New Year’s Resolutions basically never work. But when they do, it’s because we actually took real steps to change our mindsets. And the hardest part is figuring out how to take those steps. How will we work out more? How will we actually follow through with our grand plan to learn how to play the guitar?
In my experience, I’ve figured out that I need to set goals that are measurable and concrete. This goes for anything, from writing a paper for school or doing a project at work. I hate the term “SMART goals,” which appears in all my business management classes, but the management experts have a point: SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely, which make them a hell of a lot easier to take on. Which is what needs to happen with New Year’s Resolution goals. For instance: Instead of “I need to work out more,” start with, “I will go to the gym four times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time.” Get it?
Using the logic of SMART goals and general human nature, I figured out how we can actually follow through with the resolutions we make. This post will tackle the most common New Year’s Resolutions, one by one.
Time to get resolving!
The resolution: Be more organized.
The strategy: “Be more organized” isn’t a very clear goal, so let’s tweak it: “Make 5 changes that take real action toward better organization habits.” Or whatever it is you want to do. These changes can be blocking out time each day for cleaning your workspace, or meal prepping before the week starts.
Blocking out time for cleaning was a good example. I’ll start with that.
I hate cleaning. I do. I feel like it’s a waste of my time when I could be doing something useful and creative like doing research for my thesis, or blogging. Like right now. I’m literally writing this post right now because I don’t want to put my laundry in the closet.
But decluttering IRL needs to happen if you want to declutter your mind and your work. You might not think you’re doing it, but you’re worrying about the clutter. In the back of your brain, in your subconscious, you are bothered by the papers piling up on your desk or the dishes piling up in the sink. So do yourself a favor and dedicate time, even just ten minutes, each day for decluttering.
Invest in the perfect planner. Not a good-enough planner, THE PERFECT planner.
Find a daily planner that works well for you. I cannot stress this enough. I found myself making disorganized lists for different things, from planning my groceries to figuring out my long-term project deadlines, and it’s easy to lose track and drop the ball on at least one of those lists. I created the below customizable planner to put everything I needed in one place:
Of course, you can always just go with a planner you buy at the store. And don’t skimp: This is something you will use every day, and it should have everything you want. Like a good boyfriend.
The resolution: Work out more.
The strategy: Invest both time and money in the gym and start in baby steps. Again, you’ll want to clearly define the goal: Is it to spend 30 minutes at the gym, four times a week? Is it to attend pilates class twice a week and turbo kickboxing three times? Depending on what kind of workouts you need amd enjoy, set a goal that seems both doable and challenging, with workouts that fit what you’ll realistically follow through with.
Remember that planner we talked about in the first resolution? Use it to schedule your workouts, and defend those workouts that same way you defend your time for work meetings. That way you won’t be tempted to cancel for things that come up.
Finally, put some money into it. Buy a membership. Get some fun new workout clothes, water bottles, and a gym bag. If you paid for the Zumba classes, you’ll feel more obligated to show up.
Be social. Once you keep showing up, you’ll make friends and want to show up! See if you can find a workout buddy, like a friend who already works out and could convince you to get your butt out of bed.
And once you become a regular, you might even be that workout buddy for someone else!
The resolution: Learn a new skill
The strategy: Like I said in my previous post about productive things to do over the holidays, the holiday season is a good time to start a new skill or hobby that you’ve been wanting to pick up. But we pick it up, and then we go back to our real life, and we drop it. Because when our working lives take over, hobbies suddenly seem a lot less important.
The key here is to treat it like it’s as important as working out or getting food. Because it is. You’re not a robot programmed to spend every waking hour on work or food (unless food is your hobby and you’re trying to figure out how to cook like the Pioneer Woman. In that case, I applaud you). You should be dedicating time to your own interests, and take them seriously– don’t just shrug off your desire to learn knitting or baking or yoga or coding as some stupid thing. Be nice to it. Respect it. Give it time. Let it become a part of your routine. Block off time and defend it, and you’ll find yourself practicing your new skill so much that it will naturally become a part of your life.
The resolution: Do more for charity.
The strategy: Of all the common resolutions, this one is my favorite, and also the one that gets dropped the most. When people are in the holiday spirit, they feel inspired to give, and then the inspiration fades when the Christmas lights come down. If you genuinely want to make a resolution to contribute more, here is what you need to do:
- Pick a cause that you can relate with, whether it be the arts, the food bank, homeless shelters, a health-related nonprofit like the local Alzheimer’s Association office, a domestic violence shelter, a church, whatever you feel most connected with. If you choose a cause you care about, it will be rewarding and you’ll be more likely to dedicate your efforts.
- Make a SMART goal related to that cause: “I will spend two hours every Sunday volunteering at the food bank.” “I will dedicate a half hour a week toward mentoring young women in a mentorship program.” “I will donate X amount of dollars each month from my paycheck toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.”
- Do some research and find local organizations/branches supporting that cause, and see what ways there are to contribute that use your unique skills and passions. I do PR, so I look out for pro bono PR opportunities– for example, when I was an active member of my sorority, I used my social media skills to help my chapter fundraise for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. If you enjoy leadership, maybe there are leadership opportunities in your area. See what I’m getting at?
In my opinion, sticking with this one won’t be hard if you start connecting with the cause and regularly contributing. Volunteer work gives you a sense of purpose that work/school can’t always give you, and for those of you thinking about this resolution, I hope I’ve made a good case!