Jump Start 2024: The Ultimate Guide to Setting and Keeping Goals

January 8, 2024


Mike O'Rangers

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?

Looking For a Quick Win?

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.

Start By Setting SMART Goals

What is a SMART Goal?

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.

Writing Your SMART Goals

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.

Writing Your SMART Goals Down In a Creative Way

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.

Staying Motivated and Overcoming Challenges

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.

How to 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.

  • Flexibility: Be open to adjusting goals or timelines when faced with unexpected obstacles. Rather than being rigid, consider modifying plans to accommodate yourself when a shift is needed. Readjusting a timeline and reframing expectations are better than abandoning a goal altogether.
  • Communication: Reach out to people in your circle who you know can offer you encouragement and guidance. You will be able to gain an outside perspective that can help reshape your mindset. You can also speak with them about challenges they have faced and how they were able to overcome them.
  • Consider Your Resources: Consider what resources are available to you. Yes, we have access to all the information we could want, but think about what resources are unique to you. If you have friends who are willing to keep you accountable, that's great. Perhaps you have some extra money in your budget. In that case, consider having a professional review your progress and provide feedback. Think about the advantages you have that can support you on your journey to achieving your goal.
  • Deliberately Step Away: At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive, but let me explain. Intentionally taking some time away from a specific goal can help you make progress in the long run. I’m not suggesting that you procrastinate, but set aside time to rest and reset your mind. If you're working on a small project that you hope to complete in a week but are having trouble finding inspiration, consider choosing an afternoon to intentionally step away from that task. If it's a longer goal that will take you a few months to complete, consider stepping away for a week. Taking time to focus on other projects or simply rest can do wonders for your mind and motivation.

Guidance in Goal Achievement

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.

Where Do You Find Guidance?

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:

  • Organized Educational Resources: Things like books written by industry experts or an organized online course on a particular topic. The idea here is to find information that is well and laid out. Searching YouTube and Google can be great, but sometimes it can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Books, courses, and podcasts from industry leaders are nice because they condense information into an organized format you can engage with at your own pace. Just make sure that it is a resource from someone who is credible. You know who the credible names in your industry are; seek out resources from those individuals. 
  • Professional Networks: Build connections within your network. Think about joining groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. These are ideal spaces for sharing insights and staying updated on industry developments. Another great option is to attend conferences and workshops hosted by industry leaders. If you're wondering which events are worthwhile, we've compiled an article on 24 creative conferences to consider in 2024. You can check it out here.
  • Volunteer Work: Granted, this one can be challenging. You're juggling a lot, and your time is valuable. But, if you find an opportunity to volunteer a few hours a week with a well-known figure in the design or creative field, you should give it a shot. You'll gain firsthand experience working alongside a professional, seeing how they approach projects. You can also consider volunteering on the staff of a nearby creative or design conference. Even tasks like setting up tables can provide access to talks by industry experts. However, getting these opportunities might mean reaching out by email, Instagram, or similar platforms to ask about volunteering. You might receive many ‘no' responses. That said, if you can land one or two ‘yes’ responses, that will make the effort totally worth it.

One Special Resource

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.

Get Started Crushing Your Goals

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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Mike O'Rangers