Should you even bother with New Years Resolutions this year?
Even in the best of times, you can feel some ambivalence about making New Year’s resolutions. On the one hand, it’s a fresh start where you unlock 12 new months of opportunities. On the other hand, your past experience may have told you that you are unlikely to stick with doing anything drastically different from before. And by February, you might have completely given up – or even forgotten – the resolutions that you were so passionate about at the start of the year.
After going through two years of unprecedented global uncertainty, ambivalence may have slipped into impotence. Why even try to make resolutions when I have no idea what will happen in the months to come?
I hear you. And as a time management coach who has helped clients around the world get through all of the ups and downs of 2020 and 2021, I understand how there has been a vast array of unforeseen challenges in taking and maintenance of resolutions.
However, I have also seen that even in the midst of the uncertainty that you can really move forward on what’s important to you. And in fact, making a resolution and keeping it could greatly increase your sense of self-efficacy – that is, your belief in your ability to take action that benefits yourself and your situation.
So before you give up on resolution making, heed these tips on how to make resolutions that will stay true. And let your commitment to yourself and your goals create a positive momentum in January and beyond.
Evaluate your willpower.
The first and in my opinion the most important step in the resolution process is deciding if you really want to make different choices in a certain area. If you really don’t want to spend less time on social media, don’t make it a resolution.
Pick resolutions that really matter to you and for which you have a strong “why”. For example, maybe you really want to lose weight because you want to have more energy or want to keep up with your kids or want to look fantastic for a wedding. Having a compelling reason can give you the tenacity to stick to your resolutions when you’re feeling tired, unmotivated, and just want to take the easy way out.
Pick one or two.
In general, resolutions are nice things to have in the short term. You usually won’t experience immediate consequences if you don’t keep them, but in the long run, your life will be better if you quit smoking or cut back on spending.
Since there are usually no instant negative effects, you will tend to think of these goals as “extras”. And since most of us don’t have a lot of time or energy for a lot of extras, you’ll increase your chances of success by choosing just one or two resolutions. In the article, Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting, the authors share research that even when you have multiple goals, you’re most likely to focus on just one. So why not pick one up from the start?
It’s easier to remember and implement when you focus on a resolution or at least one area like investing time in exercise and making healthier food choices as part of weight loss.
Engage in a specific action.
In my first book, The 3 secrets of an effective time investment, I’m talking about the importance of clarifying “action-based priorities”. This means that you translate your conceptual priority, in this case a resolution, into a practical action that you can put on your timeline.
For example, if your resolution is to spend more time with friends and family, you can book two Friday evenings a month to hang out with friends or block your agenda after 5:30 p.m. so you can leave in time to cook dinner with your family. or make a commitment not to use the computer at a certain time of the night so that you can give your spouse your full attention.
Or if your resolution is to get in shape, you can put a weekly time in your calendar to shop for groceries so you have healthy foods around the house and decide on specific days and times you will exercise. every week.
Choosing ahead of time what actions will align with your New Year’s resolutions and when you will achieve them makes them easier to stick to.
To make easy.
In Atomic habits, author James Clear emphasizes making your habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. He encourages readers to make new habits the path of least resistance. With your resolutions, that could mean just allowing healthy food to pass through your doorstep, paying for items in cash, and putting blockers on your phone to make it harder – if not impossible – to access distracting apps.
Think about how you can reduce all the friction towards what you want to see in your life and increase the friction for the choices you want to avoid.
Track your progress.
In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose commitment if you don’t keep track of your progress. I recommend that you choose a place to jot down actions related to your resolutions and record what you do on a daily basis.
This could mean writing them down in your paper planner, keeping them in your calendar, using a habit tracker app, or sharing a document with a responsible partner.
For example, to keep up with my top health resolutions, I have an online document shared with an accountability partner (more on the importance of having support below). At the top, I recorded my initial status and my initial goals. Below I have a template of the daily habits I do to help me reach my resolutions. Every morning before I start working I copy and paste this template, change the date at the top, update it to what I’ve done so far, and then keep it updated throughout the day. Before going to bed, I do a final check with the intention of trying to do as much as possible before I fall asleep. My accountability partner makes encouraging comments in my document, and I do the same for him with his goals in his document.
This written responsibility keeps me much more focused and cohesive than I would be if I was just trying to keep everything in my head.
In the process of committing to your resolutions over the course of 12 months, it’s easy for the enthusiasm to wane. In those times when you just don’t want to make the right choices, knowing that someone else is aware and will care can really help.
You can recruit a friend, coworker, boss, coach, mentor, or anyone else who will constantly monitor you and give you the right kind of feedback: celebrate your commitment to actions aligned with your resolutions. According to research conducted at Ohio State University, having this person as someone you admire might also help your bottom line. You can also join a support group specifically focused on your specific area of improvement. Knowing that other people are working hard on the same choices can inspire you to keep going.
I cannot guarantee that you will follow through on your resolutions – only you have the ability to decide your priorities and the choices you make in life. But I can guarantee that if you follow the above process you can dramatically increase your chances of success. There is always hope for positive change. This year, you can take the opportunity to repeatedly do the actions that help you become the person you want to be, regardless of what is going on in the world around you.