How to stick to new year's goals

If you want to achieve your most cherished life goals, you need to learn to manage time. Psychologists say managing our time is the best way to start the new year.

"Time management is essential to the smart goal approach," says Keisha Moore- Medina, a therapist at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, who helps clients navigate goal-setting using a well-known strategy that was developed in the 1980s.

It's a formula that helps you plan your time. It is possible that you will have to say no to activities that don't align. Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound goals are required. If you want to use your time for the things that matter most, you need to set SMART goals.

Specific: Know precisely what action you will take

Berkman is a psychologist at the University of Oregon. He tells them to be focused on one thing. Clarifying is important.

Daily life is driven by our habits. We are almost on autopilot. Berkman says that they can listen to the radio and chew gum at the same time. A lot of brain power is required to work towards a new goal. We need to keep our focus. Berkman says it's slow when we're trying to change something. Habituals are easier than goal pursuit.

It's best to be clear on your goal because following through on a resolution can take a lot of planning and time.

Measurable: Have a plan to measure your progress

There is a big divide between intentions and actions when it comes to goals. It can be hard to follow through on a healthy diet. It's not enough to know something, you need to apply it as well, according to the German poet and author.

You can chip away at the gap by making time to track what you've accomplished. People who monitor their progress are more likely to succeed according to a study. If you want to train for a race, you need to record your mileage. Log your practice if you want to play the piano. Journal your meals if you want to improve your eating habits.

The long view of our progress is provided by tracking. We will not always be successful on a daily basis. Moore- Medina says life is throwing us things left and right and it's ok to not reach a goal. It is possible to see how far you have come and what you need to do differently to reach your goal.

Achievable: The goal must be doable

If you want to reach a larger goal you have to break it down into smaller pieces. It's a look at how much time and resources you have to devote to it. Sometimes it asks a bigger question: Why should I commit to this goal?

Berkman believes that goals should be an expression of values. He says that they are helpful in helping us prioritize our time.

It's easier to manage time if you have clear goals. He encourages people to think about their goals and their core values. Ask yourself why you want to be more physically fit.

Would you like to look better? Is your goal to be healthy and live longer so you can spend more time with your family? Research shows that people are more likely to achieve their goals if they align with their core values.

Relevant: Figure out why the goal is important

More reflection is required when goals and values are connected. Ken Sheldon is the author of Freely Determined: What the New Psychology of Self teaches us about how to live.

He says it's easy to get distracted or out of touch with the things that really matter. It is possible for us to live out other people's dreams for a long time. You may be able to power through if you are motivated by something. Even if you are very successful, you might not be happy with the outcome.

Hikers who completed the Pacific Crest Trail had higher levels of internal motivation than hikers who didn't. "You can go through it and get it done, but you might not feel better when you're done," says Sheldon. "You'll both get it done and you'll feel better when you're done," he says.

Time-bound: Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline

Staying focused on a goal makes you feel good. Moore- Medina says it's important to have clear goals.

Moore- Medina's advice for goal setting on the job is to write down your specific goals and give them to your supervisor. During an annual review meeting, she suggests mapping out an action plan based on how you want to achieve your goals. If you are being asked to spend time on a task that doesn't fit the goal, you can refer back to the plan throughout the year.

Plan a path and set concrete goals. It's time well spent when you fill your days with activities that align with your goals

This story is part of NPR's periodic science series, "Finding Time."