Law School,  Legal Practice,  Work Life Balance

Setting and Achieving Goals

We’re keeping things a little light and easy since we’re easing back from the holidays, and are eagerly waiting for the New Year. During the new year, I really love taking this time to assess my current station in life and see where I can create change and improvement. I know some find New Year’s resolutions a little cheesy, but I think it makes sense to start the year with a clean slate and make an effort to progress in either our personal or professional lives.

The problem, of course, is the difficulty in creating healthy habits (or stopping bad ones). So today we’re offering a few steps to take so that you can set and achieve goals. For instance, back in January 2011, a few months after I started my first lawyer job, I decided to really become proactive regarding my health and did a complete 180 on my health and fitness. It wasn’t super easy, but this is what I found helpful:

new year's resolutions

One. Focus on two or three large goals. Sometimes we tend to go overboard and add a lot of things to our plate that we don’t have the capacity to really achieve. Instead, think of two major areas in your life you want to improve and really focus on that for the year. Maybe you want to improve your health, find a job post-graduation, improve your relationship with your partner, or even expand your horizons by attempting to learn a new language such as German.

Two. Make it attainable. I don’t mean that you should be realistic (obviously, yes, be realistic in your goals), but rather, break down what needs to happen for you to achieve your goals. For example, maybe you want to score a higher LSAT score. Figure out step by step what you need to do to achieve that high score. You need to study the questions, so will you be able to block out time each week to study? Will you need to save up to take a course? Making step by step or to-do lists for will help you break your goals down to something achievable.

Three. Research and timeline. Once you have those lists, depending on the goals, you may need to either do research (e.g. how to start running for beginners if you want to run your first 5k this year); or you want to timeline what you need to do (by end of January you want to have signed up for certain bar associations so that you can start networking this spring). Sometimes you’ll have to do both research and timeline. But again, writing these steps down makes it more manageable and shows you step by step how you can achieve your objectives.

Four. Become accountable. Now comes the hard part–having something or someone hold you accountable. One method is to find someone who has your well-being in mind and ask them to check in with you. Another method is to find ways to make yourself accountable–this is trickier, but possible. If your plan is healthier living, there are tons of apps, social media sites, etc that can help you stay on track. If your goal is more specifically related to your professional or educational growth, then my biggest suggestion is to make a visual reminder so that you are reminded every day of what you’re working towards. I like using both countdown apps to remind me of my goals and to post the reminders on a board in my room.

Five. Track your progress. This can be fun and daunting. Tracking things like what you eat or your various practice test scores can be tedious, but ultimately it will help paint a larger picture and help you actually see your momentum. Back in 2011, when I focused heavily on my health I begrudgingly took measurements of my body each month. I hated it, but it was a way for me to see if I had improved or not. This motivated me to work harder the next month if the results weren’t what I expected. But tracking progress can also be positive reinforcement. On months that I did really well, I could look back and see–ok, this month I ate very well and did xyz that helped my weight loss. Without documentation, we’re kind of just moving forward into the dark, you know?

Finally, remember to celebrate your improvements big and small! Take time to acknowledge the work you’re doing to improve yourself because too many people become stagnant and find themselves in the same place year after year. Instead, by taking time to say: in this area of my life, I can do better and I will do better–that’s already a huge step towards success!