The guide to setting goals (and achieving them) in 2018

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad organisation. This is how you go about setting goals that stick.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

This post was written by an external contributor. Sarah Wilson reveals how to set goals for the New Year and stick to them.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or embarking on a successful social media blackout (well done) you’ll have seen those posts over the last couple of weeks.

Scroll through anyone’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feed around New Year and you’ll find scores of people resolving that THIS year will be the one in which they’ll finally lose weight / get their dream job / finish that long-neglected project. They’re all well-meaning of course, but if New Year is associated with new beginnings and fresh resolutions, it’s also associated with throwing them out of the window come the 5th of January.


It’s all very well opening your new diary (thanks mum) and writing your resolutions on the first page. But this is only a start. What many people forget when they set goals in the New Year is that sticking to them takes hard work – especially as it’s usually only you holding yourself to account.

But your goals are not doomed to unfulfillment from the start – there are a number of ways you can steel your resolve throughout the year, whether your aims are academic, personal, or work related. Perhaps most obviously, but certainly the most often ignored advice is:

Be realistic
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If you haven’t exercised for the last couple of months, you’re not going to have abs by the end of January. Similarly, if you know time management isn’t your forte, it’s probably inadvisable to sign up for 7 new uni societies at the start of term. This might all sound glaringly simple to you, but it’s quite easy to get carried away when envisaging a new and improved version of yourself.

The key here is to aim for a select and realistic number of goals for the year ahead. Too many, and you’re likely to give up all of them. If they’re improbable or unrealistic, you’re unlikely to fulfil them, leaving you only with disappointment.

Break it down

When you go about setting your goals for the year, make sure you take the time to really think them through. This process should involve breaking down vague goals or resolutions into smaller and more manageable components – possibly with dates and times included.

“Learn a new language”, for example, is an admirable goal, but as a general resolution is somewhat vague. Instead, you might for example set aside 30 minutes every other day to get in practice, or commit to a term of language lessons at uni, or in your local area. This way, each session will feel like a small success on the way to ultimately achieving your goal, rather than success feeling constantly and defeatingly out of reach.

Write it down

setting goals by writing them down

Whilst I pointed out earlier that putting your goals down on paper isn’t the sole key to success, keeping a diary or note of your progress and any pitfalls you encounter can be encouraging on your way to achieving a goal. By doing so, you’ll have a visual reminder of how far you’ve come, and thus a resource to turn to if you ever feel like giving up.

If you’re finding anything difficult or need to adjust your targets, you can do this in a diary by pushing back or bringing forward the deadlines you’ve set for yourself. Remember that nobody’s perfect, and missing a target or falling short is not the end of the world. On that note, another effective and simple way you can force yourself to stay on track is:

Getting your friends involved

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This works especially well for personal goals like fitness, where a friend can accompany you to the gym or exercise classes, but it can be applied elsewhere too. If you need a push to get job applications in, or finish your dissertation, it can be useful to set up library or coffee shop dates with any friends who also have work to do.

Setting a date and time to meet a friend forces you to get up and go when you might not have if it’d just been yourself you were letting down. As long as you don’t distract each other too much, the presence of another person getting on with their task can also be a great motivator – and it’s nice to have someone to take a coffee break with too.

Remind yourself of the rewards


You always start with a reason for having a goal – maybe you want to learn German for an upcoming trip, or lose weight for health reasons. You might want that job because you’ve always dreamed about it, or simply for financial security. Whatever the reason, from time to time make sure to remind yourself of it – and remind yourself that you’ll get there eventually.

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