Are you ready to write your resolutions? The New Year provides a good time for us to take stock, as so many of us do. Despite psychologists’ claims that New Year’s resolutions are doomed, I think we can beat the trend. Rather than putting myself in the 78% that blow off or otherwise fail to achieve their goals, I am sure I can learn from the lessons of the 22%.
I don’t really make resolutions in the sense that I usually think of them, resolving to rid myself of bad habits (since I, of course, have no bad habits). I tend to look at what I’ve done in the past year and what I want to do in the coming year. I check in on progress and set new goals.
Rather than suggest green resolutions you might want to make in the coming year (since that is such a personal choice and even the U.S. govt says most people make the same resolutions), I want to suggest that planning, tracking, and reminding yourself electronically is a way to save. For me, at least, this means saving on post-it notes. As much as I love a big pile of colorful post-it notes, I really don’t like tossing a stack of barely used paper away, even into the recycling bin.
I’m always looking for the better electronic project planner, calendar, life balancer, and sticky note pad. I use Life Balance from Llamagraphics as my calendar, but I try out new ways to track projects and goals. It doesn’t quite steer clear of obsession for me. For the past several years, I’ve tried a variety of ways to track goals. This is part of my New Year’s ritual: what new tool will I try this year?
So, whatever your goals may be, how will you track them? I have divided the following tools into Web – Social, Web – Individual, Phone / Multi-platform Apps, and Simple Tools.
Web – Social Sites
Social sites encourage you to be inspired by and accountable to others. Since these often aren’t people whose opinions matter to you (family and friends), you still have to make the effort yourself to reach out to make these sites a useful community for you.
- 43 Things
Social network but connections are superficial. East to set and forget (my sad experience). There is a Facebook application to pull your goals into your Facebook profile.
Similar to 43 Things, though much smaller. Create a life list, work toward the goals. Nice privacy settings.
Also similar to 43 Things though more tracking and reminders. Join groups for support.
Another goal community. Includes challenges to friends.
Yet another goal community.
I want to leave some of these above and below off the list, but I can never tell which one will speak to others even if it doesn’t speak to me.
- Best Year Yet
Interesting model for personal change. You pay $99.95 to $299.95 for a coaching program—less for self-coaching with their tools and more for live coach through monthly review webinars with other participants. It’s a step short of a life coach and considerably less expensive.
Buddies or teams join together at Comotivate to reach goals together.
A goal support site by and for women. All about the goals.
Cool online goal site that is still in beta. Free open platform.
- Goal for It
A social site that emphasizes making goals habits. One thing I didn’t see elsewhere: bright, bubbly chore charts to help develop “good habits” in kids.
Web – Individual
On these sites, you are on your own—often with great tools and resources, but you will have to make the effort. No one is going to beat you into change. No one but yourself, that is.
- Joe’s Goals
The simple and seemingly most common tool. Set the goal and give it a green check or a red X. I used it and loved the look but didn’t get the motivation I wanted. I need more interaction—with myself even if not with others.
- My Life Changes
Nice approach that starts with vision and values before setting the goals. Subscription includes choices, reminders, reports.
If your goals are about time spent or building habits, this tracker might work for you.
- Goal Enforcer
This is a visual organizer that breaks down goals into smaller bubbles, all connected to a center bubble. Not quite mind mappish.
- Google Calendar
For the clever and organized among you, using a simple tool like Google Calendar in a new way can result in the ultimate goal or task tracker.
Multi-platform / Phone Apps
- Remember the Milk
Very simple list. If you can organize your own goals and break them down without prompting, you could make this work. On the big plus side, there is an app for phones, blackberries, gmail, firefox, Google calendar, Twitter, and so on. AND, there are third-party extensions. This one is big enough that you can rely on improvements over time.
Get email reminders. Include life page to show how goals reflect your core values. Based on SMART goals. Can have multiple tasks per goal. Browser based with iPhone / Android app for tracking. This looks really fun, but I know for sure I have more than 4 goals, which costs money, and I’m way cheap.
- Goal Tracker
Enter goals and measurements. The measurements are the important part when you really want to make the goals work. Then, update measurements.
- Limeade Well-being
From the makers of Goal Tracker. Take a well-being assessment and set goals online, then track everything from your iPhone.
- FCMobileLife Goals
If you are following the Franklin Covey system, this is the app for you.
- Touch Goal
Tap to track your habits, single to add to score and double to remove from score. If your goal involves a new habit you are trying to develop or a habit you are trying to break, this could help you without taking too much time.
- Awesome Note
Cool sticky note graphics. You have to already have a good plan, since this app won’t organize your goals for you.
Simpler Tools (including Revert to Paper)
Getting Things Done
David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is such a simple and useful system that people use it. It’s everywhere in name and practice. Honestly, I think it works best on paper, but this is a huge and helpful list of GTD tools for Mac & PC.
I do it. I like to carry paper with me. What writer wouldn’t. Yes, I know that defeats the purpose of avoiding the wasted paper, but it’s not much paper and it takes no electricity. If you go with paper, how about a basic moleskine notebook or a D*I*Y Planner? Moleskine is the greatest plain notebook by reputation. It’s what I use. D*I*Y is a community of people creating and sharing tools. There is a great daily refocus page for the D*I*Y. If you are developing habits, there is a Franklin Virtue chart.
Or Imitate Paper Electronically
Since I begin and end with the idea of sticky notes, I’ll also tell you about Posti.ca. I love this site because it’s the closest I’ve found (so far) that gives me the real sticky note feel I want. I’ve used this site to take and arrange notes during presentations. It’s real time, so I was able to share the notes with a friend as I went. It’s a little clunky to do the kind of affinity diagramming that I find helps me focus. Still, it looks like sticky notes, and that’s all right with me.
Here’s a Secret
None of these applications will do it for you. As disappointing as I find this, these are just tools for us to use. Cool tools, true, but we apply the muscle and willpower.
6 Tips to Help You Keep Your Resolutions and Reach Your Goals
Just to make sure that you really accomplish what you want to accomplish in the coming year, I have a few suggestions.
- Make sure you are ready. No wishes. Just plans.
- Focus on one thing. Make a list if you need to, but file it. Just accomplish one big thing, make it a habit or get it done. Then pull out your list and do the next big thing.
- Set the milestones. What are the big pieces of this plan? And, how will you reward yourself when you reach those milestones?
- Break it down into steps, then into smaller tasks. Then, figure out what the next action is. That is: make an action plan. Don’t let yourself get blocked by just not figuring out what comes next.
- Make it a habit. The 21-days-to-a-new-habit approach has become conventional self-help wisdom because it works. Whatever you want to do, do it every day for at least 15 minutes a day. Yes, every day. Don’t break the chain.
- Share your plan. This step is essential. Tell others what you are doing and how you intend to accomplish your goal. Whether you are looking for a buddy to do it with you, a cheerleader, or just a rotten friend to poke you when you go wrong, it really helps to know that you AND someone else will keep you accountable.
Social sites can create some level of accountability and support, but if you want a wicked group of people after you about what you are doing, post about your goal on Twitter or Facebook. You could even create your own hashtag—maybe you will share it with others who have the same idea, a built-in support group. You are the best reality show for your friends, I assure you.
One more resource: The Happiness Project
This is a book just out this month. I mention it because the author, Gretchen Rubin, has an archive of several years of really good articles on deciding what will make you happy, setting goals, and getting what you want from life. Great approach. If you need a guide, this is a place to start. The Happiness Project Toolbox is a membership site to put the approach into action.
OK. Go out and set your resolutions. Accomplish your goals. Then come back and tell me how you track it all. That’s the part I find endlessly fascinating.