Most of us are goal-setters, whether we realize it or not. We might not be in the habit of writing down our goals or keeping track of our progress, but it’s fairly likely that you’ve set at least a few goals in your mind over the past year or so. One way to break down your goals into manageable pieces is to set a new type of goal each month.
As Psychology Today noted in a recent article, “Efficient goal pursuit entails breaking down goals into sub-goals, steps, or components.” You might try to improve your goal-achievement rate by taking a large goal, such as lowering your blood pressure to a healthier level and making bite-sized changes weekly or monthly.
You might decide to categorize each month of the year as a different focus for your goals; as Gretchen Rubin did in her best-selling book The Happiness Project, you can pick a theme for every month to unify your goals for that month.
The following are suggestions for categories and specific goals within those categories. You can pick and choose any that apply to you and your current phase of life. (You can also check out our article on planning for the year ahead!)
New month new goals: Your education
Education is a worthy pursuit that can take many forms. So if you’ve been wishing to improve your life through education, why not dedicate an upcoming month to clarifying and making some goals for your education? Learning new skills not only increases your knowledge but can also increase your income!
Get your GED or another degree
Whatever degree or credential you just haven’t gotten around to completing, you can figure out a way to make it a reality. Whether you didn’t finish high school and it’s time to get your GED, or you’ve been stuck in your career and need higher education to move up the ladder, you can start the process of getting that degree that’s eluding you.
This is a long-term goal that you won’t complete in just a month. But start figuring out the logistics: what degree do you want or need, how will you finance the degree, and how can you fit in the time for studying or training?
Also, if you’re going back to college or grad school, consider how to do it without student loans if possible. However, if you do need to get financing be sure that it is something you can truly afford.
Learn to play an instrument
Music can enrich our lives immensely, and if you’ve wanted to be a guitar player, this next month could be the perfect time to begin lessons. Learning an instrument can provide you with both a challenge and a form of entertainment, and it’s a great indoor hobby to do for years.
Learn a foreign language
I admit I’m biased towards this one — I used to teach high school French, and I’ve always loved the nuances of a different language. Learning a language offers benefits such as improved memory and creativity, enhanced problem-solving skills, and understanding of other cultures.
So, why not get on the free app Duolingo or find a community class to start today?
Learn an artistic skill
Another “new month new goals” idea is to try out something artistic that’s new to you. For instance, a wine-and-painting class at a local business, watching YouTube videos on sculpture, or taking a class on Outschool.
New month new goals: Your spirituality
Monthly goal ideas may include something spiritual. Even if you’re not religious, you can make spiritual goals, which simply help you to discover your purpose and live meaningfully.
Practice spiritual meditation
No matter what your religion (or lack of religion), what philosophy aligns with your beliefs? You can take a new month to set new goals for spiritual training. For example, going to classes at your church or synagogue might be right for you, or trying a new habit like meditation for ten minutes every morning.
Read spiritual texts
Another good spiritual goal is to read spiritual text. For instance, you might commit to a month of daily readings of your tradition’s sacred text, such as the Bible. Or you can seek out spiritual leaders whose teachings resonate with you and read their books or articles for the coming month.
Listen to spiritual podcasts
Listening to a podcast created by a spiritual guide or leader can be a great way to lift your spirits and solidify your new monthly goals. So, look up recommended podcasts for your particular faith or belief system and make it your goal to listen to a certain number of episodes or at a set time each day or week.
New month new goals: Your relationships
A new month can prompt new goals for your relationships. The importance of healthy relationships can’t be overstated, as research shows good relationships having the greatest impact on our long-term happiness.
Monthly goals for your marriage
If you’re married or in a committed relationship, working on that single relationship is essential. You might take this next month to work on goals to improve your marriage. Some marriage goals to consider:
Listen more to your partner
If you’re always talking, try to listen more. Think about whether you normally drive the conversation, and strive to listen when your partner talks.
Find time for dates
Time for just the two of you is important to keeping a marriage alive and well. Date night can be as simple as a glass of wine on the front porch after the kids are in bed, or more involved, like a dinner out.
See a therapist to work out issues
Sometimes you need the help of an unbiased outsider to move forward. You might seek out a licensed therapist to help facilitate tough conversations and benefit your marriage.
