Making resolutions each January is the easy part. Sticking to them beyond, say, February, that’s the tricky part. It’s not necessarily the goals themselves that are failing you, though—it could be the way you’re setting them, and the way you’re setting yourself up to implement them.
Let’s look at some key strategies for crafting and keeping resolutions for a happy and productive 2019.
5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
Write them down
Your goals and resolutions may be top of mind for you, and you may understand intuitively what they are and how you want to achieve them. But no matter how well you think you’ll be able to keep them in mind, write them down—on a Post-It, in your phone, in a spreadsheet; it doesn’t matter how or where. Just put it in writing.
The act of writing helps make your resolutions official. And if you put them somewhere you’re likely to see them often (like at your desk or on your fridge), you’re less likely to lose track of your intentions when you’re back to the daily grind after the holidays.
This is probably the most important part of creating actionable and achievable resolutions. Think better self, not necessarily best self. Losing 20 pounds or being fluent in a new language within a year sound great. But how likely are those to happen?
If your goal is vague and lofty, be specific about what you want to achieve and think hard about whether you can achieve it with the time and resources you’ll realistically have available to you throughout the year. Maybe15 pounds by September is a more realistic goal. Perhaps you can take on one hour of French practice with an app every week. The more you think about your real life and what it will take to achieve your goal, the better your resolution will be at the outset.
Break them down
If you break your resolutions down into pieces throughout the year, it gives you a series of smaller goals that you can accomplish—making it easier to stay on track for the big goals. For example, if your main resolution is to get a new job this year, consider the components of that. You’ll need to update your resume, start looking for job openings, apply for job openings, upgrade your interview outfit, etc. Each of those steps is something you can do in the meantime, and feel good about checking each one off as you complete it.
Small wins add up to big wins. And even if you don’t ultimately hit your main resolution by the end of the year, you can look back at these smaller tasks you completed and feel accomplished at what you did and how you did it.
Set a time frame
I’ve got all year, so I’ll deal with this later. That’s a fatal mindset for any resolution, but especially professional ones. If you’ve already got a job or you’re caught up in daily routines, it can be harder and harder to push out of that comfort zone and do the things you need to do to maintain action toward your resolution.
Setting specific due dates for yourself creates accountability, even if you’re the only one who knows they exist. And like breaking your goals down into manageable chunks, timing helps make your goals more achievable on a daily, weekly, and monthly level. Say your goal is to build your professional network throughout the year. Set milestones each month: add two people to your LinkedIn connections; set a coffee date with a different former work colleague each month; post a new update each week about your professional activities. Or if you’re looking for an upgrade at work (new job or a promotion), set interim milestones like having an updated resume by March, doing comprehensive salary research by April, etc.
Achieving your goals is a reward unto itself, sure. But y’know what’s also a reward? Treating yourself for hitting those milestones. Think ahead of time what would be an incentive for you to make progress on your resolution. Spa day? An afternoon off and tickets to see your favorite sports team play? It doesn’t have to be huge or expensive, just a gift to yourself for the work you’ve done throughout the year. Anything that helps you keep your interest when things get busy or frustrating, that’s what you want to use as the carrot in front of you.