Come New Years’s Day, most people will take stock of their lives and realize that, maybe they need to change something (or everything) about themselves. Gym membership sales go through the roof for the month of January. People stay out of restaurants and cook at home. The resolutions and goals run the gamut. The problem is that by mid-February (or sooner than that), everything is back to the way it was.

While I have never taken stock in resolutions, I do write down a list of goals that I want to accomplish for the next year. Most of the time, I only accomplish one or two. The reasons for this failure are not surprising.  In my case, it’s usually because my list is a mile long.

For example, in 2009, I had 11 major goals on it. Some of those goals had big steps associated with them:

Write more music. Put out a new CD of 15 songs or so, combining cello, trumpet, violin, guitar, bass, drums and keys, possibly sax as well (guest musicians will be Caleb and Shawn). Get Studio operational again. Clean shed and create comfy work areas.

That’s not a goal, that’s a major project. It has sub-goals, tasks, and timelines. Guess what DIDN’T happen in 2009.

By 2011, I hadn’t changed a thing. Still too much on the list; not much got accomplished.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with goals. Goals not written down are just wishes, and we all know how that turns out. The problem is that, in order to succeed, you need to change your habits. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds in 5 years (measurable and achievable), then you’re going to have to change your habits. If your goal looks like “Lose 50 pounds”, then you are setting yourself up for failure…again.  The secret: Tasks are the roadmap, goals are the destination.

A Task List Helps You Form Habits

Instead, set up a weekly or daily task list. “Do cardio workout Monday” is more specific than “Go to the gym 3 times a week”.

You’ll still have to go to the gym and do the cardio workout; merely writing down the goal in a different fashion doesn’t melt off the pounds. The difference is that “Lose 50 pounds” seems like a big mountain to overcome; “Do the cardio workout” is something that you can accomplish with just a few steps.

Another example would be that I am learning Blender, an Open Source 3D animation package. “Learn Blender” is too broad (and sad to admit, was on my list of goals for 2009); “Do Tutorial 6 in the Blender manual” is specific…and gets done. The net result is that every day, I am learning a little more about this product that I have wanted to learn since 2009. I won’t be winning any Oscars for Special Effects, but in a month or so, I will understand how to create a 3D model, and the habit of learning something new will have set in.

What are you planning to get done? Sound off in the comments.

(Photo credit: Writing a To Do List via Shutterstock)

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