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Tips for realizing goals in the year ahead

The dawn of a new year represents a chance to start anew and set goals for the months ahead. New Year's resolutions are often made to provide the motivation people need to improve their lives and make a new year as productive and happy as possible.

While people who make New Year's resolutions fully intend to realize those goals, few actually stick to the game plan. According to researchers at the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people who make their New Year's resolutions actually achieve those resolutions. While that might make it seem like the odds are against men and women who have resolved to improve their lives in the year ahead, the following tips can help adults realize their goals for the new year and beyond.

• Emphasize time management. Hectic schedules can quickly derail resolutions. Many people want to eat healthier and exercise more but find their time is stretched pretty thin, which can make it difficult to get to the gym or prepare healthy meals at home. Finding ways to manage time more effectively can make it easier to stay committed to New Year's resolutions. Right down your daily schedule and look for ways to free up time. If you routinely take an hour for lunch each day, use that time to exercise and eat at your desk when you return from your walk, workout or jog. Try to wake up 30 to 60 minutes earlier each morning to exercise, and make use of time before bed by preparing a healthy lunch for the following day.

• Make your goals public. By publicly declaring your intention to improve your life, you're putting some positive pressure on yourself to fully commit to your goal. Friends and loved ones can be great sources of support, and once they're aware of your efforts, you likely won't want to let them down. Once you have decided on a resolution, post your short-term and long-term goals to your Facebook page or let your immediate family and closest friends know of your goals in person. Their encouragement can help you stay on track, and they may even offer to help you realize your goals.

• Keep track of your progress. Keep a resolutions journal or start a blog that allows you to write about your efforts. If your goal is to pay down debt, make a spreadsheet that tracks your progress. That spreadsheet might be more motivational than simply seeing a loan or credit card balance gradually reduce on your monthly statement. Writing about your trials and errors can help others and also provide a great way for you to explore your approach and tinker with it to ensure your ultimate success.

• Expect setbacks. If realizing resolutions was easy, the success rate would be greater than 8 percent. Setbacks are inevitable, so don't allow them to derail your efforts. Even if setbacks occur when you're well on your way to success, regroup and get back on track without getting down on yourself.

• Reward yourself. Don't hesitate to reward yourself as you realize your short-term goals and draw closer to making your long-term goal a reality. For example, if weight loss is your goal and you've adhered to your diet and lost some weight, reward yourself with a favorite meal eaten in moderation.

New Year's resolutions may be difficult to realize, but a few simple strategies can help you achieve your goals and enjoy the fruits of your hard work.