At the beginning of every new year, many people across the globe fall into the trap of New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions, which are usually imprecise, lofty are a trap because they lack many of the necessary elements to make these goals achievable. In fact, many resolution-makers have probably already fallen astray of their resolutions by this point in the year. This is no fault of their own, it is the nature of New Year’s resolutions that don’t adequately set a person up for success. This year, instead of setting a New Year’s resolution, how about coming up with Annual Plan. An Annual Plan is a commonly-utilized tool in the business world to help set an organization on a specific path for the upcoming year. This method has applications well beyond the business world, and if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to recover from disordered eating or to improve your relationship with food, an annual plan will serve you much better than a New Year’s resolution. Businesses use an annual plan frequently to lay out the various things they hope to accomplish and the ways in which they plan to do so throughout the year. At first glance, a year might seem like a long time to set for a goal, but especially when you’re dealing with a serious condition such as an eating disorder or a significant area of your life such as your relationship with food, then a year really is a drop in the bucket. A year also gives you adequate time to make changes and implement them into your life, and to solidify them so you know they are not just a flash in the pan. Here are some elements of what could go into a successful annual recovery plan.

Objective Measurable Goals
Goals have to have measurable outcomes in order for a person to know whether those goals are being attained. For example, if a New Year’s resolution is to spend more time with one’s family, it would be preferable to set a goal that has objective, quantifiable language. For example, a similar goal on an Annual Plan would be stated as, “Spend an average of 4 hours per week doing family activities”, or “Institute a weekly family outing, and ensure it takes place 85% of the time”. These goals allow you to keep track of your progress, and keep you anchored to specific behaviors that are part of your goal.

Track your progress
Since you now have goals that lend themselves to produce actual data, you will need a system of tracking your progress. There are numerous apps that can assist a person in tracking all kinds of data, or a good old-fashioned annual calendar or a journal can do the trick. Try to institute a tradition, whereby at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning, you take 1 minute to track your progress. In the aforementioned goal, this would involve just notating how much time you spent with your family that day. Through the process of tracking your progress, other useful information is likely to surface, such as taking note that your family generally prefers watching a movie together, as opposed to playing Monopoly. This auxiliary data allows you to make decisions about the goal-oriented actions that are more likely to yield the kind of results you want.

Set Timeframes for review
While the term “Quarterly Review” often evokes some anxiety in the working world, it is a useful mechanism to ensure that goals are on track for attainment. If you set markers for your goals, it also enables you to “ramp up” to the level you want. For instance, perhaps your goal for the first 3 months of the year is to get to 2 hours of family time per week. When you review your goals at the end of the first 3 months, you will get a good sense of what is working, and what could be improved upon. If your progress is not quite on the track you were hoping for, no cause for alarm, just make some adjustments to target over the next 3 months. At the next review period, you can see if those efforts yielded the changes you were hoping for, or re-evaluate things from there. A year is plenty of time to make any needed adjustments and to see your actions start to form the kinds of positive habits you are hoping to create.

Incentivize Yourself
We all need incentives in order to stay motivated, and your annual plan should have an incentive at the end of year, when you obtain your goal. Pick an incentive that is related to your goal and one that does justice to the magnitude of your accomplishment. You will have spent an entire year working towards your goal and you deserve to be rewarded. Using the previous example of increasing family time, planning an epic family vacation for the end of the year would be a great motivator, and it might also encourage other members of your family to get on board with your goals. An external motivator can not only fill in the gaps when your own internal motivation is waning, but it can bring other people into your effort to support you.

An Annual Plan doesn’t have to be an elaborate document, it can be something you draft up free-form. However, there are also many excellent templates for Annual Plans available for free on the internet and you can utilize or edit plans that others have created to assist in making this year one in which you accomplish the goals that are meaningful to you.

Dr. Matt Keck is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cielo House. He works with clients on establishing and attaining their recovery and personal goals, year after year.

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