on life, ambitions, and dreams

How to Set Goals and Keep New Years Resolutions

visualize goals

I am quickly becoming obsessed with making goals and am flirting with the danger-zone of over-planning and not getting anything done. But it is the second day of the New Year, so I’m still in the safe zone, right?

Today was New Year’s Day observed, which meant I had the day off work and since Johnny was working from home, that meant the day was all for me.

I slept in (yay!), had a home cooked breakfast with the man, ran off to meet another friend for coffee and to talk about our year ahead, had lunch with one of my truest, most amazing friends, made it to CrossFit (deadlifts, hang snatches, and overhead squats, oh my!), and am now enjoying some writing time. This year rocks already.

Put Your Goals Somewhere That You Can See Them

In following my track record of making goals and achieving them, the sure-fire way for me to fall flat on my face and not get something done is to write out a set of goals and then hide them. Sure, this works really well when cleaning my desk and I find my goals stacked between that book I didn’t finish and that notebook that has pages left unfilled (surprise!). And even though when it happens, I’m usually surprised by how many of those goals I actually accomplished. And while it’s been proven that the very act of writing down goals increases your likelihood of achieving them, it’s hard to be unintentionally intentional.

So this afternoon I went through my goals for the year and picked three things that I want to make sure I carry with me through the year. They are my goals, mantras, and things that could be roadblocks between achieving my goals this year.

From there, I wrote down five or six things for each category on index cards and literally pasted them to the wall of my office.

I used the red light/green light approach to organizing these three categories:

  • Goals on green cards, as that’s where I want to go.
  • Mantras on yellow cards, as I’ll probably be stalled when I need to remember them.
  • Roadblocks go on pink cards, as those are things I need to stop doing.

Test the Red Light/Green Light Approach to Goals

2012 Goals, Mantras, Road Blocks

Green Light Goals

I have three main goals for the year and two things that I need to do more of.


  1. Give 100% to building my day job (kick ass in my position at a startup)
  2. CrossFit three times a week (build strength)
  3. Write every day (blog)

Do more of:

  1. Get a full night’s sleep
  2. See friends and family (socially)

Yellow Light Mantras

Mantras, sayings, and expressions to keep you centered. These are my favorite and I’m putting them on my wall to keep myself accountable and remember what’s important to me. I’ll probably add more as the year goes on (or not).

Mantras or things to help ground me throughout the year:

  1. Value myself, my time, my skills
  2. Kick ass every day
  3. Trust my gut
  4. If things aren’t right, change it
  5. Speak less of my plans – do more
  6. Do one thing every day that scares me

I’ve actually started writing down the thing I do each day that scares me as another way to keep myself accountable, and because I’m curious to see what that says about me a year later. Doing one thing that scares me every day is not about going skydiving, but something like going to a networking event, alone, where I don’t know anyone and introducing myself. Would you do that on a normal day? If the answer is, “no,” then that could be your one-thing.

Red Light Potential Roadblocks

These are things that I recognize might prevent me from meeting my goals. Since I’ll be looking at these cards every single day, I didn’t want to write, “Don’t say yes” or “don’t be fearless” when I need to have a list of things that I should do to prevent the roadblocks. If that doesn’t make sense, read this blog post by Jeff Baumgarten, 30 Things…To Do (Riff).

Potential Roadblocks:

  1. Say, “No.”
  2. Don’t make excuses
  3. Don’t commit to projects that aren’t my own
  4. Be fearless
  5. The Mayans are wrong

Fearing the end of the world is no reason to keep me from meeting my goals.

Will this work?

To be honest, I don’t know. But I’m going to try it. I also have some friends who have signed up to help me stay accountable.

How do you make sure you meet your New Year goals?


10 Responses

  1. Can I just say, I love your office room!! Those purple walls are fabulous, and I love the way you posted your goal post-its! Fabulous 🙂

    And girrrrl, you are doing CrossFit? Amazing! I have yet to try it, but it sounds like a real butt-kicker. 

    1. Thanks, Jenny! I love, love, LOVE my purple.

      Yes, I’ve been doing CrossFit for just over 3 years, though not as consistent over the past 1.5 since I’ve been rehabbing a shoulder injury. It’s amazing and I love it — partly because of the kind of work out but mainly because of the people and the community. Here’s an amazing video about what I get out of CF: http://lamiki.com/2010/11/my-crossfit-gym/

      And, yes, you should try it 🙂

  2. This is awesome. 

    Is the red/yellow/green idea yours?  I wonder about something though — sometimes when I write a hell of a lot of post-it notes and stick them on the desk/wall it sort of diffuses responsibility.

    This is mostly regarding intangibles and mantras such as “do less of activity xx.”  How do you help yourself remember them?

    At one of my jobs I was making a business operations set up for all the employees, and although we would write lists and lists of closing procedures and things to do during the day, no one checked the list.

    Am I babbling? Especially love “the mayans are wrong.” hahah.And bloody hell that’s a colorful room.. maybe I should invest in one of those for writing inspiration.

    1. Thanks! It’s my own idea, though it was inspired by a red/yellow/green light system for productivity at a company I used to work for. You know the drill — weekly sync with your manager, “Project X is a yellow and stalled for this reason…” And lucky for me I had the appropriate note cards.

      Regarding the mantras, it’s more of a reminder that I try to repeat to myself when I’m about to decide to do something or not. The only thing that I can account for are the green cards.

      You are babbling, and it’s awesome. The Mayans thing came from you — thank you, btw. Investing in a colorful room is cheap — about $30 in paint plus supplies and patience. Totally rocks harder than a white room, that’s for sure 🙂 What color would you paint your room?

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