I would have loved to roll this post out while everyone (including me!) was still in the planning stage for their Resolutions, but, alas, an Internet issue has delayed this post. But it’s never too late!
Some of you may have already made your Resolutions for 2014 – and others may still be deciding (the old ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ question). After all, how many Resolutions have we been able to keep in the past?
I think there’s a distinct reason why Resolutions are so hard to keep – and why the concept of endeavors spanning a year are so difficult to visualize to fruition. Here’s how to make good Resolutions – and set yourself up for success! – in keeping them:
1. Don’t Focus on the Whole Year – Split It Into Parts
12 months is a huge timespan to consider, and resolve inevitably fades after a month or so. Why not split your year down into manageable sections? The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington advocates this approach in order to concentrate focus and productivity. It’s an excellent book on the piecemeal approach to planning for the long-term, and I highly recommend it in order to help you achieve your Resolution goals. Split up your year into 4 quarters, focus on separate goals during each quarter, reassess as you go, and the whole year of a Better You is way more doable.
2. Don’t Make Too Many Resolutions – Stick to 5 or Less Per Quarter
Again, a hallmark of productivity advice is to not self-sabotage from the outset by focusing on too much. Even with a shorter timespan to focus on, you can still put way too much on your plate by trying to tackle 10 or 20 goals. Pick 5 -3 goals (the fewer, the better!) with which you want to start out in order to maximize your results.
3. Make Your Resolutions Quantitative and Measurable
Don’t write down “Be more thoughtful to my Grandma” or “Get healthy”…be specific! How will you be nice to Grandma – what will you do? Write a letter every two weeks? Send impromptu flowers? What does “Get healthy” mean to you? Is it “drink no soda”? “Limit coffee to 1x per week”? “Walk 5000 steps per day”? Make it as specific as possible so you can measure your progress and make sure you are achieving the overall goal.
4. Create a String of Unbroken X’s
A common motivator is to have a physical calendar with your daily goals on it, and draw a big X on each day that you hit your 5000 steps, post a blog post, don’t spend any money, take the dog for a walk, etc. The visual chain of X’s that you create when you repeat these actions day after day, week after week, will help motivate you to keep going so as not to break the chain.
5. Create Regular Check-Ins For Yourself
Designate a day of the week, each week, and a day of the month, each month, to check your progress. Are you hitting your daily, weekly, monthly goals? If not, step back and assess. What can you change, how can you help yourself achieve what you want? Set aside 5-10 minutes at least to reflect and recalibrate in order to better tackle your Resolutions.
6. Create Motivators and Rewards for Yourself
Accountability is a huge part of achieving goals – as is rewarding yourself. Schedule in a fun experience, shopping treat, time with your friends, whatever motivates you as a reward for all your hard work. (These rewards have to be motivating enough to keep you going when the going gets rough – and help you put down that donut, refuse that drink, do an extra set of dumbbell curls…when you really, really would rather not. Plus, those rewards can’t be such that they undo all your hard work and set you back into the habits you are trying to change: i.e., a shopping binge for someone trying to curtail spending for example.)
7. Remember It Takes Time
It is said that to change any habit permanently you need a minimum of 21 days. Each time you do not indulge in that habit, you create new neural pathways that reinforce good habits. But the slope is slippery – and it’s very easy to fall back into old ways. If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up and decide to throw in the towel. It’s just one day – so what? Get back on that horse, back in the saddle, and keep going. That is the hallmark of a true goal-getter – and someone who will be keeping those Resolutions this year at last.