Weekly goals

In light of the impending new year, I thought I'd offer an alternative to the associated flood of well-intentioned but ultimately-doomed resolutions: weekly goals. (And yes, I contributed to the flood myself. Color me somewhat hypocritical.) I see several problems with annual resolutions, all related to their length. When you're making year-long goals, it's extremely difficult to figure out exactly what is possible, so you're less likely to set appropriately difficult (but still achievable) targets. Even when you succeed in that, however, the size of the goals can be intimidating, so it's harder to get started. Weekly goals deal with both of these issues – it's much easier to figure out how much you can do, and it's simpler to see how to tackle a smaller goal. In addition, the feedback cycle is so much shorter that you can easily adjust your goal-setting from week to week, which means that it's possible to improve at goal setting in a reasonable timeframe. What does this mean? Well, take one of the most popular resolutions: losing weight. The first obstacle is moving from a vague "lose weight" to something more concrete, but what's the appropriate target? It's all too easy to shoot too high when your primary knowledge about weight loss comes from The Biggest Loser. Even if you figure out a reachable target, having your goal be "lose fifty pounds this year," can be intimidating all on its own. Larger goals are harder to get your mind around; at times, it can be hard to figure out how best to get going. Contrast that with the weekly version. If you're aiming to lose a pound a week, that means you need to burn 3500 calories more than you take in for the week. With a solid target, it's much easier to plan out how to do it – pass up dessert here and there, eat less calories in snacks, park farther away from the door, and before you know it you're meeting your goal. At a weekly level, you can also experiment – see just how much better or worse you do by replacing a steak with a salad, etc. Of course, this points to a useful strategy: you can still make your ill-defined annual resolutions, but back them up with weekly goals to help you make the longer-term goals work. Good luck, and happy new year!