New beginnings, tough targets and ambitious resolutions are great, but if you're thinking of turning over a leaf it's all too easy to fall off the wagon and revert to type within a few days.

Whether you're ditching the fags, getting reacquainted with the gym or reinventing yourself as a professional bungee jumper, goal-setting requires careful mental preparation. "To stay motivated, you must be relentless about making progress, while letting go of the demand for perfection, advises self-help expert Rory Vaden, "focus on stellar efforts – not results."

Stick to these 11 fuss-free tips and you'll end up precisely where you need to be.

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  • See the bigger picture

    What do you want to do with your life? OK so that’s a big question, but it’s important to have a clear idea of where you want to be in, say, the next 10 years. It’s really important to identify these large-scale goals as the starting point. Then you can worry about how you’re going to go about making them actually happen.

  • Break it down

    You know where want to be, now you need to make it manageable. What do you want to accomplish? What do you need to get there? Why do you want to achieve the goal? While the big picture might feel abstract, if you break it down into smaller, bite-sized targets then the distance between where you are now, and your goals will feel less like a gaping chasm, and more like a series of stepping stones.

  • Get to know your role models

    There's nothing more inspirational that finding people who've achieved what I want to do. Take time to do some digging to learn what they did so that you can take the same steps, and, perhaps more crucially, learn from their mistakes. Of course no two journeys are ever the same, but it makes your own targets seem a little less far-out when you know someone else has taken on similar challenges and won. Stuck for inspiration? We love Julie Deane, the founder of Cambridge Satchel Company, who from her kitchen created a multi-million pound fashion empire with just £600.

  • Get excited

    Here's the thing: dull goals are never going to motivate you. If you want to get fit but hate the gym, with the best will in the world you're not going to spend hours on the treadmill. Instead, think about trying something new that will get you in shape, like mountain climbing, ballroom dancing or rave dance classes (they exist, honest!).

  • Make it measurable

    Ask yourself: How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal? Measurable goals help you know when you’re making progress, when you’re on the right track. The more you achieve, the more motivated you’ll feel about hitting your next target.

  • Get real

    We’d all love to devote three hours to exercise, hold down an amazing job and feed the family a Michelin star-worthy dinner every day, and possibly squeeze in some voluntary work, with a few extra-curricular activities thrown into the bargain. Irritatingly, there are only 24 hours in the day, and that means you need to be smart and realistic when setting goals, otherwise you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

  • Feel the fear...

    Deadlines are the perfect way to beat procrastination and enhance your focus and motivation. And the more you tell people about your deadlines, the more you’ll feel obliged to stick to them.

  • Visualise

    Flagging a little? Getting caught up in the frustrations of the nitty gritty? Take time to imagine how you’ll feel when your goals have been accomplished and the buzz that will come from that. Try doing this for a few minutes every morning, or before you go to bed.

  • Meditate

    A clear mind makes you more productive. When the mind is silent, concentration is increased and you can tap into your unconscious potential, making the inevitable challenges faced in reaching your goals that little bit easier to overcome. Investing your time in daily meditation will reward you in the long run.

  • Take action

    The simple fact is that the more you do, the faster your goals will be achieved. Stating the obvious? Perhaps, but it’s all too easy to concentrate on the perfecting your goal strategy but put off the actual ‘doing’ required to achieve them. There’s never a perfect time to embark on a new project, but doing something – anything – will take you that little bit closer to where you need to be.

  • Be flexible

    Naturally youl want to stick to your goals as much as you can, but what if achieving your original goals is nothing like you imagined, or you suddenly realise that they don't take you where you really want to be? Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to rethink, adjust and tailor your targets as you develop. There are no prizes for religiously sticking to goals that aren't right for you.