Contrary to popular belief, January is not the only time to set and work towards your goals! You can and should be setting goals year-round. But it’s important you’re tackling them in an effective way, one that yields real results and leaves you feeling accomplished. Lakiesha Russell, a licensed professional counselor, is here to explain how you can do just that.

Employ the following five techniques, and see for yourself how transformative her tips can be.

Technique #1: Be realistic.

The first approach is to be realistic about your goals. For instance, if you’ve never run a day in your life, it’s unrealistic to set the goal of running a 6-minute mile by tomorrow. You must consider where you’re at, and then plan from there. This will set you up for success, and it will prevent you from becoming distracted, as explained by Russell: “Know what you can do in terms of what you can devote your time and energy to. Additionally, don’t be afraid to say no: it takes so much more energy to say yes than it does to say no. Saying no will allow your focus to stay committed on the goal you’re trying to achieve and you won’t get so easily distracted.”

Technique #2: Enjoy the journey.

Another important part of this process is simply enjoying it. If your goal requires you to work your butt off every day, in an unenjoyable and unrewarding way, then you’re really going to hate your life after a few days. Instead, decide to enjoy the journey and make this consideration an important piece in deciding upon your goals. Furthermore, if you enjoy the journey, you won’t rush to reach your goal and end up self-sabotaging. “Oftentimes, we are in such a rush to achieve that goal that we are looking for shortcuts and not trying to enjoy the process and how we’re growing—many of us want the destination, but aren’t willing to go through the process to get there.”

Technique #3: Keep yourself accountable.

It will also prove effective to put measures in place for keeping yourself accountable. A great way of doing so is to find a friend or other trustworthy individual that you can check in with: “Having someone else who can hold you accountable for what you’re working towards is great,” Russell says. “This person will be there to motivate you to keep going when things seem rough, and they will also be there to correct you when you want to take the easy way out. My friend Nichole and I each year focus on one word that we need to work on. We hold each other accountable for that word, and we touch base on our progress. This was a great idea when she brought it up to me! I love focusing on one word for the year to increase my discipline in.”

Technique #4: Create S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Another key to sticking with your goals is creating S.M.A.R.T. ones, as explained by Russell: “We often want to jump in headfirst, or we feel because they are on a vision board it will be miraculously accomplished—but have you mapped out a plan for how you will reach those goals to get to that vision? Let’s go back to the drawing board and create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound goals. To break this down for those who may not know… S is specific, you’re answering the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. This is like the mission statement. M is for measurable: you’re asking yourself how you’ll know when you’ve reached this goal; what measuring systems are you basing the reached goal on? A is for achievable, are you being realistic with being able to reach this? What skills sets do you have to help you reach this goal or what skill sets are you lacking and how can you obtain them? R is for relevant—does the goal line up with your vision? Are you being intentional with how this goal connects you to what you envision? And lastly, T is for time bound: what are your end dates? Be specific with exact dates.

Technique #5: Focus solely on you.

The final item on the list is simple: focus on your, not others. “Do not compare yourself to others. Many of you are probably thinking, “why not Lakiesha? How will I know how well I’m doing? Let me share my story. When I started in the podcasting world, my mission and vision was simple enough to bring awareness, educate, and empower individuals to generate conversations about mental health, mental illness, and break down the stigmas and stereotypes. I started to look at the trends, to see how many people were listening to other podcasts (which weren’t even in the same genre). I found myself competing for listens and missing the mark with staying true to my vision. I then found myself doing things just to be doing them to attract more attention. Needless to say, I got my mind right and understood each person is called to do something different—that I cannot get caught up in the listens. After all, I went into this thinking even if one person listens that is one more mind I have helped shape to think about mental health in a whole new way. I had to get back to the basics of my intentions.”