It’s often been said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but research actually suggests that’s not the case. The reality can be anything up to 254 days, depending on the goal! While we all work at our own pace when changing habits, the good news is there are some easy strategies you can follow to help set you up for success with goal setting – and they’re especially handy in the run-up to the new year. We asked experts in wellbeing, fitness and organisation how they start the year right, and got them to share their top tips for achieving some of your most common new year resolutions. The thing they all agreed on? When it comes to goal setting, aim for progress, not perfection. 

TV personality and chiropractor Tim Robards does a side plank on a green yoga mat next to an indoor plant and record player.
TV personality and chiropractor Tim Robards says it’s to get clear on a deadline for your goals.

Need a Fresh Start? Think SMART 

Goal setting might seem easy but according to fitness expert, TV personality and chiropractor Tim Robards, putting the work in upfront is what counts. “You're more likely to get to your destination if you’re clear on where you're going and when you want to get there,” he says. “What’s that old saying? ‘A goal without a deadline is just a dream.’”  

One effective approach is to make SMART – which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound – goals. For instance, if you want to get fitter this year, ask yourself by when, or set yourself a measurable goal like attending a set number of classes a week or a running distance to aim for. “Ask yourself the specifics,” says Tim. 

Wellness coach and yoga expert Georgina Eve does a yoga pose wearing a white crop top and blue patterned tights on a coastal shelf with the sea in the background.
Wellness coach and yoga expert Georgina Eve says regular check-ins on your goals are the key to success.

How to Stay on Track With Your Goals

Starting small and constantly checking on your progress is essential when it comes to achieving your goals. “Don’t try to completely change your life in one day because it’s not going to work,” says Georgina Eve, wellness coach and yoga expert. “If you start small, your willpower and motivation will gradually increase. Set manageable goals with the focus on creating healthier habits.”

New Year Resolutions: Top 2024 goals

Want to be more organised or get into running? We asked our experts for advice on some common goals.

Professional organiser Bonnie Black wears a blue top and white blazer while sitting at a table with a white mug and laptop in front of her.
Professional organiser Bonnie Black says it’s important to make the space before you take up a new hobby.

This Year… I’m Going to Take up a New Hobby

Hobbies have been shown to help boost mood and improve mental health. Whether it’s painting, drawing or writing, a vocation that you fully immerse yourself in can also help you achieve ‘flow’ – that state of being so creatively engaged with a task you lose awareness of time and self. 

Before taking up a new past-time though, Bonnie Black, professional organiser and owner of Little Miss Organised, recommends making space for it in your home. “Be wary of aspirational clutter, which usually comes with a new hobby,” she says. “See if you can borrow the tools to ensure you enjoy it, and have the time to pursue it first.” Better yet, begin with a basic starter kit before going all in. 

Georgina also recommends finding other people who can enjoy the new leisure activity with you. “Spending time with people doing something you enjoy uplifts you and reinforces good habits and behaviours,” she says. 

What to Try

SEE ALSO: Why You Need to Try Mindful Colouring for Adults

This Year… I’m Going to Get Organised 

There’s plenty of research that supports decluttering as a worthy goal – it’s even been shown to increase productivity. But be careful not to go too hard, too fast. “If you’ve never decluttered before, start really small, like your cutlery drawer or bedside drawer,” Bonnie recommends. “Don’t start with your garage, paperwork or memorabilia – that’s a deep dive you might not be able to recover from! The kitchen is a great room to tackle first. Pick a drawer or a shelf each day and set aside a box for donation. Just keep adding to it as you go along.”

Look for products that can help you get organised, too. “I’m a big fan of clear containers for things that we want to see, and opaque containers or baskets for things that we want to hide,” adds Bonnie. “And always look for the products that work with the way you and your family do things, rather than because they’re pretty. For paperwork systems, I love the clear desktop organisers, but magazine racks are great for organising kids' artwork and activity books.” 

What To Try

This Year… I’m Going to Disconnect to Reconnect

It’s a fact of modern life: screen time is chewing up hours of our lives. In fact, research suggests Aussies are on their phones for almost five hours a day. Ironically, though, tech can actually help you to disconnect.

Start by using the functions on your phone to make you less inclined to pick it up. Turn off all notifications, set a ‘Do Not Disturb’ time from a certain point each evening and track your screen time through your phone's settings app. Goal setting in this area can be tough, but perhaps start by gradually decreasing your use each week until you get down to an optimum time that works best for you. 

Reading on a dedicated device such as a Kindle, instead of your phone or tablet, can keep you focused on your book instead of distractions leading to hours of scrolling. In addition, many wearables have a guided meditation mode to help you unplug and recharge, such as the Fitbit Versa 3

Now you’ve organised your devices, look at your spaces. “Being intentional with your organisation can help with getting off screens,” Bonnie says. “I had an electrician put a powerpoint in a cupboard to create an out-of-sight charging station for the school laptop, reading lamps and phones.”

What to Try

SEE ALSO: Vision Board Ideas for the Whole Family

This Year… I’m Going to Run a Half Marathon

Whether your goal is a half marathon or to jog around the block without stopping, Tim says start with the big goal and work back from there. “I suggest slowly adding things in and ramping up,” he says. “If you want to run four days a week, and you want to do that in five months’ time, start month one with one run a week, and up it to two runs a week in month two, and so on. If you go all in all at once, you’ll end up in a lot of pain and injure yourself.” 

Tim also suggests looking at tech to help you measure your progress. “I can see on my [smart] watch my average pace, current pace and stride length,” he says. “Even in the middle of my run, it'll tell me if I'm putting in enough effort.”

What To Try

This Year… I’m Going to Plan My Weekly Meals 

The ‘What’s for dinner?’ dilemma is real. Not only does meal planning reduce that nightly stress, it also helps you save money and reduces food waste – especially when you hear Australians waste more than 7.6 billion kilos of food each year, of which 70 per cent is edible.

Like most things, being organised is one key to winning weeknights. “An organised home means meal prep is much easier,” says Bonnie. “An organised pantry means you can see what you have at a glance. Labels and tubs also mean other people can use your pantry with ease, knowing where to return the items they’ve used.”

Tim suggests keeping things easy to start with. “Good food doesn't have to be boring and it doesn't have to be expensive,” he explains. “Start by learning five meals that are simple, healthy and easy. Once you have those down, you can start to tweak those five meals and add more in.” 

What to Try

Top Goal Setting Tips

Our experts had plenty more tips for staying on track throughout the year.

  • Keep your goals top of mind. “I stick Post-it notes on my bathroom mirror for when I feel like my wellness habit isn’t going to plan,” Georgina says. “A vision board is really good but it could even be a photo or the screensaver on your phone,” adds Tim.
  • Share your goal. “Tell other people what your goal is so that they’ll keep you accountable,” Tim says. “If no one knows about it, it's easy to talk yourself out of it.”
  • Celebrate small wins. “Start small and you’ll see the impact on your daily life – small successes propel you to keep going and create lasting change,” says Bonnie. “Also, give yourself grace when life happens. Kids get sick, things happen and it’s OK.”
  • Start the year off right. “I always get a new journal to start the year,” Georgina says. “I’ll write down my long-term and short term-goals for the new year. It’s also a lovely sense of accomplishment to look back at previous journals.”

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways to Double Your Productivity