Friday, December 28, 2012

8 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions

Let's look at common New Year's resolutions:
  • Lose weight/exercise more/eat healthier
  • Quit smoking
  • Spend more time with family/friends
  • Save money/get out of debt
  • Learn something new
  • Volunteer
These are also the New Year's resolutions that people usually forget about within 6 weeks of the start of the new year. So, what can you do to help you get on track and stay on track with self-improvement?

SweetGreen Dupont Circle by Elvert Barnes, Flickr
1. Make a better list of New Year's resolutions. You know what's missing in that list up there? Specificity. How much weight? How much money? How much time? Quantify the list and make sure it's realistic. 

2. Along with specifying quantity, make a plan that involves micro-actions (term borrowed from Tammy). On a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, how will you be working towards accomplishing the Big goal? Consider forgetting the resolutions altogether and make a list of tasks rather than Big Goals. For example, "Bring my lunch to work every day" is a smaller task that you can focus on more easily than the Big Goal. Even better: "Learn to make fun Bento boxes to take to work," is a great micro-action that gets your mind off the Big Goal while still working towards it. 

3. Make sure your resolutions are goals you really want. Duh. It might be that what you want is to look in the mirror and be happy with the person you see. That doesn't necessarily mean that you need or want to lose weight. Get it?

4. Develop routines and habits that support your resolutions. Think about the hours of your day, and what you'll need to do differently in order to make your goals happen. For example, if I want to kick the habit of wasting tons of time online, I'm going to have to give myself something to do in place of that.

5. Do not announce to the world your plans! Unless you're me. Heh. Really, though, people believe that if they tell everyone, then they'll be more likely to follow through. If it were that easy, no one would have any bad habits, and we'd all be 10 pounds lighter. Talking about goals can actually trick you into thinking you're already accomplishing them, and if you don't accomplish them in the end, you'll have added embarrassment, which doesn't help anybody. So, keep it quiet or talk about what you're currently doing (again, focus on actions) to work toward that goal.

6. Partner up. Whether it's a workout buddy or taking a class to learn something new, feeling like others are expecting you to show up and do something with them is a powerful motivator. Unlike just telling somebody your goal (which they won't think about the next day), partnering up makes you accountable because the other person will actually be expecting you to follow through.

7. Do not punish yourself. The holidays might have put you in a reactionary mindset: I spent too much money and now have even more credit card debt! That's it--beans and rice for a month! Ideally, what you want to develop through New Year's resolutions are lifestyle changes that you can maintain. When you start thinking about failures and how far you are from your Big Goal, you tend to do drastic and un-fun things, which you will not be able to maintain for very long. 

8. Do measure your success along the way. If you've made a list of micro-actions, cross them off as you complete them. Write in a journal about the way you feel when you follow through with your plans. Do not measure your success against your Big Goal--in other words, do not dwell on everything you haven't done yet and how far you have to go. Focus on what you're doing or what you've done so far, and you'll find that motivation to stick with it comes a little easier. The journey itself should feel good.

Related link: Six Keys to Changing Almost Anything 


Laura said...

Breaking down a goal into micro-actions makes it so much easier to accomplish. The saying "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" exists for a reason. :)

Domestic Kate said...