Setting SMART 2023 goals

University of Leeds
5 min readJan 23, 2023

The start of the year usually marks the time when many of us are having the festive blues, and attempt to forget about the gloomy weather by looking ahead to the New Year. So, if you’re setting some 2023 resolutions, how do we set realistic and achievable goals depending on our personal circumstances?

Dr Aulona Ulqinaku and Dr Alessandro Biraglia (LUBS) specialise in consumer psychology and behaviour, and provide their top tips for becoming your best 2023 self.

While some “New Year Resolutions” may appear a classic (i.e., hit the gym, eat fewer sweets, give up drinks for a month, and so on), they are notoriously hard to maintain for a long period of time. Hence it is important to set your “new me” goals in a realistic and manageable manner. One way to think about your goals is to make them SMART, an acronym often used in management and marketing research to refer to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Related.

For example, “losing weight” is not a specific enough goal. How much would you like to lose? Similarly, “saving more money” or “studying more” are general goals that are difficult to quantify. How much money do you want to put aside? How many more hours a week do you want to commit to studying?

It is also important that this specificity is Achievable in a set period (hence the Time-relatedness point). Saving, let’s say, £300 could be achievable in a few months rather than a few days. Losing 5kg also would need a well-thought plan spanning over a period — set realistic time horizons for your “new me”.

Achievable goals also mean avoiding setting too many goals at once. Too many restrictions (or challenges) may overburden you and jeopardize your motivation. People have a limited amount of self-control and if you dedicate too much to some of these goals, there will be little to nothing left for others. Focus on the goals that you deem to be more relevant and prioritize them. It will help maintain a good balance for your well-being.

While many goals at once can be overwhelming, there are some practical things that you can do to achieve more in a set period. 5 examples of goals to set yourself this year are:

  1. Attend your classes in person more. While winter can be cold and grim, and the temptation of not going to class and watching a recording instead is high, attending in person is beneficial for your learning. It also allows you to catch up with friends and colleagues before and after class. Additionally, walking (or cycling) to campus can help your physical well-being by raising your daily step count, together with getting used to a routine.

2. “Upcycle” your food. When cooking, we sometimes discard parts that could be still usable (and nutritious). For example, vegetable peels could be popped in the oven with oil, salt and pepper. Once crisped up, they are great and healthy snacks! Similarly, fruits that are partially bumped or overripe are not to be thrown away. They make great candidates for a smoothie or even jam (if you have enough). Citrus peels can be candied and used to make cakes (or even dipped in dark chocolate for a nice, sweet treat). And of course, if you eat meat, leftover chicken bones and co. make a great and super natural stock. Chefs like Max La Manna have great recipes that you can follow too.

3. Set aside money for activities and goods that you can plan ahead for the week or month. Setting money aside beforehand will help you control your expenses; it is easy to lose track when you keep paying with your phone or card. While you engage in this exercise, you will see where you tend to overspend, and it is easier to regulate yourself in the long run.

4. Be careful with credit cards. It is very easy to overspend when using credit cards, based on the fact that they are anticipating money. Needless to say, what feels like donated money, needs to be paid back, and with interest. Hence, use them cautiously and keep them under regular control. Spend what you can actually pay back quickly. If you end up using them, check if they offer discounts on the brands you are shopping or if they offer cashback based on what you are spending.

5. Share and borrow. Before buying, consider borrowing. Can you borrow your books? Can you rent a bike? If it cannot be borrowed, can you share the purchase? Some subscriptions can be easily shared among roommates like Amazon Prime, Netflix, food subscription boxes, and even the car. In the end, can you swap or buy second-hand? Apps like Vinted or Shpock allow you not only to sell what you don’t need, and buy preloved items, but also to swap things without paying money for them.

These are some tips, not magic spells. At the end of day, it takes commitment and self-control to see a change in the long run. Do not be discouraged if you go off track sometimes, get back on it and be the change you want to see.

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