It’s a brand new year – a time when big ideas about starting fresh come to the forefront. We know that goal setting works because most successful people talk about how important it is. Yet for most of us, years and years of past resolutions have yielded mediocre-to-sub par long term results.

However, if you are serious about 2017 being the year of YOU, then there are some small-but-important steps that can be taken to increase your odds of being successful.

Check out the tips below to help you set meaningful New Year’s resolutions and then execute them like a pro in the months to come.

Make a plan for saving money in the new year

1) Banish all vague ideas – the more specific the better.

Perhaps the number one mistake that most of us make as New Year’s Eve approaches, is to make generic statements such as, “I’m going to save more money this year” or, “I’m going to become more organized.”  With no clear measuring stick available from the beginning, you’re making it really hard for your willpower to win out on a daily basis.

Instead, put some real thought into a goal that will take some planning and sacrifice – but is attainable – and then be as specific as possible.  Resolving to save $100 per month is much better than saying that you’ll get better with money.

2) Ruthless prioritization.

For most of us, our willpower and inner drive are akin to water pressure.  There is a set amount of it, and if it is channeled efficiently towards a single opening it can be quite powerful as it delivers the intended result.  However, if you pierce a garden hose or hook up too many faucets to a single source, inevitably you quickly experience a depletion of pressure and have a difficult time using the water to accomplish any of the tasks it was supposed to perform.

Set realistic financial goals

Pick one or two goals and stay focused on them throughout the year.  Don’t try to run a marathon at a full sprint by trying to learn how to budget, committing to paying off $10,000 worth of student loans, maxing out your RRSP, saving a down payment for a house in a TFSA,  and upping your donations to charity.

Instead, identify the priority and put your energy into completing that goal.  This strategy allows you to quickly see the return on your time investment and helps build positive momentum.  There will be another New Year in only 365 days – some goals can wait for next year!

3) Climb your mountain one step at a time.

I have never looked up at Mount Everest before, but I would imagine that most people who eventually scaled the summit probably thought to themselves at some point that the peak looked too far above them to be possible.  Their goal wasn’t accomplished with a few huge leaps – but rather by meticulous planning, bite-sized stages, putting one foot in front of the other, and taking many small steps.

Saving a million-dollar retirement portfolio, paying for the house of your dreams, or just learning what the heck all of those financial acronyms mean can seem like completely unmanageable mountains.  Instead of trying to accomplish your specific goal in one fell swoop, break it down into bite-sized chunks that make it easier to put one foot in front of the other.

Your student loan might look daunting, but saving another $50 every paycheque is probably easier to get your arms around.  These small wins add up in a hurry!

Just get started on your financial plan

Perhaps the best motivational advice I ever received was: “No matter how slow you ran today, you lapped everyone that didn’t get off of their couch.”  If you notice that you are beginning to slip as you pursue your New Year’s resolutions, don’t give yourself permission to give up.  Instead, re-focus, adjust your goals if you have to, and remember that while progress can sometimes be slower than we’d envisioned, the fact that you’re moving in the right direction puts you ahead of those that never entered the race.