Beginning a new year can sometimes feel like starting a marathon. The thrill of new beginnings coupled with a tinge of uncertainty. Setting goals brings excitement, but also the weight of meeting one's own expectations, which can feel daunting. Add to that seeing curveballs from life, like you’re facing Shohei Ohtani (IYKYK), and you’re out on New Year’s resolutions before February! (I’m not crying, you’re crying).
So the question is, how do we balance the excitement of a brand new year, a blank canvas for your goals, with the pressure of meeting your own expectations looming in the back of your mind?
Something we are very excited to bring you this year is our Jumpstart event hosted in collaboration with Tonic Site Shop. This is a FREE virtual event held by Jen Olmstead, the Tonic co-founder and lead designer, along with our very own Chris Misterek, our community growth manager. They really want to speak to those who may be overwhelmed with the weight of getting their website published, coming up with a social media strategy (that actually works), growing email lists (and figuring out what to write about).
Both Jen and Chris want to share everything they have learned about websites and marketing that works. Their desire is that you can walk away with the tools you need to feel confident in your online presence. You can click here to learn more about Jumpstart and see why you should join in.
SMART refers to a goal being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Now full disclosure, I only became aware of the concept of a SMART goal 1 year ago. But I will admit, fitting my goals into this formula did help me achieve more in this past year than in the years before.
If we make this a SMART goal, it will sound like, “optimize my website design for a modern look, mobile responsiveness, and improved user experience by the end of Q1, aiming for a 15% increase in user engagement within four months after the refresh.” SMART goals offer much in the way of detail, specific aspects that can be tracked, and a timeframe. There is much more to understand with SMART goals and if you would like more information, you can check out this article.
Now that we’ve covered SMART goals, you need to start outlining your own. One tip we have is to write your goals down. You can keep them in the notes app on your phone or you can make it more fun. Consider starting a vision board or writing a letter to your future self detailing what you want to accomplish. The important thing is to have these goals exist somewhere that you can see them. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University of California found those who had specific goals written down were 33% more likely to accomplish them. You can check out that study here if you’d like.
Let’s look at an example. Considering the goal we discussed earlier of attracting more users to our website, we can explore the approach of writing a letter to yourself. Outline the goal, its underlying motivations, and the anticipated outcomes. Describe the positive impact achieving this objective will have on your business, your professional, or personal growth. This method not only solidifies your goals in written form, whether on paper or in a digital document, but also brings an element of fun to the process. Of course, this is only one idea! You can use whatever approach you want as long as it makes sense for you.
Managing the pressure tied to our own expectations can often be as challenging as pursuing the goals themselves, not to mention those curveballs life loves to throw at us at just the wrong time. These stresses and curveballs aren’t uncommon; many people struggle in similar ways. The honest truth is that accomplishing life goals is hard. The journey can be enjoyable, and it’s amazing to look back at what you accomplished, but it's hard. In order to stay motivated, you need to remember your ‘why.' When you are setting your SMART goal, you should specify the reason you want to achieve it.
Let's take the example goal from earlier of improving a website to gain more traffic. Why is this important? For instance, you can say, “I want to improve my website traffic and get more users. I want to do this to make more money to hire someone to help me do more of the day-to-day work. This will allow me to spend more time thinking about the future of my business rather than just the day-to-day operations.” When a goal proves more challenging than you first thought, you will be able to think of your ‘why' to help you stay motivated.
Despite our best efforts, life sometimes throws unexpected challenges our way. It's vital to anticipate these challenges and have strategies in place to navigate through them effectively. When confronted with curveballs, consider a few of the following to help realign your goals or keep up your progress.
So you have your SMART goal, and you have a gameplan for overcoming unexpected challenges. Now we need the final ingredient for your success. You are the hero in your story. You are the one who can set the goals for yourself and see them through to completion. With that said, every hero had a guide to help them along the way. Frodo had Gandalf, Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi, and, of course, Travis Kelce hasTaylor Swift. Embarking on a journey to reach your goals demands more than determination alone; it requires guidance, wisdom, and sometimes a helping hand to navigate uncharted territories.
You may be fortunate enough to have or be able to find a person to mentor you on a personal level. If you can, that’s truly amazing. There is no substitute for a real person who is willing to walk with you. For some of us, however, this may not be the most realistic option. Fortunately, we do live in a truly amazing time where information is out there for everyone to see. Below are a few options of where you can find external sources of information that can help guide you through your journey:
With all of these resources in mind, I wanted to offer a great option for a consistent guide on your creative journey in 2024. They understand the unique challenges faced by independent designers and business owners. They also have the mission of cultivating creativity in everyone. You are reading one of their blogs right now… it’s us. I'm talking about us. We really do want our readers to grow and level up their skills this year. With that said, we are committed to providing you with resources and insights you can use to help you achieve your goals in 2024 and beyond.
So, welcome to 2024. You’re armed with SMART goals, strategies to stay motivated, insights on overcoming challenges, and a guide to help you on your journey. But now comes the fun part… getting started! This is the easiest first step, because you have all the excitement of a new beginning. It’s also the hardest step as you are looking ahead and seeing the whole journey. An important thing to remember is to take things at a reasonable pace you can realistically maintain. It’s also important to remember to look back on the progress you’ve made and see how far you come.
The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the journey. You may need to change plans, adjust timelines, or prioritize other things during the year, don’t let that stop you from getting started. 2024 is your year. On your mark, get set… go!
PS. If you want to cultivate more creativity in the new year, check out the next post in this series for 24 things that can help do that.
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