The start of a new year often brings big talk and little action. This is an incredibly common problem many people face not because people are lazy or do not want to achieve their goals, but instead because the process as a whole can seem incredibly daunting or one may not know where to begin. While joining a gym or buying a new book you want to read is a great step in the right direction, this is just the beginning of the process toward improving oneself. The initial push to do something new or “better” compared to last year’s self is so exciting and it can be energizing to realize that you do want to make a change. The big question is how does one maintain that momentum? How does one make it through the year to really see that much deserved and needed personal growth? The solution is far easier and much more enjoyable that it would seem.

One incredibly simple method is to make a list. No really, this has been proven to work. According to Art Markman, professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, to-do lists can beneficial even if you don’t complete everything on them. Markman notes that “As you think through these smaller tasks, other steps will often occur to you- some that you hadn’t originally envisioned need to take when you first set your overarching goal. They weren’t obvious until you actually thought about everything it would take to reach it”. This thought process can be even further simplified by saying if you make a list, you feel accomplished and organized in creating such a list. People feel a great sense of productivity and pride in being able to document their actions, so a to-do list is ideal. The concept of using a list to mark success and productivity can be taken to a larger scale. Creating a to-do list for your year, is rather a bucket list of sorts.

I have personally been using this idea for over five years now and I can tell you it really pays off. It is something of an event in itself at this point. At the beginning of January every year, instead of making “New Year Resolutions” I make a bucket list for the year. I go to my favorite coffee shop with my best friend, I order my favorite drink, and we spend a while decorating our bucket lists. I like to include things like “see a new city” or “attend a cooking class”. These type of specific goals with a deadline are part of a system called SMART goals. This acronym stands for “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timeline”. The items on my bucket lists are fun new experiences to look forward to in the coming year and I think it definitely challenges you to think futuristically. In the last few years these buckets lists have helped encourage me to stick with self-improvement ideals like keeping up on an exercise plan like when I had “run a PR (personal record) for a 5K” and even last year it helped me grow professionally when I had “type a deed” on my bucket list. Whether or not you decide to use this method of goal setting for 2018, I hope this coming year brings each and every one of you success and joy. Best of luck!

-Theresa O’Connell