Have monthly budget meetings as part of your "new month new goals" approach
Being on the same page financially can truly strengthen your marriage. A monthly budget meeting can ensure you're both aiming for the same goals. Be sure to make it fun too!
For example, have dessert while you are reviewing your monthly budget. Making it enjoyable will keep the mood light and you also get some bonding time in.
Monthly goals for your relationships with your children
For parents, the relationship you build with your kids is one of the most impactful on your life. The new month could be a great time to reset. So try these goals to help you in your relationships with your kids:
Cut back on activities
Your child may love being in travel soccer, theater, and six other clubs. But they could be burned out and just need some family time. Find fun things to do if you notice they are in need of a break.
Maybe you struggle with always seeing the negative, and you could make it a goal to focus on making positive comments towards your children. A goal might be to always compliment them before making any suggestions for improvement.
Make time for them (Prioritize this "new month new goals" idea)
If you’re working 80 or 100 hours a week, could you scale back to spend more time with your kids? Consider the intangible value of your time, not just the value of your income.
New month new goals: Your finances
The fresh start of a new month is a great time to begin working on new financial goals. Getting your financial life in order impacts nearly every other aspect of your life, so it's always worthwhile to reevaluate your situation and strive for improvements.
Get out of debt
Build your emergency fund
Another source of financial stress is not having the money to cover emergencies that arise. Starting an emergency fund is something you can do today, and use this new month to start building a savings habit to build up funds to pay for unexpected expenses like car repairs and medical bills.
Save for something fun
In addition to covering the essentials, make time to save a little money for something fun. This could be small, such as a dinner at a new restaurant, or it could be big, such as travel plans for a beach vacation. Having something exciting to look forward to can help motivate you to save.
Plan for retirement
So I’ll always be grateful to my former coworker, who dragged me along to an employee retirement planning seminar years ago. She got me to start saving in my first 403(b) for retirement. It’s easy to start a retirement account, whether through your employer or a local bank.
Learn to invest
Along with the previous goal, take some time to learn about different retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs and seek professional guidance if needed. Read up on other types of investments, and don’t be afraid to start because the longer your money has to grow, the better off you’ll be.
New month new goals: Your health
Physical health includes many different goals, primarily regarding diet and exercise, but other factors matter as well. Think about the following health goals that you might try. You could pick one or more each month to focus on, then add more good habits as each one becomes easier.
Monthly goals for fitness
It doesn't have to be all or nothing. So, make it a goal to add more movement with these ideas:
Start (or restart) an exercise regimen
Health experts all agree that some kind of physical exercise, as long as it’s safe for you, helps improve your overall health. You can reduce your risk of diseases, keep your weight manageable, and even improve your brain function.
Take the next month to get off the couch if you’ve been putting it off — exercise doesn’t need fancy equipment or memberships since even walking is beneficial.
Move more every day
Little movements add up to improve your health, so instead of worrying about fitting in an hour-long workout, try to fit in small bursts of movement throughout the day. You might do a set of ten push-ups in between conference calls, for example.
Use a step tracker
If you have a step tracker like a FitBit, that can help motivate you to move more all day long, even in short time segments. Some people really love having a numeric record of goals like step counts, along with the ability to track their heart rate and sleep.
Take the long way
Always look for opportunities to move your body — it’s a gift to be healthy and able to move. For example, you might take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further from your destination and walk.
Try a new exercise
Maybe the new month is a time to try out a form of exercise that’s unfamiliar to you. If you normally run, try yoga. If you usually take an aerobics class, you might try kayaking instead.
Assess your eating habits as part of your "new month new goals" approach
Your monthly goal ideas could include a checkup on your eating habits. Maybe it’s time for a change, whether you want to lose weight, pursue clean eating, or improve other health factors. The goods news is there are a ton of delicious meals that are budget-friendly too!
Monitor how foods make you feel
For the next month, pay attention to how specific foods or drinks make you feel. You likely already have a guess of which ones to focus on, such as sugar or dairy, or caffeine. Keeping a food diary along with how your body and mind feel after each item can help you determine what changes to make.
Decide what foods to let go of
Tracking your food intake along with reactions can show you whether you’d feel better if you gave up certain things. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much a particular food or ingredient impacts us until we cut it out. Take the next month to try life without the foods that sapped your energy or harmed you in some way.
