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achieving goals festive flat lay

The Scientific Way of Setting and Achieving Goals

 A new year is here and so are lots of goals. Setting goals is definitely the easiest part. Achieving them, on the other hand, is probably the trickiest part for most of us.

Related: Here Is Why New Year Resolution Fail

I know that the new year brings a lot of energy and motivation to get things done, but that energy fades away quicker than the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. You probably set too many goals and end up being overwhelmed and disappointed when you realise you can’t achieve them all.

If you add some math to your goal setting process, chances are your goals will get achieved.

Split your goals accordingly

We set a bunch of goals, put them on the same huge bucket list and wait for them to become true.

Split your goals into different categories. This way you’ll get a better view of them and the overall expected result.

Here are some categories you can use to group your goals:

  • family
  • friends
  • health
  • business/professional
  • personal (passions, spirituality, etc.)

You can add other categories, as well, but the less, the better.

achieving goals festive flat lay

Choose a magic number

Decide on a number of goals and stick to it. The less the better.

We want to lose weight, eat healthier, start working out, read more, meditate and so on. But these are a lot of changes to bring into our lives all at once. So choose, let’s say 3 goals. For each of the categories above, don’t set more than 3 goals.

Relate: Small New Year Resolutions That Will Actually Make Your Life Better

You can set only one goal for, let’s say health and 3 for family.

Never surpass the number you chose!

State SMART goals

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals. You’ve probably used them at work or you had to at Uni.

I’ve worked with SMART goals for a few years now and a few weeks ago, I realised I misunderstood one letter. So, here’s what SMART stands for:

  • S – Specific: you  need to have a specific action in your goal; for example: lose weight, eat healthier, etc;
  • M – Measurable: this can be done by adding a number to your specific action, so you can measure it; for example: lose 20 kilos, read 30 books, etc;
  • A – Achievable: this is the part I misunderstood for quite a while. Depending on which term you give “A” it might be clearer or not. This part might be confused with “realistic”, but they are very different. Achievable means the action plan you’ll take to achieve your goal. You can also break your goal into small milestones, to make it easier to follow your progress. For example: lose 20 kilos, by losing 2 kilos/month, read 30 books in total and read at lear 2 books each month, etc;
  • R – Realistic: this is the subjective part, since you have to take into consideration your resources and decide if the goal is realistic or not. Depending on the goal, you have to take into consideration if you have the time, money, health, relations and knowledge to achieve it. To determine if the goal is realistic or not, simply answer the question: is it possible? If the answer is “No”, you should adjust the goal.
  • T – in Time: last but not least, you have to set a time range for your goal, so you can track it even better; for example: read 30 books by the end of the year and read at least two books each month.

To avoid getting burnout, set different time ranges for each category. For example, set to achieve the health goals in three or six months, the personal ones in 9 months and so on. Don’t set to achieve all your goals at once; it’s very unlikely you’ll succeed this way.

When is the goal achieved?

Working with SMART goals comes in had here.

When I used to work on projects that had SMART goals, we considered it an achieved objective if the goal was fulfilled at least 75%. I know it sounds like a lot of math is involved, which is true; we actually did the math behind it. But you don’t have to be so strict. If you’ve set your goals correctly, it should be easy to determine if they were achieved.

Also, last but not least, in order to be able to tell if you achieved your goals, you have to track them somehow. In my case, I use Goodreads to track my reading challenge, for example.

Other things you can use

There are a lot of techniques like The Pomodoro Technique, The Pareto Principle or the Einstein Window that can help you get more organised. Here are some other tips that can help you achieve your goals:

  • identify the 20% of the resources that will help you achieve 80% of your goals – this is The Pareto Principle;
  • create a visual board with your goals and place it somewhere where you can see it when you go to bed and when you wake up; the power of visualization is scientifically proven it help achieving our goals;
  • set a specific time frame throughout the day or week when you will work towards achieving your goal; for example, read every night before going to bed, or workout every Wednesday and Friday;
  • set a review window – set a couple of hours whenever you feel comfortable to review your goals: how you did so far, are you on the right path, should you change anything, is the goal still resonating with you and so on.

 Related: 11 Tips & Tricks That Will Help You Stick to a New Year Resolution

Last but not least, there is no shame in abandoning a goal. It might not be possible to achieve it due to external factors that you can’t control or it simply does not resonate with your beliefs anymore.


How’s your resolution list looking for this year? Are your goals small or big? You already know that my belief is to not share your goals until they come true, but I would really love to see what you’ll be focusing this year.

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