7 Micro-Goals You Can Set To Help You Achieve Big Things

by Sanam Yar
Originally Published: 

In case you forgot, the New Year is less than a week away, meaning it’s time to reflect on 2018 and bid the past 12 months adieu (much to the relief of many). With 2019 comes the promise of a fresh start, and whether you’ve set your sights on lofty career ambitions or just minute changes in your daily habits, setting goals for the New Year is a tradition that helps many people clarify all the ways they’d like to embrace life differently once the clock strikes midnight on 2018.

But as clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, PhD, tells Bustle, major goals can set us up for major disappointment. “The problem is that each time we fail; we send a message to ourselves that we are not capable of achieving," Klapow says. "Setting small, attainable goals — goals that you know you can achieve allows you to build up a reservoir of success. This improves your self-efficacy and motivation and allows you to incrementally move farther down your journey.

From Harvard Business Review to Psychology Today to Forbes, experts across outlets agree that creating small goals breaks down aspirations that may otherwise seem too overwhelming, and helps gradually work towards a larger change in a more manageable way.

Ahead, you’ll find seven suggestions of small goals to set for yourself to help kickstart and inspire your own list.


If You Want To Save More Money...

CNBC reported earlier this year that almost 40 percent of millennials have "spent money they didn’t have and gone into debt to keep up with their peers," including overspending on experiences and evenings out.

Of course, how you set a specific goal about saving money depends on your own spending habits. If you find yourself spending money on impulse buys, Merrill Lynch senior financial advisor Aleeza Singh says that removing temptation can go a long way. “Ignorance is bliss when it comes to the constant allure of retail deals,” Singh tells Bustle. “Put yourself back in the dark! Take a few weeks to manually unsubscribe from all the e-notifications and app push notifications for your favorite (and most dangerous) retailers (or, just delete the apps entirely!). By removing yourself from their 'hit lists' you’ll never know about the “30% off new arrivals” that’s waiting for you to cave.”


If You Want To Be More Present...

Ashley Batz/Bustle

If you want to be more present in your daily life, Klapow suggests making a conscious effort to be more grateful of what’s in front of you. “Spend five minutes at the beginning or end of each day writing down what you are grateful for," Klapow says. "Forcing your brain to focus on good things in your life (good day at work, good weather, nice interaction with your partner) also forces you to be more present in your life and look more actively for those positive events.”


If You Want To Improve Your Performance At Work...

There's no denying that your quality of sleep and your productivity at work are interconnected. A 2017 literature review of sleep and wellness at work wrote, "In the complex relationship between wellbeing, health and productivity ... sleep disturbances may be both the cause and the consequence of reduced wellbeing and may therefore set up a vicious circle with relevant consequences for productivity and, in the longer term, the safety and health of workers."

If you're a troubled sleeper, committing to small changes like improving your sleep hygiene or trying out something new like listening to a sleep podcast can help you with a goal for more productivity in your work life.


If You Want To Learn To Manage Stress...

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Setting a manageable goal like committing to five minutes of mediation a day, via an app or video, can help you cope with anxiety and stress, as well as help you sleep better, among myriad other benefits.

If meditation isn't your thing, try taking more breaks throughout your day. "Take a recalibration break every 1-2 hours,” Kaplow says. “Every 1-2 hours take 1-5 minutes to simply regroup. Breathe deeply and slowly, notice the environment around you, hydrate, and then reset for the next task. Recalibrating frequently prevents stress levels from building over the course of the day. Basically you prevent your stress from getting out of control in small, reachable steps.”


If You Want To Focus On Self-Care...

Wellness definitely feels like a buzzword, but it's also an incredible broad concept — what exactly is wellness, and what does achieving it look like?

“Make an inventory of what self-care means to you," Klapow says. "Maybe it’s relaxation each day, maybe its exercise, meditation, healthy food, a splurge of social media or TV. If you don’t know what self-care is for you can’t engage in it."

Then once you have it figured it out, set aside time for one self-care action a day. "Some days there may be more but never less than one each day,” he says.

For some, it might be going for a run two times a week to achieve a personal fitness goal, while for others, that may mean finding a new skin care routine that makes you feel good.


If You Want To Connect With People IRL...

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Anyone who's been on the dating app grind will likely tell you that dating app fatigue is very real. If you're seeking to nurture new relationships outside the apps, one suggestion would be to set specific goals like participating in more group activities that you enjoy, like painting or exercise classes. It's a win-win situation; even if you don't end up finding ~the one~, you still got to do something you actually like and meet new people.

Dating expert and founder of SpoonMeetsSpoon Meredith Golden encourages meeting people through other friends. “While I think dating apps are the best and most efficient route to connect with singles, there are still some non-tech ways to generate first dates,” Golden says. “One option is to send 10 individual texts to your super-connector friends asking them to set you up. Paste the same message as a time saver after personalizing the text. Individual texts yield a higher response rate than a group request. Joining a summer share house, playing on a sports league, volunteering, and going on an organized group vacation are also great ways to meet people."


If You Want To Sharpen Your Mind...

There are tons of ways to challenge your brain if you feel like you haven't been doing that enough lately.

In order to tackle this, Kaplow suggests simply reading or writing (or both!) "We live in a world of bits of information that are spoon fed to us," he says, "The act of reading a book or writing our thoughts engages our brains in a manner that doesn’t happen enough. Any book, any form of writing — it will stretch your brain muscles.”

Setting a goal to read a certain number of new books that's realistic for your schedule and reading habits is just one method. If books aren't your thing, you can subscribe to a new podcast focused on an area you'd like to learn more about, whether that's a history podcast or one about emotional intelligence.

Ultimately, when broken down into bite-sized and manageable actions, setting goals and intentions that you can actually stick to becomes a much easier process. Happy list-making!

Additional reporting by Syeda Khaula Saad.

This post was originally published on December 26, 2018. It was updated on July 3, 2019.

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