Learn about a new eating plan
Perhaps once you’ve recognized something about your current way of eating that you want to change, you need to learn about a particular diet. You can take a month to read or listen to audiobooks about keto diets, going sugar-free, or becoming vegetarian, for example.
Try out a different way of eating each month on your "new month new goals" journey
You can also use a new month to tackle the new goal of testing out a diet or eating regimen. It might not become totally second nature after only a month, but you’ll get a good idea of whether it could be good for you.
New month new goals: Giving service
Service could be another monthly theme for your goals. I know sometimes I get laser-focused on myself and my family, only to realize I haven’t been reaching out to help anyone else.
Identify an area you’re passionate about to apply the "new month new goals" mantra
What comes to mind when you think of service? Think about the issues that matter most to you, the troubles of your community or the world. The more you care about an issue, the more committed you’ll be able to be to helping change things. Here are some ideas to get the juices flowing:
What problems plaguing the planet would you like to help solve? If you're most concerned about water pollution or deforestation, or loss of diverse animal species, maybe that's an area you could serve in.
Education is a common area for people to want to improve, whether locally or across the globe. You don't need to be a teacher to help provide better education to kids (or adults) in some way.
Many health-related causes could benefit from your attention and service. Think about nursing home residents who would love visitors or hospitals that accept volunteers.
Find a place to serve regularly
You may have one hour a week or an afternoon a month, so think about how to incorporate service into your regular schedule. Organizations such as schools, after-school clubs, libraries, public trails or parks, and animal shelters might be a good fit.
Volunteer at a school
Schools are constantly in need of volunteers to help run the parent-teacher organization, help at book fairs, chaperone trips, collect school supplies, and much more. What a great way to connect with the people in your kids' school!
Churches and religious communities
If you’re part of a church or other religious organization, that’s a wonderful place to start giving back to others. Nursery volunteering is always appreciated, as well as setting up and tearing down events.
If you’re a bit squeamish, this one is tough, but there’s a national blood shortage these days (according to the Red Cross), and hospitals always need more willing donors. What better service could you do than donating blood every few months to save lives?
Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen
Local food pantries and soup kitchens often are looking for volunteers, so you could ask one near you about their volunteer needs. This may not have to be a weekly or monthly commitment, but whatever you can offer is helpful.
Other community needs
Think about your own local area. What needs do you see? Could you walk dogs at the animal shelter, offer to watch your neighbor’s kids, or help organize a charity luncheon? Using your skills may be a huge help to someone else.
New month new goals: Your personal development
When it comes to personal development, the key is just that: it’s personal. Only you know what characteristics you’d like to build in yourself. Take some time to figure out how you might become a better version of yourself.
The following traits might be a place to begin, but again, this totally depends on you, so think of the kind of person you want to be.
Are you allowing enough fun and whimsy into your life? Maybe you'd like to be more playful. If it's been a while since you did something goofy, don't be afraid to try it again.
Perhaps you tend to be distracted, and you want to bring more focus to your everyday life. Would a monthly retreat day be helpful? Find ways you can increase your focus. For instance, try spending less time checking your phone during work or when socializing.
A new monthly goal could be to show your friendly side to strangers. Ask someone from your Zumba class to hang out one weekend or bring some baked goods over to the new neighbors.
Take a new month to try learning about a different culture or belief system. You could use books, movies, podcasts, or conversations with a new friend to give you some new insights.
Positivity (always worthwhile on your "new month new goals" journey)
Whether you want to try these financial affirmations or look for other areas to be more positive about, this is a great trait to cultivate. Being positive doesn't automatically fix problems, but it can make it easier for you to cope with them.
Maybe you’ve been in a creative rut and your goal this month is to break out of your comfort zone. This might mean painting a picture, starting to write a book, or making a completely unfamiliar recipe for dinner.
New month new goals: Organization
I confess: I’m not an organized person. My home is frequently cluttered. Maybe you get that, and you want to set a goal to work on organization for the next month. Plus there are some great blogs on organization that can help you get inspired.
Organize your schedule
You might begin with getting your schedule in order. Try strategies to avoid forgetting deadlines or cramming too much into one day.
Use a planner to track your new month new goals!
Using a planner seems so obvious, but not everyone loves to do it. Online and paper planners are helpful to a ton of people in planning out every day, week, and month. Having a set schedule is important because it increases productivity. So make it a goal to create a daily routine for your life and finances.
