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January is the month of fresh beginnings and articulating lofty aspirations in the form of New Year’s resolutions—and for many people, February is the month of forgetting these aspirations and reverting to bad habits. Whether you are striving to get in shape, accelerate your career, or cultivate stronger relationships, there is nothing more disheartening than realizing that another year has passed and your goals remain unfulfilled.

The key to avoiding end-of-year disappointment is to establish attainable goals in the first place. Here are a few steps to consider:

1. Limit your list of goals to those that are most important to you. The new year carries a surge of inspiration, and many people create lengthy lists of resolutions that quickly become overwhelming. This can cause a negative spiral of failing to achieve certain goals, growing discouraged, and losing motivation to pursue other goals. Instead, focus your energy on one or a few of the goals that you would most like to achieve.

2. Be SMART. Productivity experts often espouse the SMART formula for goal setting. This mnemonic device represents the idea that goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive.

3. Write down your goals. The annual ritual of writing New Year’s resolutions may actually create a strong foundation for goal accomplishment. However, certain techniques will boost the effectiveness of writing down goals. For example, they should be crafted in definitive terms that convey commitment—such as “I will” instead of “I want to.” After writing them, they should be consistently posted in places where you will revisit them.

4. Create an action plan. Many people falter on their goals because they have not given much thought to how they will achieve them. Consider each step and sub-step that will be necessary to fulfilling your goals, and establish a schedule that you can realistically follow.

5. Celebrate milestones. Once you have set a plan with specific steps, taking time to acknowledge and celebrate your progress will help you motivate yourself to continue.

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