The new year is a natural time for aspirations.

A new year brings the promise of new beginnings, a new year to define ourselves, and a fresh start. We shake off the old and leave behind anything that didn’t serve us the previous year.

We watch fireworks, wear glasses with the new year’s number on them, and stay up late with our friends and family. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, January means deep winter. We embrace the New Year’s promise of new life and energy. We wear sparkles. We push the idea of our best selves forward into spring.

New Year’s Day we wake up tired, clean up confetti, and make lists about who we are going to be in the coming year. New year, new you.  

But does one new day mark a whole new you? Probably not. 

While the new year might be an arbitrary marker of time, it still remains the time to reassess and reset intentions. However, setting goals might not be enough. 

Could setting new systems be the solution to our “new selves”?

As you go into the new year, go through this checklist to create better systems in order to better reach our goals. 

 

Remember Why You Set a Goal

Before committing to making a change and implementing a strategy for a goal, take a step back. Why do you want to make a change? What type of goal are you setting? 

Goals that are substantive and meaningful will be easier to stick with. A goal with depth—one that will improve you or improve your life—are goals worth working towards.

Be able to back your goals up. For example, a typical New Year’s resolution is related to health: weight loss, dietary changes, and exercise regimes. A goal with depth will get to the root of why you want to set a goal in the first place. The ten pounds is an outcome, but losing weight will enable you to live a healthier, longer, and happier life. It will give you confidence, allow you to play sports with your kids, or get outside more. 

Apply this thought exercise to your art goals. Boosting your art sales or increasing your network might be your resolution. Upping your sales and increasing your network creates social opportunities for you and allows you to continue to engage creatively—the reason behind your goal in the first place. 

If you remember the meaningful “why” of your goal, you’ll find meaning in your process and be able to stay motivated.

Engage with the process of your goals, enjoy those gallery openings and collaborations. If you’re a perfectionist, you might need to break free from the appeal of immediate but unsustainable results. 

Remember—but don’t get caught up in—the outcomes of your goal. Think back to the root reason for your goal. 

Make your goals "smarter"

Now that you know why you are making a goal and are able to reap the benefits of your goal process—set better goals.

Successful goals are goals that are well thought out and doable. Smart goals are specific, achievable, realistic, and timely. 

Knowing why you are making a goal is important. To get to the “why,” you also must understand that there are many pieces to achieving a goal. 

Making smart goals is about choosing your steps to get to the deeper root of your goals. 

Do you want to organize your art practice? Get more specific. 

For example, if your goal for the new year is to get organized, change that to “cataloging all your existing art by February.” Much better. Now you know what you need to do to make your bigger goal happen. 

Most importantly, you need to set a New Year’s system behind that goal.

Create a System to reach those goals

If your goal was to get organized, and your specific step was to catalog your work, you still need a system. 

Systems are arguably more important than the goals themselves. Changing behavior is the hardest part of a goal. Just as the system in a health goal would be to go to the gym 3-5 times a week or do meal prep on Sundays, you need a system for your art goals. 

To get organized, you would need a system of taking photos of your work when you are done and documenting the specifics of that artwork. 

Goals, resolutions, and end-results are shiny and appealing. What’s less sexy is the system that makes those goals, resolutions, and end-results happen. 

However, resolutions fail when there isn’t a system and plan in place to back-up a goal. Close the gap between your aspirations and your reality with a system that works for you.
 

Define the “How” to Make Your Goals a Reality

So, you know why you have your goals. You have smart goals. Now you need a system to make these goals happen.

Depending on your goal and depending on you, you are going to need a personalized way to make your aspirations a reality. 

Identify what you need to make your goals happen. This will help you determine your system and approach.
 

Your Goals will Define Your System

What do you need to do to in order to make your goals happen? This will translate into your New Year's system.

Broad goals for artists usually consist of making more money from their art and getting more recognition from their art. 

A smart goal behind these broad goals would be to apply to X number of art fairs or shows before July. 

The system behind this smart goal would be to set aside an hour a week on a designated day to research opportunities and apply to them. 

If your broad goal is to spend more time making artwork, your smart goal could be to develop a new series of work. Then, your system could be to set your alarm earlier three times a week to get a jump start on your daily tasks and spend focused time on your art later in the day.

If your broad goal is to organize your art business, you will want to get the organizational tools and systems for keeping track of your artwork, exhibitions and sales. 

Then, commit to spending fifteen minutes a day inventorying your artwork and staying on top of your invoices, sales and following up with clients. 

 

Have a System for Your System

Okay so you’re using a system, and you have the tools you need. Now you need a way to keep yourself going within that system.

Just like the idea of creating smart goals, there are tricks and tools to help you think through task management and deadlines

One system that works for many people to help tackle big projects and day to day tasks is an importance/urgency matrix.

Your tasks are either urgent or non-urgent. They are either important or unimportant. Being able to identify what type of tasks you are juggling will help you prioritize your time and energy. 

Apply this thinking to your tasks and projects to help you maintain your organizational system.

For example, an email to a client catching them up on your work may not be urgent but it is important! Dropping off your work at a gallery on time is both urgent and important. 

Which of your systems need a system? 

A common system that might need a system is scheduling. You use a calendar, wonderful. But can you schedule reminders for yourself about up-coming events and to-dos?

 

Make the New Year Count for Your Art Career

Thoughtless resolutions and goals without plans are to fad diets as systems are to gradual health improvements (sustained success!). 

Refocus your brain to think more about systems and less about flashy immediate outcomes. You don’t need resolutions, you need a plan and a system.

Reach your goals and develop a system for your art career.

Artists need organizational tools and systems for keeping track of their art and Artwork Archive provides tools for inventorying and keeping track of collaborations, collections, and exhibit histories.  

If you want to create professional habits and save your sanity, try Artwork Archive’s free 30-day trial