I used to be the kind of person who wasted my new years resolutions on things like getting in shape or managing debt. I say "wasted" because, let's be honest, for most of us there's not a lot of follow through. Oh well, maybe next year.
The last few years, however, I've been crossing off my resolutions like a grocery list. So what am I doing differently? Did I really absorb that businessman's powers after I ate his heart? Or are my three wishes finally coming true after I thought that genie scammed me all those years ago? It's actually pretty simple, let me explain:
The Petty Promise Prognosis
At the end of the year you should be reflecting on your accomplishments from last year and expanding on them. The problem with using this point in time to promise yourself to fix something by next year is that often the promise is for something that either doesn't take a year, or takes more than a year (and also something you don't really want to fix).
This is why my yearly resolutions are mostly career based as those things will always take me a year to do. Getting (and staying) in shape, quitting smoking, drinking less, saving money, and eating right, are all lifetime commitments and something that should be tackled daily. So make that your daily resolution, please. You'll get better results.
The other big issue is these resolutions tend to be vague and easy to forget. The big picture problem here is that the "New Years Resolution" is a method of goal setting and whether or not you accomplish your goals is a yearly reminder of your ability to accomplish anything. This will either make you rather proud of yourself or make you feel like giving up.
If you experience the latter, then lets try and fix this...
Getting Good at the Goal Game
The New Year's resolution isn't some magical holiday wish that may or may not come true, it's a goal. And the act of setting and achieving goals is a serious skill that requires practice and dedication. Lot's of people talk about achieving your goals without talking about the simple skills it takes to do so. In order to access their secrets you first have to buy their poorly written book or attend their "workshops." Here I am sharing what I know for free (what a chump).
What you will need to get started:
1. A notebook: One made out of paper (not the computer,silly).
- Something small enough to sit on your desk and be open all the time, but not so small it's hard to work in (as in, you need room to complete a thought).
- It should have pages that are easy to rip out. You don't want your old goals getting in your way. I prefer spiral notebooks.
- When or wherever you're working this notebook should be with you.
- If you're pen doesn't work then you're likely to forget to write down something when it comes to mind.
- In order to accomplish your goals, you simply have to write them down. No excuses here, no computer documents, no keeping a running list in your head! Write things down on paper! If you think using a computer is better, make that decision after you've used the notebook for a year. but now it's paper for you.
- Keep the pen and notebook together. Hook it to the spirals, close it between the pages, or always have them side by side. That pen is for taking notes only. If you think this is stupid, this is about routine. Very important when accomplishing anything.
For short term goals. (here's a random example from my notebook)
- Write in your notebook everyday: For everything you want to accomplish in a day. And I mean everything. If you often forget to do something, write it down whether or not you think you'll get to it. This is about building habits so put stuff on there that you know you'll accomplish. Pay bills, do laundry, get to bed by 1am, etc.
- Make a list: Write down what you need to do in the short term. What do I need to do today, this week, this month?
- Rewrite unfinished tasks at the top of the next day (Important): This is a sure fire way of reminding you to complete something. The more you have to write the more you're thinking about getting it done.
- Make a sign: Post it somewhere you always see and where you are in the mode to do something about it. For example: I put my yearly career goals taped to the hutch above my computer. I'm in a place where I can easily accomplish a task that would bring me closer to my goals.
- Set your sights: A goal should be just above what you currently can do. Don't make a goal like "win the lottery" or "climb mount Everest." One requires dumb luck, the other requires years of preparation (i.e unobtainable). If you're goal is salary based, take your salary add 20%, make discussions throughout the year to acquire that. I've already made plans for how much I want to make and how I plan to do it.
- Track your progress. The great thing about setting goals this way is that you don't absolutely have to accomplish your target to accomplish something. This year I was under my target salary, but only by a small amount. I still made more than last year and I accomplished movement that I'm proud of.
The Anatomy of Annual Aspirations
There is the tenancy to set vague goals because they are easy to ignore and don't sting as much when you don't accomplish them. It's kind of an immature thing to do and you're doing it to yourself, so go to time out! Or we can all be adults here and set real goals you can achieve.
- Get in shape = bad goal: It's not specific and kind of daunting if you think about it.
- Lose 25lbs = good goal: It's small enough to accomplish in a year and can be broken down into smaller goals. (walk around the block, walk 3 blocks, walk 3 miles, run 1 mile, run 3 miles, and so on)
- Get a better job = bad goal: There are many types of jobs. Which one. What makes you unhappy at your current job? Maybe that's the thing to focus on?
- Make $XX,XXX a year = good goal: This is a specific goal and will lead you to make discussions throughout the year that may include "getting a better job." But this goal is analogous to any specific goal that doesn't require a specific method.
- Give more = bad goal: Give more hugs? Give more money? To whom? How much?
- Volunteer every Sunday for a month at the local soup kitchen = good goal: You actually end up accomplishing the previous "bad goal" because it's in a context you can achieve. Are you catching how this works yet?
So if this all seems like too much to take in, the whole method here is learning how to break things down into little digestible chunks. Buy that notebook and pen. Put it next to your bed, on top of your phone, your shoes, or over your keyboard. Somewhere you have to touch it everyday.
You can start with this very simple New Year's Resolution:
- "Write in this notebook everyday until it's full."
Happy New Year