My #1 Secret to Succeeding at New Year’s Resolutions
Now that we’re well into January, you might be tired of hearing about New Year’s resolutions. I like making resolutions for myself at the start of the year, but hearing about them and seeing articles about them everywhere can be overwhelming. It’s a lot of the same advice too: how to get to the gym more, eat healthier, save more money, pay off debt, and so forth.
Don’t get me wrong; these are fantastic goals! Wouldn’t it be great to beat those goals and do even more? I’m not going to tell you how to do those things though, at least not in this post. You probably already know what it takes to meet those goals, even if they’re hard to do.
Instead, I want to share with you my secret for tackling my New Year’s resolutions. I admit that I don’t meet 100% of my goals every year. If I did, I might be retired right now writing to you from a beach in Hawaii! But you know that New Year’s resolutions, whether wild or not, can be really hard to accomplish. What’s my secret to succeeding at them as best I can?
>>> Don’t start on January 1st!
I don’t start New Year’s resolution on January 1st. It’s already past the first of the month. If you already started on your resolutions, that’s great! Keep going! If you haven’t, that’s okay too. This method is the perfect solution for you.
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How do you implement this?
1 | Determine what you want to work on this year. I spent a lot of time in November and December thinking about my goals for this year. That covered everything including finances, relationships, work and side hustles, and travel plans. It’s okay if you still don’t know what you want to work on this year. You can figure it out and then start.
2 | Prioritize what you want to work on first. Most people have a lot of things they want to improve about their lives, but it’s hard to do everything at once. It’s a good idea to pick 3 or so goals that are most pressing and start with those.
3 | Stagger the dates when you start working towards your goals. Once you’ve figured out your top goals, decide when you will start them. I’m going to tell you that it’s okay to start on your New Year’s resolutions in the second month or even the second quarter of the year. This isn’t an excuse to take things easy or to never start but to fit your goals into your life at the best time so that you will succeed at them.
Last year my top goals were to get into shape, start meal planning, and grow my side hustles.
December – I signed up for a discounted membership to the Bar Method and worked out there at least 3 times a week until May when the price went up and I couldn’t justify it any longer.
January – I started meal planning with some delicious soups and stews that were perfect for winter weather.
April – I hosted a Closet to Cash challenge in which I challenged myself and readers to list their unwanted clothes online for sale. This was after months of letting thrifted clothes pile up at home. I expanded my Poshmark closet to over 100 listings and have kept it there ever since.
Why this works
My favorite productivity book right now is The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran. The premise of the book is that you should plan by quarter instead of by year and you’ll see yourself getting more done. I’ve been using the 12 Week Year method for two quarters now with great results. Some of the reasons he gives for working by quarter are the same or similar to why I prefer to stagger the start of my goals.
A year is a loooong time. Can you even remember much of the beginning of the year when you’re in December? Having 12 months between when you start and meet a goal gives you plenty of time to dilly dally while working on it. It’s also very difficult to sustain intense work towards something for 12 months straight. Depending on what your goal is, you may just need a shorter time to work (e.g., 3 months of intensive working out for a 5k or marathon race). When you set a later start date in line with your availability and priorities, you’re better able to tackle it and get it done because it’s one of the few things you’re working on at that time.
There’s too much pressure to start on January 1st. In my opinion, January 1st is not the best day to start anything. You might be tired and sobering up from enjoying New Year’s Eve out. You might still be on vacation from Christmas with family. You might not be back at work yet. If any of these are true to you, you’re not in a regular routine with regular conditions to help yourself succeed.
You have lots of goals. Have you tried starting to work on five big products at once? It’s nearly impossible. It’s like trying to juggle five balls when you didn’t even know how to juggle two the day before. When you start them at different times, you give them each an opportunity to work their way into your life without overwhelming yourself.
Some goals don’t require a year. Some things are done better in shorter timeframes. Maybe your goal is to find a new job. You may spend 3 months prioritizing the job search around when you know companies are hiring and then either get a new job or take a step back from searching. You could train for a 100-mile bike race in the middle of the year, leaving the second half of the year to pursue something else.
You might read this and say that there’s a whole lot more to meeting your New Year’s resolutions than staggering their starts. I agree that that’s true. If you’re doing something tough, you’re going to need determination, action, accountability, and so forth.
The second part of my tip then is to start and start again. There are times when you (and I) won’t be motivated to work on our goals. For me, it’s the days I’m too tired to work out or want to eat a delicious dinner out at a restaurant rather than meal plan at home. You might be looking to lose weight and stop going to the gym at some point during the year. Or you might have started learning a new language, only to find it too difficult to continue. Whatever it is, you have to keep going if you want to meet that New Year’s resolution.
Let this be permission to start working on your New Year’s resolution on a different day or start again, just as long as you keep moving forward towards your goals.
What are some of your New Year’s resolutions? What are your tips and tricks for accomplishing them?