With 2018 swiftly approaching, many people are already developing strategies for improving their fitness and overall health. While you may plan on joining a gym, cleaning up your nutrition, and trying to be more active, it’s possible that you are setting yourself up for poor results.

Instead of picking 3 or 4 goals for the new year, start with just one or two goals that you feel the most motivated to achieve. For example, if weight loss is your number 1 priority, nutrition is probably the best place to start.

Once you have defined the 1 area of fitness to focus on, follow the S.M.A.R.T. Guidelines below to develop a bulletproof plan of action:

Specific: The broader your goal, the easier it is to ignore or let slip. Tie your goals to specific amounts, times, or cues that prove you are performing the behavior.

Measurable: The more specific your goals are, the easier they will be to measure. Choose goals that can be easily measured and identified as a success. This will help you identify whether or not you performed the behavior for that day, and whether or not you are progressing over time.

Attainable: In other words, “Can you do it?” Is your goal possible based on your current physical or environmental situation? For example, if your goal is to make a healthy smoothie for breakfast every morning, but you don’t own a blender, then that goal is not attainable. Choose goals that are easy to implement based on your current situation.

Realistic: In other words, “Will you do it?” Using the above example, maybe you do own a blender, but the chances of you waking up 20 minutes early to make the smoothie are slim. This might be an attainable goal, but not a realistic one. Focus on the mental, motivational, and willpower components of your goal. Is the goal you chose something that can still be achieved during low-energy or stress-filled days?

Timely: Habits take a long time to build. Weight loss takes even longer. You can’t lose in a month what took you years to gain. To keep your motivation high and your chances of success higher, pick goals that can be achieved in a relatively short period of time. If your ultimate goal is to lose 50 lbs, start by trying to achieve a 10 lb reduction in 5-10 weeks.

Let’s review: A poorly planned goal may be to “Drink more water throughout the day.” There isn’t anything specific to aim for, you can’t really measure your success, and there is a broad amount of time that you have to complete the task. Instead, try this: “I will bring to work and drink one 32oz bottle of water by the end of my work day.” The next week, try to drink 32oz by lunch, and another 32oz by the time you go to bed.

Continue in this gradual, incremental way to solidify your healthy habits and add new behaviors to your daily routine. The key is to take the time you need to build up the habit. If you rush through, your behaviors will be less likely to last in the long run. Do not move onto the next week’s goal until you feel comfortable with the change you made in the previous week, and confident that you can continue implementing the change while you focus on a new goal. This may take several weeks.

If you find that after a month of trying you still can’t progress towards your goal, then go back to the S.M.A.R.T. method and rethink your goals. Which aspect of the S.M.A.R.T. goal was not met? How can you adapt your goal to set you up for success?

Good luck and have an amazing New Year!