I think most of us 1) put way too many things on our New Year's resolution lists, and 2) aren't specific enough when we define each resolution.

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Yes, it’s that time of year again … time to create New Year’s resolutions. Have you ever found yourself excited to write down your goals, but then a few months into the new year realized that you’re not following through on many of the items on your list?

I have a theory about that. I think most of us 1) put way too many things on our New Year’s resolution lists, and 2) aren’t specific enough when we define each resolution (example: “I’m going to get a pay raise this year”). Here are some ways you can keep those issues from happening to you in 2014.

Problem: Your list is too long.
Solution: Studies have shown that most people tend to remember only three things when given a list of items. Be reasonable and include only three to five overall goals. If you complete your list early, you can always create another one … maybe a “summer resolution list”?

Problem: Your resolutions are too general, and you don’t put enough thought into how you’ll actually accomplish them.
Solution: Try using the S.M.A.R.T. technique of goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Countless businesses throughout the world use this process when creating goals and objectives, and I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful for individuals.

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Using the S.M.A.R.T. technique means trying to change a very general goal into a much more specific one. Let’s say your original resolution was to get a pay raise. That’s a pretty large goal — and fairly ambiguous. How will you go about achieving that objective?

Changing that resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal, it might become: I will obtain a pay raise within the first quarter of 2014 by:
• Finding out how my manager views my work in January.
• Conducting external and internal salary research in February to better understand where my current pay fits with similar jobs in the industry and geography, and where it fits within my company’s pay scale.
• Determining my strategy to ask for a raise, including being able to explain why I believe my work effort should be rewarded with more money and then asking my boss for a raise in March.

By creating fewer overall resolutions and turning them into S.M.A.R.T. goals, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding. Happy New Year!

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.