January 13, 2014
So, how are those resolutions working out? It can be tough to stay on track for 12 months. Get on track fast with these eight tips for sticking with your New Year's Resolutions:
Tip #1: AutomateRemove temptation by setting up automated systems that work on your goals even when you’re not! For example, are you trying to save more money? Don’t trust yourself to sack away $50 a week on will power alone! Set up an automatic transfer from your primary checking account to your savings account to occur the day of or the day after payday. If it’s a small enough amount, you won’t even notice it missing. But in just a few months, you’ll have a nice $1,000 emergency fund built up.
Tip #2: Plan Your Failures… PurposefullyFirst, let’s be realistic. Most people don’t transform from couch potato to athlete overnight. If you don’t normally workout, for instance, aim for a minimal lifestyle change at first. Plan to exercise only 1-3 days a week instead of a starting an ambitious program. Better to have slow gains than no gains because you quit. If your goal is to write more (you’re an aspiring author or blogger), then set a phone or calendar alert that goes off every morning and tells you to “wake up and write!” If you want to start journaling or reading, keep your journal and book next to your bed and don’t sleep until you make an effort. If you fall asleep, don’t allow yourself out of bed until you write one sentence or read one page. Later in the day, let’s say you have another reminder that goes off (a friend, family member, or prepaid call service who calls to see if you wrote like you said you would.) Eventually, you’ll get tired of those calls and just do the work, possibly forming a good work habit in the meantime.
Tip #3: Create Bumper HabitsDo you already have a task that you MUST do every day, like driving home from work or taking kids to school? Think about what you could add to that daily task. For example, could you change into workout clothes before you leave the office and hit the gym on your way home three days a week? Could you pick up fresh produce every other day at the market after you take the kids to school to ensure you prepare fresh, healthy meals? Maybe you spend 10-15 minutes a day walking the dog. Hang your headphones next to the Fido’s leash and listen to audio coaching or language courses while you walk. You’ll be amazed what you can get out of 10 minutes. (Works even better while washing dishes—ordinarily a colossal waste of time, in my humble opinion.)
Tip #4: Change Your EnvironmentYour desire to please yourself may be your worst enemy. Sorry that you adore that comfy recliner or that you’re obsessed with Duck Dynasty. If you’re serious about your goals, get yourself away from your weaknesses, physically and quite literally. Set up shop with bright lights, a desk and chair that supports good posture, your project supplies and a tall glass of water. Then, lock the door and set a timer to work until you’re done. If your goal is to write, this is the place where you’ll do it. When exercising became my goal, I moved my yoga mat, 5-lb weights, and exercise videos into a basket in the front of my living room next to the TV where I could always see them. (It’s amazing what gets noticed when it resides near the TV.) When I set a goal to read daily, I moved my book shelf next to the TV, dimmed the lights at a certain time every night and put Starbucks-like music on in the background. Instead of watching movies, I started getting used to reading and sipping tea. Started sleeping better, too!
Tip #5: Bet On ItNothing motivates like the fear of loss! Especially when it’s money. Maneesh Sethi, inventor of the “Bet-Switch Mechanism” created high-stakes bets with friends to guarantee accountability. For example, when Maneesh set a goal to go to the gym five nights a week, he made a bet with his close friend. He and his friend each agreed to pay the other $50 for every night they didn’t work out. Even if it meant hitting the gym at 11pm with alcoholic beverages in his system, Maneesh would rather fight through a workout than pay his ever-eager friend the $50. Find the right price that motivates you. The easy part is finding a partner willing to accept your penalty fee!
Tip #6: Do Something DailyBreak it down into a real plan, with real steps. But here’s the key – don’t overachieve! I’m naturally a strategist. It’s one of my strengths. I fall into the trap of building elaborate--even beautiful--plans for achieving goals. I can break it down into perfect parts, schedule it out just so, and throw it onto a pretty spreadsheet. On paper it looks great; but in reality, it never happens. So, take my advice—keep it ridiculously simple. If your goal is exercise-related, don’t exercise everyday! (You’ll burn out, or quit.) Instead decide to think about it everyday and allow flexibility. For example, my fail-proof exercise plan is to workout three times a week: any three days, any time, any program I choose. This way I get to workout when I feel like it and don’t beat myself up on the days that I don’t. On my off days, I still focus on my exercise goals. Usually, I stretch or do yoga, either when I wake or before bed, sometimes while watching TV. I might take time to plan a few healthy meals into my schedule. I read fitness blogs and watch workout tips on YouTube. Even shopping for new workout clothes counts toward my goal! Why? Because it focuses and inspires me. I do something DAILY that reminds me of my fitness goal and moves me closer to it, even if just mentally.
Tip #7 Assume A New IdentityAgain, looking to my favorite “life hack” author, Maneesh Sethi, who explains how he learns a new language by making it part of his new identity. His strategy is not just about the work and activity; it’s a mental shift as well. Here’s how he describes learning a new language: “When I travel for language learning, I follow a specific process. I take four hours of private tutoring a day. I live with a host family—one that doesn’t speak English if possible—and I make an effort to spend at least one meal/day with them. I make local friends–again, ones that don’t speak English if possible. I begin thinking in the language, and when I don’t know the word, I write it down and add it to my flash card database, practicing every day. In short—I build an all encompassing system of language learning. When I am studying a language, my identity changes. I am no longer Maneesh, traveling blogging weird Indian kid. I’m Maneesh, that guy who is studying German. And all of my decisions emanate from that new identity.” Don’t just make a goal part of you life; make it part of who you are and aim to become.
Tip # 8: Just Pick OneSaved the best for last! My all-time favorite tip is this – narrow down to ONE goal and master it. You’ll probably pick up several new habits along the way anyway. But focusing only on one almost assures your success. To see an example of how this works for me, click here to check out My One Thing in 2014 resolution. Enjoy this article? You've got time for another! Check out these related articles:
- 5 Resolutions That Will Keep You Motivated All Year
- Are You Truly Committed To Your New Year’s Resolutions?
- 10 Professional Resolutions For The New Year