The beginning of the year is exciting. Whether or not you are a resolutions person, a new year brings a literal fresh page to stand on—and that energy is inspiring! We are always full of hopes and dreams, but something about a new year brings plans and promises to the foreground.
And yet, we all know this story well. As honest as our intentions may be, by February, it’s completely normal to start losing steam. So how do make sure those good intentions don’t go to waste? How do we keep that energy throughout the year? How do you keep track of your goals in a way that’s energizing and fresh?
Meet the monthly check-in.
What is the monthly check-in?
A ‘monthly check-in’ is a monthly meeting you have with yourself to reflect on your life, happiness, and the status of your goals. It’s a way to acknowledge your accomplishments, identify your improvement points, and celebrate all the life that happens along the way. When done intentionally and consistently, the monthly check might just be the piece to make your work ethic and motivation stick.
How to keep track of your goals
Before your first check-in, it’s important to name your goals and make them digestible. Set aside an hour or so to identify your big goals for the year and how you can break them down and map mini goals across the coming months.
Designate a focus for each month—one that is concise, clear, and achievable (it can require you to stretch yourself, but it should be possible). For example, if your big goal is to switch your career path, some mini goals might be: research potential industries and interests (January and February), set up informational interviews (March), have informational interviews and reflect (April) seek training (May), identify training program (June), etc.
These goals and mini goals are flexible and may fluctuate and change. The point is not to be rigid, but to make yourself a map focused on actions you can take. You can always adjust. It also doesn’t matter at what point in the year you do this exercise. All that matters is that you do it.
Some tips while breaking up your big goals:
Map out your next year (or six months, if that feels more approachable) on a sheet of paper to visualize the year and keep track of your goals.
First, slot in big events that you already know of and that you know will take up your time or impact your mental clarity (think vacations, weddings, big work deadlines, etc). That way, you account for life and don’t set defeating and unrealistic expectations.
Use sticky notes to play around with where certain milestones or smaller goals fall on the way to your big goals.
Build in different goals that are important to you. Whether it’s learning to cook a new recipe a month, read a certain number of books in a year, or having a formal date night out or a girls night in regularly, write down other aspects of life that you want to make sure don’t fall between the cracks.
To help keep track of your goals, use a planner or a goals planner to keep everything in one place. It will be so rewarding to track and look back on your progress later!
The Monthly Check-In
Once your goals are mapped out for the year, your monthly check-in will consist of three main categories.
Refer back to your larger calendar and see what goals you had set out to accomplish that month. How did the month go?
What small steps did you accomplish on the road to your big goals? Note and celebrate them!
What did you fall short on? What helped and/or hindered your progress? What was challenging?
Readjust next month’s goals and beyond if necessary.
Refer back to your roadmap and make plans related to what next month’s goals and milestones are.
Note any life events that you may need to account for—things that mean less free time, more time time, breaks you may need to give yourself, etc.
Memories and Fun
Our goals are important, but so is living a balanced life. I like to note memories from the month, and also call out other things that are important to me. It’s important to take stock of our holistic lives too, and not lose sight of everything around us as we look forward.
This could be anything like:
- Books read
- Date nights had
- Moments of pure joy
- Insights reached, or something that clicked or worked that month
Personalize Your Check-Ins!
Your check-ins can be as simple or robust as you’d like them to be. Add in other aspects that are important for you to stay close to—whether a review of your spending over the past month, a monthly check-in with your romantic partner, regular updating of your resume, etc.
Above all, what is most important is to ritualize the check-in experience and make it consistent. I’m partial to doing my monthly check-in on the very first day of the month, if possible, or the first Sunday of the month. Take yourself to a coffee shop or go on a long walk to reflect before your check in. Or perhaps you buy yourself flowers or lunch after every check-in. Find what will be motivating and what will make the experience something you look forward to and protect.
Have ideas on what else you might use to keep track of your goals? Let us know!