Thinking long term is a great skill in most situations, but when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, “do X by the end of the year” can seem a bit daunting. Instead, break down your goal by a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. “Pass this class” becomes “get an A on that test next week” or even “study for twenty minutes tonight.” Breaking up your long term goal into smaller, short-term goals you can easily tackle one at a time makes progress feel a bit more achievable when you start to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the year.
Make Your Goals Specific and Realistic
Vague resolutions are a cop out. “Lose weight” doesn’t sound as attainable as “lose 15 pounds by ___.” “Pass all my classes” doesn’t sound as attainable as “aim for a 3.0 GPA.” Vague goals also promote slacking. By the end of January, when the novelty of your resolution wears off, you’ll be telling yourself, “Well… my goal was to work out, and I did work out a couple of times, so technically I’ve already achieved my goal.” Don’t fall into this trap.
Keep Track of Your Progress
Many New Year’s resolutions are quantifiable, meaning they’re easy to keep track of. If your goal is to diet, you can count the number of carbs you’re consuming per day. If you want to exercise more, keep track of your workout times. There are a number of apps you can use to organize your data, or you can do what I do, which is make a mark on my calendar every day (or week, or month) I complete my goals. When you’re feeling uninspired, it’s incredibly reassuring to be able to look back and see a physical reminder of all your progress. Being able to see all the effort you’ve put into attaining your resolution reminds you of why you started working towards your goals in the first place.
We have a natural aversion to disappointing others or going back on our word. The more people you tell about your resolutions, the more friends and family members you’ll have to hold you to your promise and to give you a pep talk whenever you’re lacking inspiration.
Find People with the Same Resolutions
My aunt’s resolution for the new year was to read more books, so she joined a book club. Joining a club or a gym, or even just meeting with a group of friends every once in a while to talk about your progress, will not only help keep you on track, but will let you help others stay on track, too.
If You Slip Up, Don’t Give Up
We’re all human, and nobody is perfect. There are going to be days where you feel like you just don’t have the time or the motivation to work towards your goal. Once you slip up once, it’s easy to completely slide off the rails. Instead, make sure that doesn’t happen. Get back on track. And remember, just because you messed up once doesn’t mean you can’t get back up and try again.