Hopefully you haven’t given up on any resolutions just yet—but if you have, you’re definitely not the only one. A gloomy 23% of people abandon their resolutions within the first week [1].

It’s tough! I totally get it, and I’m here to help. Did you know that six months from now, you are 23 times more likely to be successful in making positive changes if you take the time to develop a thoughtful goal plan today [2]? Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do to strengthen your willpower or expand your support network—although connecting with other readers in the comments section and on our social media is a good place to start! I can, however, share what works for me year after year. Whether you haven’t quite started to think about the year ahead, your January 2nd post-workout “new year, new you” Instagram post feels a little fraudulent three weeks later, or you’re on track so far (go you!) and looking for tips to stay organized and motivated, there’s something in this post for everyone.

Time for a Change

I started making new year’s resolutions in 2017. For a few reasons, I had always thought it was a silly idea to make resolutions just because the date changed. I mean, every morning we wake up is a new day with new possibilities, right? Additionally, I have always been introspective, organized, and motivated by opportunities for personal growth. It was always easy for me to identify goals. I challenged myself academically, knew what career I wanted by the time I was 13 years old, earned the title of marching band captain in high school, lost the 11 pounds I gained over my freshman year of college by the end of the summer, planned my own wedding, co-designed our first house to be built a year later… It’s not that I never faced adversity or had to change direction suddenly. I just always had a Plan B and strong confidence in myself. I’m a hard worker, I like to keep busy, and I constantly see opportunities for improvement.

So why did I feel stuck and start making new year’s resolutions for the first time in my life? I earned my master’s degree in July 2016 while working full-time, and I was not sure when the next opportunity for a promotion would be. I had all of the obvious accomplishment boxes checked in other areas of my life, and I was feeling unsure of my next move for the first time. The thought of not having a goal to actively pursue really scared me for a week or so while I brainstormed.

A New Strategy

It just happened to be nearing the end of the year when it hit me that I was lacking a clear focus for the months ahead. I identified four areas of my life that I needed to maintain to be happy: wellness, career/education, home, and hobbies. This first step really helped me to focus the clutter in my head. Next, I jotted down what I wanted for each area of my life—generally at first, and then more specifically. I identified the steps that would be required to make realistic progress over the course of a year and organized all of these ideas in a tiered, bullet-point list. I knew I would need to keep this list visible at home to keep it all in the front of my mind, so I typed it up, added some color, and framed it to hang on the wall of my office. To keep track of my progress throughout the year, I used a dry-erase marker to check items off the list as I accomplished them.

2018 Goals

The result? I felt a huge sense of relief that January, and I accomplished a lot by December, so I refreshed the list for 2018. Of the four goal areas, I was the most successful with Wellness and Hobbies in 2018. I did very well, aside from finding new healthcare providers and having more contact with cats and children—who doesn’t need more of that in their life?! I didn’t make as much progress in the areas of Career/Education and Home primarily because I was unexpectedly laid off from work for the second half of the year. The experience was definitely a setback in my career, saving money to return to graduate school, and investing in home improvement projects. As part of the Wellness goal, my loss of health insurance also prevented me from finding new healthcare providers. The second half of the year was definitely more tumultuous than the first half, but I still managed to achieve quite a bit because I stayed focused and reprioritized when necessary.

2019 Goals

Check out my goals for 2019. I updated the font and background image this year. I had a lot of fun at the county fair in the fall, and I’d like to go again this year, so I added it to my Hobbies goals and used a photo I took of the Ferris wheel as the background image for the document.

Let’s do it!

Here are the supplies you will need to get started:

  • 8.5 x 11 picture frame
    • They are available at Amazon, craft stores, home goods stores…pretty much anywhere for $15 or less.
  • Inspiring background picture and a pretty font/layout
    • You can Google patterns or photos that resonate with you or use a snapshot you took. I suggest either choosing something meaningful (like my 2019 background) or something that matches the area you’ll be hanging the frame (like my 2018 background).
  • Dry erase marker
    • I chose a color to match my printed text and discovered it rests easily atop the frame once it’s hung on the wall.
  • Calendar/planner and other cute supplies to get motivated to work on goals
    • I always buy my calendars from Orange Circle Studio. They have cute themes and a variety of sizes and collections, including the Do-it-all collection with pockets and stickers! It’s a challenge to NOT be organized when your calendar does half the work for you. My favorite use for the pockets is to hold coupons and appointment cards.
    • Additionally, invest in supplies related to your goals. Last year, one of my goals was to be more active, and my old, faded yoga pants, college t-shirts, and scuffed up sneakers were not inspiring me to get started. I purchased new sneakers and athletic clothing so I felt and looked like I was taking my goal seriously.

I was feeling unsure of my next move for the first time. The thought of not having a goal to actively pursue really scared me.

Which tip resonates most with you? What advice do you have for other readers? What goals are you going to set and conquer this year? Cheers!


[1] Norcross, J. C., & Vangarelli, D. J. (1988). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Years change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1(2), 127-134. doi:10.1016/s0899-3289(88)80016-6

[2] Norcross, J. C., Mrykalo, M. S., & Blagys, M. D. (2002). Auld lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Years resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405. doi:10.1002/jclp.1151