Most commonly people commit to making actions that may promote their wishes: I want to become a better person; I want to be healthier; I want to make fewer bugs; I wish my projects would end on time.
And then what? Did you ever make your own New Year's resolutions? How much of it sustained until the following year? Until the following month?
If you are one of the fortunate ones to keep their resolutions for longer terms, you can probably skip to the last section of this post.
Myths and Truths
A Harvard research conducted between 1979 and 1989 concluded that, of a large group of MBA student that participated in the research, the 13% that set goals did twice as good as the 84% that didn't. What's more surprising is that the 3% that had clear written goals did 10 times better than the ones that didn't set goals for themselves.
Or was it a 1953 Yale class?
The truth is that both are myths, as concluded by this online research by Sid Savara.
Another truth is that the fictitious Harvard research is mentioned by Mark McCormack in his book "What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School", and was the basis for numerous references, some of which turning it from a fictional idea into a wrongly quoted research. So much for myths.
Conclusion I: Don't trust everything you read on the Internet
How about the truth? Well, the Dominican University of California did conduct such as research, and scientifically confirmed that there is a significant link between written goals setting and successful results. Thank you Sid Savara for the efforts and the outcome! (I bet you had a written goal to find empirical evidence on the effectiveness of written goal setting).
Conclusion II: Conclusion I above does not mean don't trust anything you read on the Internet
Conclusion III: The fact that it's not true does not mean that it's wrong.
Conclusion IV: The fact that it's not scientific does not make it wrong, either.
Goal setting, New Year and You
On the brink of the New Year, what kind of goals will you set for yourself? Will they be wishes? Or are you aiming for results?
Are you hoping to improve quality? Or are you aiming to act daily to take actions that improve quality (for example, to write ever-improving Unit Tests or to practice TDD)?
Are you hoping to keep projects on time? Or are you aiming to make responsible decisions daily, so projects' progress is visible and communicated to all (for example, to use burndown charts and to act according to what they indicate)?
See the difference?
Are you practicing wishful thinking? Or are you acting on goals that bring results?
Now take a sheet of paper, and to write goals for the coming year. Make it no less than two, and no more than 4.
Then read them, to double-check that they include concrete results, not vague wishes.
Then add a last goal: I will immediately send my goals and their progress to.... (add here your most preferred mentor or friend or whoever you motivates you).
And finally, turn them into 4 time-capsules that will open in December, March, June and in September.
You may put them in 4 envelopes that you will open 4 times in the coming year.
Or you may send them to me, firstname.lastname@example.org . I will remind you around Hanukkah, Passover, Shavuot and Rosh-Hashannah (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, if you prefer) what your goals are, so you can send me back your achievements.
The last section of this post
Whether you read the entire post, or just skipped here (because you already keep your New Year's resolutions):
Happy New Year! May your goals become the results you wish for. May this year be more successful than the ending year!