By Patricia LaCroix, Contributing Writer
It’s a new year! And a long-standing tradition is to kick off a new year with resolutions — goals to be accomplished in the next 12 months.
While there are the old standbys — such as quitting smoking or drinking, losing weight, or getting fit — goal setting can be applied to your caregiving tasks as well.
Planning and preparation can improve the outcome of any job we do, and that includes caregiving. If you care for someone, you might be able to benefit by setting some goals for the new year.
Here are the steps you can take to create goals that can specifically help make caregiving a little easier and better in the new year.
Think about the outcome first
When creating a goal, it helps to think about the outcome you desire first, and then work backwards to come up with objectives — that is, actions that will help you meet your goal.
For example, when it comes to caregiving, a goal might be to prepare meals in advance for your loved one that he or she can enjoy easily without much effort. Another might be to spend more time reading to a loved one who can’t see well. Yet another might be to take your loved one out for some entertainment once a month. Or, you might decide on a goal that helps you be a better caregiver by taking care of yourself, such as carving out more respite time so that you can refresh yourself and renew your energy levels.
These are just a few ideas. Goals are always immensely personal and subjective. You have to decide for yourself what’s important and what takes the highest priority in your life. From there, you can then choose which goals you’d like to achieve and in what order.
Apply the SMART acronym
In deciding on your goal and how you are going to accomplish it, you can apply the SMART acronym, which will help you ensure success in achieving your goals. SMART stands for:
S – Specific
If you are too general, that will make reaching your goal more difficult to envision. Imagine trying to figure out how to get somewhere, without really knowing where you are going. That’s the problem with goals that are too general. So get specific!
If, for example, you are wanting more time for yourself, ask yourself questions such as: How much time will you take? When does that happen? How will you spend that time? What does it look like?
M – Measurable
You need to be able to recognize that you’ve actually met and realized your goal. The only way you can see it is by “measuring” it. That is to say, you can identify it by using hard facts. Again, with your time to yourself as a goal example, it would be important to identify that you’ve achieved that goal. One way to measure it would be by how many days or hours you have now gained for your own use and enjoyment. For example, “I will know I’ve reached my goal when I have one hour a day to spend solely on myself.”
A – Attainable
Goals need to be attainable. If you set a goal that is too lofty, you increase your chances of not actually reaching it. There are more than one negative result to that scenario: 1) You didn’t reach your goal — which is the biggest disappointment — but beyond that 2) you’ve now also frustrated yourself, and 3) out of despair and pessimism, you might not bother to try again.
It’s important to remember, however, that big goals are exciting and moving. So you have to strike a careful balance between what’s attainable and what’s motivating. Goals should be big enough to excite and motivate you, while small enough to be achieved — or at least reached in a satisfactory way, if not in a complete way. That way, even if you miss the intended mark, you can still achieve something positive that resembles your goal.
Mary Kay Ash, the beauty business mogul, often told her beauty consultants: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
So for example, if you are trying to carve out more “me time,” you might shoot for two hours a day — but you will still be happy and satisfied in achieving just one hour a day by year’s end. It’s still better than no time at all! And had you tried for only one hour a day, you might have ended up with only 30 minutes or less. So it’s important to keep a good perspective and attitude regarding your goals. Be content knowing that, even if you don’t completely achieve what you set out to do, you have still moved forward toward a better scenario.
R – Relevant
Your goal needs to mean something to you. If you have no skin in the game, you’ll be far less motivated to reach your goals.
In the case of gaining more time for yourself, this is probably a goal that’s very important to most caregivers. It will mean a more enjoyable life. It will give you more energy for caregiving tasks. It will also improve your state of mind.
Dwell on all the meaning the goal delivers, and make sure you can relate to its outcome, to help propel you forward.
T – Time sensitive
Your goal needs a deadline. There’s a saying: There is no day named “someday.” If you don’t pick a time for your goal to manifest, then it may never be manifested.
Have you ever been asked to do something “ASAP” — as soon as possible? Surely the person who requested that thought that request assured some manner of urgency. But then someone else comes to you and says, “I needs this by Noon today.” Which do you do first? The ASAP task or the task with the firm deadline? Most likely, you’ll pick the task with the firm deadline, because it’s time is real. ASAP has no real time around it. And when it comes to goals, achieving is all about real action.
So again, applying this to the example, set a deadline for when you will add more time for yourself. That might look like this: “On January 5, I’ll take one hour a day for myself. On February 1, I’ll start adding two hours a day for myself, so that by the end of February, I’m consistently allowing myself to have two hours a day devoted just to my needs.”
Create action steps
Once you’ve decided on your goal and applied the SMART attributes to it, you can then create action steps to help achieve that goal. For example, a first step might be to put the daily hour or two you plan to give yourself on a calendar that you refer to often. Perhaps another step might be to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break. Yet another step might be to make appointments during that time so that you are less apt to ignore your break time. You can set up a firm times that will force yourself to do enjoyable things, like see a movie or a play, or meet a friend for lunch. Such accountability helps solidify goals.
In planning such a goal, you decide you need support. As action steps, you can research and eventually hire third-party caregivers. Here at Care & Comfort at Home, we are dedicated to helping family caregivers by providing the best care possible. You can read more about our in-home services, which are available in both the Chicago and Denver areas, by clicking HERE. You can also learn more by contacting us by clicking HERE.
Be sure to create steps that are in line with the SMART attributes you chose for your goal. For example, you don’t want to pick a specific date to begin, and then decide that you are going to wait another week. Make sure to start applying action. Only by taking action will you truly move forward toward achieving the goal. Anything less, and you’ll find yourself stuck in place.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
In the past, you might not have considered placing such importance on planning and goal setting in regards to your role as a caregiver. But as the saying goes, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” The more you can prepare and plan, the more you’ll be able to provide quality care and the more improved your caregiving situation will be. If you need help deciding what role additional support can play in achieving your caregiving goals for this year, please contact us today for a FREE consultation! In Chicagoland, we can be reached at 630-333-9262. In the Denver area, we can be reached by calling 720-788-0611. And for both Chicagoland and the Denver area, we can be reached online by clicking HERE.