Schedule appointments you’ve been putting off
Some of us procrastinate on making those essential appointments, like for the pediatrician and the dentist. Take a day this month to knock out all of those pesky tasks and make the necessary phone calls.
Use apps or other resources
Organize your home
Your home’s organization can impact your productivity and happiness. So try some of the top recommendations for getting things organized (hint: it’s not buying hundreds of dollars of storage bins you’ll never use!).
Clean out drawers and closets
Any place in your home you’ve been using to store stuff, take them one at a time, and go through everything. Take it all out and toss what you don’t need. You can check out these tips for decluttering your life.
Donate extra stuff
In your decluttering process, you’ll likely find oodles of items you don’t need anymore. Be honest with yourself and keep what you can use, but mindfully give away things that could be useful to someone else.
I prefer to give gently used things (clothing, furniture, dishes, etc.) to someone I know or someone local if possible. That way, I feel like my gift could actually help someone. Or you could sell those items for some extra cash too!
New month new goals: Your emotions
This could go under your “personal development” goal month, or it can be its own separate category. In a new month, your new goals might center around becoming more emotionally balanced.
Harboring anger towards others can be more harmful to you than to them. Learning how to forgive others is a worthy goal for a new month.
Improve your response to frustrations and setbacks
Troubles will come, but how you respond to challenges can make a huge difference. Maybe working on responding differently to frustrating situations is a goal you want to make.
Perhaps you feel you could be more honest, either with others or even with yourself. What do you really want from life? If someone has hurt you, would it be useful to talk about it with them?
New month new goals: Taking adventures
For a new month, new goals to seek and find adventure can be a lot of fun. Perhaps you have settled into the status quo, and it’s time to refresh things with more adventure!
Find small adventures
“Adventure” doesn’t have to mean climbing Mount Everest or bungee jumping. It can be in little things. For instance, trying a new ethnic restaurant, eating your cereal with chopsticks, or even dyeing your hair a fun color.
Plan a major trip
Of course, you don’t want to rule out big adventures either! Think of a place you’ve dreamed of visiting since you were a kid. Maybe it’ll require some serious savings or planning, and you could take this new month to start planning for this adventure. There are even budget-friendly vacations you could do that are still packed with thrills.
Try something new and challenging each month as part of your "new month new goals" approach
Adventure can be found in simply getting out of your comfort zone. Try to find an activity or something else you’ve never done before, to test your limits and maybe even surprise yourself.
New month new goals: Your wellbeing
Goals don’t always need to be active; many of us also need to bring some quiet and rest into our lives. We’re busy and often overscheduled, so perhaps a month of focusing on restful practices would be useful for our total wellbeing.
Take a break from screens
Obviously, lots of us feel ruled by our screens. We spend a lot of our work time as well as our leisure time on screens. All that screen time can tire your eyes and cause other issues as well. Try imposing screen-free times each day to reduce those negative effects, and maybe even a social media detox.
Get more sleep
Sometimes we underestimate the importance of sleep, but it’s essential to all other aspects of health and happiness. Going to bed an hour earlier or getting up an hour later may help you to feel more refreshed throughout the day.
Take a daily nap
If it works for your schedule, a short 10-20 minute nap could restore your energy as well. Naps aren’t only for babies and toddlers; adults can increase alertness and reduce fatigue with a regular nap practice if it fits into your schedule.
Let someone else be in charge
You’re probably used to taking charge of a lot of things in your work and family. Can you let someone else take the reins once in a while?
Get a babysitter
Moms, be sure to budget for a babysitter once a week or once a month. You need and deserve a break! (And if it's not in the budget, seek out a mom friend who would swap babysitting days with you.)
Hire out a chore you dislike
Maybe this isn’t feasible financially, but if you can afford it, hiring someone else to do a chore you can’t stand may be worth it. (Even if you only hire a housekeeper to come to your house once, that’ll be a nice luxury.)
Leverage the "new month new goals" mantra to improve your life!
"A new month new goals" mindset is one strategy to help you focus on accomplishing your goals. These ideas are just meant to get your mind started — you might have completely different goals you want to pursue.
Just remember you can use the start of a new month as a cue to begin making meaningful changes in your life.
Learn how to create the right financial goals with our completely free course! Also, be sure to follow Clever Girl Finance on Facebook, YouTube, Tiktok, and Instagram for key financial advice and motivation!