by Laura Gaskill
We’ve all been there. We’re carried away by the promise of a clean slate and jump into the new year with a running start … only to burn out by February. Whether you’re hoping to spruce up and organize your home, get healthy, save money or learn something new, the key to success is in your approach.
Instead of making a long list of resolutions on January 1 and leaving it at that, take it a few steps further. From high-tech solutions like automating your goals and getting mobile reminders, to refreshingly low-tech methods like resolution charts and sticky notes, here are a host of ideas to make keeping your resolutions as painless as possible. Happy new year! Let’s make this the best one yet.
1. Keep a resolutions chart. This method is old school, but since Gretchen Rubin swears by it in her popular book The Happiness Project, I am convinced it’s worth a shot. The idea is to hold yourself accountable each day through the habit of checking boxes in a chart — low tech but effective.
2. Use the 10-minute rule. Resolutions have this funny way of overwhelming us before we even begin. Instead of trying to find large chunks of time to devote to your goal, take a few moments now and list as many resolution-related tasks as you can think of that can be accomplished in 10 minutes or less. Making a phone call, checking a website, sending an email and doing a few sets of crunches all would fit in that time frame.
3. Make it something you love. Why must we always make resolutions that we dread? Instead of (or in addition to) the usual “eat healthier” and “exercise more,” why not add something you are really aching to do but never make time for? Make it a resolution to cut and arrange more flowers from your garden, read one fun novel each month or throw more parties.
4. Set up mobile reminders. Most web-based calendars, such as Google Calendar, allow you to set up recurring events with email or text reminders, making those trips to the gym a little harder to “forget.” Or, if optimum health is your goal, try My Healthy Habits, a free app for the iPhone.
5. Break it into steps. If your resolution is a large project, like organizing your home from top to bottom, it would be wise to break it down into baby steps. Try mapping out a rough schedule for the year in advance, covering one part of your goal each month — bedrooms in January, living room in February and so on.
6. Create visual reminders. Taping up notes and placing necessary tools where you won’t miss them can help, especially when you are first trying to adopt a new habit. For instance, if you want to start a no-shoes policy at home, try keeping a pair of slippers near the door and a bench and boot tray at hand for leaving outdoor shoes behind.
7. Join a group. The social atmosphere and firm time commitment make joining a group a winning strategy for nearly any resolution. Can’t find a group that fits your needs? Why not poll your friends and see if anyone is interested in starting one with you? Crafting, interior design, hiking — the sky is the limit.
8. Make it automatic. Technology can be your friend when it comes to remembering daily habits. Trying to slash energy bills this year? Install a thermostat you can control through the gadget itself or via your smart phone. Want to save money for that designer chair you have your eye on? Have cash automatically deposited into an earmarked savings account.
9. Make it pleasant. Working out is more appealing when you can lace up cute new sneakers, and keeping up with the weeding can be helped along with good tools and a yummy smelling bar of gardener’s soap for washing up afterward. Go ahead and treat yourself!
10. Garner support from loved ones. Having emotional support from the important people in your life can make or break your resolve. From giving you gentle nudges and reminders (kids are surprisingly good at this), to celebrating with you when you’ve reached a goal, sharing your goals with supportive family members and friends can only help. However, don’t bother enlisting support from those you know tend to be pessimistic or judgmental — you don’t need that negativity.
11. Limit yourself to one goal. Even if you have many goals you would like to tackle this year, if you can narrow it down to only one to focus on first, your chances of success will be much higher. Multitasking is difficult on the best of days, and trying to keep up with too many resolutions is bound to result in a ball dropped somewhere. Instead, choose to focus with laser-like precision on one thing — and be sure to reward yourself amply when you succeed!