A Fresh, SMART Start to the New Year

10 Dec

December is here and the countdown to the New Year begins! Now, of course, January 1st has become an arbitrary starting point for a slew of unresolved resolutions. Raise your hand if your New Year’s resolutions have been on repeat for as long as you can remember (mine is hiiiigh in the sky).

Spending less money, losing some weight, cutting back on procrastination, reading more, volunteering at the hospital…you name it and I bet I have resolved to accomplish it. So, what happens? Where does the magic of the New Year go? Suddenly I’m mid-way through the year and wistfully wondering:cindy lou

This Spring semester marks the last of my undergraduate career (excuse me as both exhilaration and terror wash over me…ooh, how tingly). Anyway, I have been feeling like I have a massive deadline to get my life in order—as if that is literally my only goal: GET. LIFE. TOGETHER. You can imagine the freak-outs that have come with that task. Here’s the problem with this oh-so-grand goal of mine: it’s a set-up for failure.

No specifics. No timeline. No way of knowing if I’m making progress on my goal or not. I’ve created a clever little trap so that I don’t even know where to start—so I feel like I never am! Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Now what? I’ve got an unmanageable beast of a goal and no idea how to slay it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years it’s:

If it seems too overwhelming to handle all at once, it probably is.

This means if I continue to have my ‘get life together’ goal, well… 


There’s a method “successful goal-setters” (those weirdos) call setting “SMART goals”….and here’s the thing, it’s actually kind of useful in addition to being punny. SMART stands for:

Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Timely

So let’s cut down my goal a little. Feel free to follow along with any of your life-consuming tasks…

1. Specific

First, I need to figure out what part of my life needs a little work. Academic? Occupational? Personal? Since that graduation date is creeping closer and closer, my academic/occupational world is taking center stage these days. This is my thought process:

flow 12. Measurable

Now I need some kind of task or step that I can take. This is sort of a yes-or-no situation. Nothing that is ongoing or “iffy” in terms of completion….just something that can eventually be marked off as DONE.

flow 2*I had to cross off some of the big ones already because they aren’t exactly measurable. Plus, I can’t do them until I have an updated resume!

**Once it’s time to tackle those bigger tasks I need to rework how I approach them and make them more specific (remember Step 1?) For example, I may take “research available jobs” and narrow it down to looking into exactly three possible occupations. For now, I’m going to stick with something smaller: the ever-important resume!

A secret step in determining measurability is often building in some kind of “action plan” into your goal. How are you going to accomplish this task? What are you “checking off” on your to-do list? Who is involved and where do you need to go to complete it?

For me, I’m going to have the professionals make sure I’m good to go:


3. Attainable

This is where I evaluate whether this is a task I actually have the ability to accomplish.

Now for the task of updating a resume, I think it’s safe to say that, yes, I am capable. But what about other goals that aren’t so easy-peasy? What about goals that you have never tried to accomplish before?

This is a check-point step of goal making. A chance for you to step back and see that your goal is specific, reasonably measured, and, essentially, do-able. POP QUIZ TIME!

Which of these goals is MOST likely to be attainable?

A. Lose 5 lbs in 1 months.

B. Lose 40 lbs in 1 month.

  C. Lose some weight soon.

Alright, do you have your answer? Hopefully you said A. The other answers have some problems. Choice B is cray-cray…that’s just not healthy and definitely hard to do. What’s wrong with Choice C? That’s do-able, right? Perhaps…but not specific at all! What is some? When is soon? This is where you knock out those little problems. Hence, the check-point step.

4. Relevant

This one is super simple. Basically this is deciding if YOU actually want to accomplish this goal. Is it important to you? Was it your idea? Are you likely to stay motivated?

  • If your goal is to run a 10k, but absolutely hate running….then why?
  • If your goal is to apply to medical school in three years, but the human body grosses you out…then why?

What do YOU want? What are you willing to do for YOURSELF? Yeah, it starts to get deep…


So let me ask myself that question. Do I want to update my resume so I can get a job so I can be financially stable so that I can live a life that I find both personally and professionally enriching? Yeah…I guess.

5. Timely

Alright. This is the moment where you tie it all together using every step we’ve learned. Let’s make a DEADLINE. Remember, it’s got to be specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant.

  • What I have so far: Update my resume and have it checked by Career Services.
  • What makes it better: Update my resume and have it checked by Career Services by the first week of Spring semester (January 17th).

This gives me until the end of this semester to update any information on my end as well as another week to have Career Services check it for format issues. I think that’s reasonable and definitely do-able.

Goals don’t have to be now or never. Give yourself some time to ease into your challenge, but also don’t give yourself too much time to back out!


We did it! I am now one SMART step closer to getting my life together. It’s much easier to breathe when I have one task and a reasonable deadline to get it done. But something is missing…

(Secretly S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps)

6. Evaluate

This is when you decide whether you accomplished your goal or not.

  • You did? Awesome! Move on to Step 7.
  • Not quite? No problem.

*If you didn’t accomplish your goal in the first go-around, that’s okay! Now is the time to evaluate what when wrong. Maybe it wasn’t specific enough, or measurable enough, or you didn’t give yourself enough time! Maybe it wasn’t relevant to you and you lost motivation. Whatever the reason, go back, make your edits, and start again!

7. Reward

So you accomplished your goal? Nice!20048442yu

Now, it’s time to reward yourself! This reward should be planned, however. Build it into your goal! That way any impulsive celebrations don’t undo or distract you from the rest of your goals. Going out for a celebratory burger after you lost those 10 lbs doesn’t bode well for keeping them off. Allowing myself an evening with Netflix for getting my resume checked doesn’t exactly scream productivity. See what I mean? Make sure it’s as S.M.A.R.T. as your goal!

That being said, make sure your reward is something you’re likely to work toward. You know yourself best. What’s going to keep you moving?

Final Result: Update my resume and have it checked by Career Services by the first week of Spring semester (January 17th). After doing so, treat myself to a movie with a friend.

–Franny Caputa


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