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3 Steps to Achieve your New Year’s Goals and Resolutions

make saving automatic

Make it automatic.

Did you make some New Year’s Goals and Resolutions for 2012?

I hope you did because today we’ll look at how to achieve those goals and resolutions.

First of all, how did you do with 2011’s goals? If you did pretty well, congratulations! Please share some tips with us. 🙂

If you have a lot of problems with them like the majority of us did, then read on.

1. Write down your goals

This step is very simple, yet extremely important. Studies have shown that people who write down their goals achieve them at a much higher rate than if those who did not take the time to do it. Personally, if I don’t write mine down, I would forget about them very quickly. My memory is terrible.

OK, I’ll wait a few minutes for you to write down your goals if you haven’t already done so.


All right, let’s continue.

2. Make it automatic

This step is the difficult part. I’m sure your New Year’s resolutions are not easy and you need to break it down to smaller, manageable chunks. Making it automatic will help with this.

Let’s look at some examples.

Lose 30 lbs and exercise more. Many people will go on a diet and lose 10 lbs in January and then hit a plateau. I’m pretty sure this is not the right way to go. I suggest that you should take 30 lbs/12 months. That way, you only need to lose 2.5 lbs per month. See, losing 2.5 lbs is much less intimidating than losing 30 lbs and it is more sustainable.

As for exercise, you should put it in your schedule every day to make it automatic. If you joined a gym, make sure to schedule 5:30pm to 6:30pm (or whatever time is convenient) for your work out every weekday. If you run, then schedule 6am to 7am for a morning jog every weekday. You need to make time for it and schedule it into your day or else you will never stick to it. Life will intervene and you probably will miss one or two days per week, but even then you will be active 3-4 times/week. That’s pretty good right?

Save $5000. Another popular goal that many people have a lot of problems with. This one is very easy to automate. You can open an ING savings account and set up auto deposit from your bank a few days after every paycheck. Once you do that, the account will funded automatically and you probably won’t even miss the money much. Of course, you need to make sure you have enough cushion in your main bank account so you don’t overdraw.

3. Keep track of your goals and be accountable

Now that you have your sheet of goals, you need to put it somewhere visible. You pick the spot. The fridge is a popular spot or taping it next to your monitor is also a good move. Personally, I keep track of my goals right here on Retire By 40. This way, you can keep me accountable. I take stock of my goals at the end of every quarter to see if I made any progress or not. I don’t stress out too much if my goals are not done yet as long as I’m making progress.

Your goals need to be specific and measurable so you can make incremental progress and keep track of them. If they are vague, you will have a much more difficult time with them. Good luck with your 2012 New Year’s Resolutions!

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{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Jackie January 4, 2012, 4:38 am

    I haven’t made my goals yet, but they are percolating. I usually do so in late January. Maybe I will just stick with what seems most important to me: getting our house paid off.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 10:54 am

      I’m looking forward to seeing your goals. Good luck with getting the house paid off!

  • Nicely Put Joe. I’m guilty of not writing down my goals. But will do it in 2012.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 10:54 am

      Writing it down makes a huge difference. Trust me.

  • Jeffrey January 4, 2012, 7:22 am

    I’m definitely a fan of automating savings, and I’ve already got my set up to make transfers to savings with each paycheck.

    I try to schedule things, like workouts and side work, the best I can using Google Calendar.

    Another thing I’m going to try: setting up a regular weekly schedule so I do the same tasks every weeknight. For example, I’ll set aside Sundays and Wednesdays for writing and Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays for SEO work. That way I’m not overwhelmed with deciding what to do each night.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 10:56 am

      I like your regular weekly schedule. I have a hard time prioritizing everything and it will help me out quite a bit to have a set schedule. Thanks for the advice. 😉

  • MoneyCone January 4, 2012, 7:53 am

    Never doubt the power of making it automatic! I did this with my mortgage and retirement accounts, goals reached without the stress!

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 11:03 am

      We automate our retirement accounts too and I don’t miss the extra money at all. Well, not much… 🙂

  • Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog January 4, 2012, 8:25 am

    Great advice joe – the automatic savings was a great method for me last year, and i’m going to happily let it ride for 2012!

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 11:04 am

      Automatic is the way to go. It’s much easier than making a decision every 2 weeks.

  • Christa January 4, 2012, 9:08 am

    Good tips — I might have to write down my goals this year. Last year I only had two goals, and I acheived both. This year I have multiple goals, so writing them down could help.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 11:05 am

      Writing them down is a must! You can keep track of them on your blog and share your progress.

  • Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter January 4, 2012, 9:23 am

    Nicely put indeed. I agree that being automatic is really important. When we don’t have to try to remember to do something we are much more successful.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 4, 2012, 10:08 am

    Very good tips. For example, written goals are key, just like you indicate. Putting goals on cruise control is also an awesome way to ensure that they occur. It is also very hard to argue with the accountability factor as well. Without a sense of accountability, it is hard to ensure that goals really happen.

  • Forest January 4, 2012, 10:58 am

    I’m constantly telling people to write stuff down. When it comes to exercise, sticking a pice of paper with measurements / info and updates and a photo to the fridge helps no end….

    Great post.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 1:05 pm

      Writing things down make it more real. It’s amazing what that little simple step can do.

  • kathleen January 4, 2012, 11:16 am

    Some things are easier to automate — like paying the credit card bill! Getting out of debt will be much easier to automate than my other goal: do ten pullups.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 1:07 pm

      Wow, that’s tough! Pullups are much much more difficult for women to do from what I understand. I just did 10 pullups at the gym during lunch, feels good. 🙂
      My goal is 8×3 sets = 24 clean pullups.

      • kathleen January 4, 2012, 2:06 pm

        wow … well, I can’t even do one! So ten is a stretch at this point.

  • Suba January 4, 2012, 12:12 pm

    I do well with anything other than weight loss goals. If I could somehow automate my weight loss goal I will be all set 🙂 But I have a long way to go to train myself to lose weight. I am trying several new tactics this year, hopefully some of them will work.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 1:08 pm

      I firmly believe the only way to maintain lower weight is to make a lifestyle change. Diet doesn’t work so you just have to eat well all year round. I want to see what your new tactics are. Good luck!

  • Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents January 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

    My main thing is that I need to keep track! I usually forget.

  • Andy Hough January 4, 2012, 2:38 pm

    My goals are on my blog and I plan to update my progress on them every week. I’ll probably add some more goals during the year too.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 9:25 pm

      Having a blog is the secret weapon to finishing the goals. Your readers keep you accountable.

  • krantcents January 4, 2012, 4:12 pm

    I make as many things automatic as I can. I keep m goals in front of me and monitor them daily/weekly/monthly. Working on your goals all the time usually follows a compelling reason for success. I think that is what it takes.

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 9:26 pm

      I agree. A difficult goal like losing weight needs a lifestyle change to accomplish.

  • SB @ One Cent At A Time January 4, 2012, 5:36 pm

    I never make goals. Still I am not an underachiever yet. I am rather impulsive guy. I once had my goals all set but middle of the year I stop loving the destinations I chose at the beginning. I set for completely different goals from there on for the rest of the year. Any cure of someone like I am?

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 9:30 pm

      I don’t know man. Maybe when you get older, you will settle down a bit? Probably not.

  • Aloysa January 4, 2012, 6:00 pm

    Well, this is my first year that I came up with some resolutions and goals. I did write them down. On my blog! And that’s how I am going to keep track of them. I do agree that scheduling workouts and actually sticking to those schedules is a big thing. Great post, Joe!

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2012, 9:30 pm

      This is my second year. The first year went off pretty well so I will continue. Good luck with your goals!

  • Hunter - Financially Consumed January 4, 2012, 6:54 pm

    I appreciate your common sense approach Joe. All good ideas, especially writing it down…simple, and very powerful.

  • Jai Catalano January 5, 2012, 4:13 am

    Be accountable or be held accountable. That is key. My goal is to fix my mortgage situation. If I don’t I will be held accountable.

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Good luck with the mortgage.

  • Aaron Hung January 5, 2012, 6:19 am

    My favorite thing right now is probably the automatic ING withdraw, it saves so much time and you don’t even notice it until you log in and act all surprise at how much you have hehe

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Haha, then don’t log in for a few months and you’ll really be surprised.

  • My University Money January 5, 2012, 8:39 am

    Blogging and stating your goals in a public forum is definitely a great way to keep yourself accountable hey? Good luck in the New Year!

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2012, 2:04 pm

      Thanks, good luck to you too. The blog helps tremendously. I’m pleasantly surprise.

  • Personal Finance Care January 5, 2012, 10:56 am

    After a expensive Christmas it is the time for resolution. My resolution to save as much as possible.

    Wishing you all a great time ahead.

  • youngandthrifty January 5, 2012, 9:00 pm

    Writing stuff down is key! Blogging about it helps too.

    I have a stickie note on my computer that says “GO JOGGING”.

    BF laughed and asked me if I need a stickie note that says “BREATHE” or “REMEMBER TO GO TO THE WASHROOM” too.

    • retirebyforty January 5, 2012, 9:13 pm

      Haha, I have a post it note in the car to remind me to take off the emergency brake. I get you. 😀

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