MyGoals.com says it can keep customers on track with some guilt-inducing tactics of its own: e-mail reminders and special to-do lists tailored to your personal resolution.
"It's one big behavior-modification project," said customer Marie Alexander, who is chief executive of Quova, which sells a way to provide the geographic location of visitors to Web sites. She's been a myGoals.com customer for three months.
MyGoals.com, which launched in February, has already attracted a few thousand customers. The first 30 days of goal-chasing are free, then it costs $9.95 a month, said Anthony Helmstetter, myGoals.com vice president of marketing.
But as any goal-setter knows, it's the New Year's resolutions that are hard to keep . Instead of little "I won't eat this whole pint of ice cream at once" goals, the annual promise-fest tends to get people thinking about larger issues such as quitting smoking, finding your true love, or getting out of debt. And then there is the public pressure, as people constantly query friends and relatives about their resolutions--and pester if the goals are not kept.
People using the myGoals. com service can either program their own goals or choose from a library of about 100 already created, such as "To Go Back to School (for Bachelor's Degree)" or "To Dress for Success (Women)." Obstacles are identified and tips to overcome those obstacles are suggested.
Goals are reached by performing a series of tasks. For instance, one such task for the heady goal of eliminating debt is to create a spreadsheet of all creditors.
MyGoals.com customers can also create a series of tasks to perform and a deadline to finish them. They can also choose how often they want an e-mail reminder of an impending deadline, Helmstetter said.
"The last 30 years, we were given a pencil and a piece of paper to set our goals," Helmstetter said. "That's a really poor way to manage it."
E-mail nudges will have a familiar feeling for many in the wired world. Online reminders counting down the time to the next meeting have been part of the corporate culture for years. Yahoo is one free Web-based e-mail service that offers a similar type of high-tech mothering.
But myGoals.com customers say the cost is worth it for the tailored program.
"It's dependable...with those others you have to constantly update," said Ann Leach, a writer from Missouri. Leach is using myGoals.com to write a book called "Goal Sister: Living the Life You Want With a Little Help From Your Friends."
Leach's book, however, suggests turning to humans, not machines.
Helmstetter says he has a New Year's resolution, too. He wants to sell a version of myGoals.com software to businesses, which could use it to get employees to reach particular goals.
They are conducting a pilot program right now with Century 21 Real Estate, which is using it for online training, he said.