Whether it’s New Year’s resolution season, a birthday, or a random Thursday, we’ve all felt the impulse to set ambitious new goals for ourselves. I’ll go to the gym three times a week! Read a new book every month! Stop eating Skittles at midnight! Walk 10,000 steps a day!
Goals and new habits are easy to set, but hard to meet — and even harder to hold yourself accountable for. We all know the feeling of either losing steam or sight of the big picture. But making your goals visible is a great tactic to help you follow through. Here are a few easy tips to keep yourself honest and focused.
Get your friends involved
As The Beatles once said (maybe): I make progress toward my goals more easily with a little help from my friends. And it’s true!
Actually hanging out with people might sound old fashioned to some, but if you make your routine social, it gets harder to avoid. It’s one thing if you plan to go to the gym by yourself — it’s not hard to cancel plans when nobody else is involved. But what if you’re going with your roommate, your work buddy, or an old friend? This is why book groups are so popular; there’s an incentive to keep reading more as well as see your friends and engage.
Use apps to hold you accountable too
The goals you set in private are easier to avoid because nobody can see you ignoring them. But devices and apps such as Fitbit, Bookship, MyClimb, and Lose It! encourage you to meet your target — be it a certain amount of steps, pages, feet climbed, anything — by either comparing your activity to your online friends or placing you in a supportive online social community.
Once you get past the awkwardness of baring your routine to your friends, it’s harder to blow it off because you’ve made yourself accountable.
Gamify your tasks
If social apps aren’t for you, try other basic accountability apps to keep focused. Programs like Strides or Way of Life, which break down your goals into calendars and track your progress with charts and data.
One more interactive example is Habitica, which is a Super Mario-inspired app that gives you points for completing whatever tasks you want to set for yourself. You can even use it address your habits, positive or negative, whether it’s encouraging yourself to exercise or to stop smoking. If you fall behind, the app punishes you by taking away your credits; if you do well, you get rewards.
Make public declarations
It’s long been argued that announcing your goals helps you to succeed at them. Of course, just saying you’re going to do something isn’t enough to get you to do it. But if you get enough people invested in your goals and promise to deliver updates, then you’ll get more excited about completing them.
The two biggest ways to change your behavior are with incentives and accountability. Making your ambitions public helps in both regards. A study by the American Society of Training and Development found that making a goal specifically accountable to another person (even through something as mundane as a monthly meeting) improves your chances of success by 95 percent. Regular appointments, a public newsletter, or even a Twitter feed (like Brian Stelter’s dieting method) are other possibilities.
Whatever you want to accomplish, the important thing is not to be reluctant to hold yourself responsible and to ask your friends (and the tech world) to help you do it. The tools are out there for you to succeed so get to it!
Isaac Belmont is an editor, news producer, writer, and ghostwriter based in Queens, New York.