Happy New Year, lifehackers! Lots of you are kicking off 2008 with New Year's resolutions, but they won't keep themselves. To reach the goals you've set out for yourself in '08, follow through each and every one of the next 365 days—several free tools can help you with just that. Track your progress and help motivate yourself to stick to your New Year's resolutions with our favorite goal tracking webapps and tools.
Choose Your Resolutions
Before we dive into goal trackers and resolution reminder systems, first make sure you've nailed down exactly what you want to achieve. Management expert Peter Drucker recommended that teams use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as a guideline for setting objectives, and it works for personal goals, too. Your SMART New Year's resolutions should be:
- Specific. Don't just say "Lose weight." Decide to "Lose 12 pounds."
- Measurable. Instead of "Be better about corresponding with old friends," decide to "Send out birthday and holiday cards to my high school friends."
- Achievable. "Be the perfect employee/mom/sister/spouse" is an admirable goal, but nobody's perfect, no matter how resolved they are. Make your resolution something that's possible—like, "Improve next year's performance review by at least one grade."
- Realistic. You've only got so many hours in the day, so make your goals realistic based on what resources and tools you've got on hand. Learning how to milk a cow, for example, is less realistic for someone who lives in the middle of Manhattan.
- Timely. Since these are New Year's resolutions, set goals you can reach at most within the next 12 months. Giving yourself a "deadline" of sorts will help you figure out where you should be when while tracking your progress.
To read more about Drucker's S.M.A.R.T. objective system, seem this helpful TechRepublic article, Use S.M.A.R.T. goals to launch management by objectives plan.
Tools to Track Your Progress
Last year we covered six free webapps that can help you keep your resolutions, including FitDay, Joe's Goals, 43 Things, Wesabe, NaNoWriMo, Backpack, and Coolrunning.
We won't re-hash those six again today, but if you look at any of them, do check out Joe's Goals. JG is the most flexible, feature-rich, and generic goal tracking site that can log your progress on multiple resolutions in a fun interface.
More free tools that can help you keep your resolutions include:
Don't Break the Chain (new habits, any kind of goal)
How does Jerry Seinfeld constantly pump out better and better jokes? His productivity secret is a simple calendar, where he X's off the days he writes, making a chain of X's over time. At webapp Don't Break the Chain, you can create your Seinfeldian chain to track your progress towards making new habits.
Traineo (weight loss and fitness goals)
Track your diet and exercise in '08 with Traineo, a social weight loss and fitness social site where folks motivate and cheer each other on. Over at Consumerist, our co-worker Ben Popken detailed how he lost 14 (now 25!) pounds using Traineo.
Daily Plate (weight loss goals, original post)
The "secret" to losing weight is to burn more calories than you consume, so tracking how much you've consumed and how much you've burned is a huge step towards dropping pounds. At the Daily Plate, look up and track the caloric, fat, and carb content on the foods you consume and keep a fitness journal as well. The Daily Plate offers a free membership as well as a paid upgrade with more features. (Compare it to FitDay.)
Mint (finance tracking, original post)
If saving more money, getting out of debt, or sticking to a budget's on your resolutions list but Quicken scares you, consider online money tracking webapp Mint. Similar to Wesabe, Mint automatically sucks in your financial transactions, categorises them, sends you email alerts, and helps you create and maintain a budget. See also how to organize your finances in 2008 with Wesabe.
Ben Franklin Virtue Chart (daily habits, original post )
Benjamin Franklin famously laid out 13 personal virtues he aspired to live by, and used a simple chart to mark off what days he succeeded and which he didn't.
The makers of the D*I*Y Planner, a set of templates for getting organized, offer a Ben Franklin virtue chart you can use yourself. Print out a copy of this puppy for your wallet, and track your habits each day with a simple pen and paper, analog style.
Bellygraph (public progress tracker, original post)
If making your goals public helps you stick to 'em, publish your progress on your web site with a Bellygraph graph. Sign up for a free account, enter the metric you want to track—like weight loss or miles run—and update your graph every day to show the world how you're doing.
What tools are you using to keep New Year's resolutions in 2008? Let us know in the comments.