Do you fall prey to the New Year’s resolution rollercoaster? In winter, most of us decide I will do better. By springtime, you already feel like a failure—or, you simply forget why it was so important to wake up every day at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. With kids, you’re not only navigating personal or professional goals; your resolutions can also factor in a whole other person or set of people: This summer I will finally teach my daughter to ride a bike!
Setting resolutions can be truly intimidating, and if you reach too far, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment and bad feelings. The real goal in making resolutions is to tap into the motivation you feel in the new year by setting low-key, flexible goals so you’re not setting yourself up for failure.
1. Shoot for good-enoughism, not perfectionism
This first one is a meta-resolution. There’s an old proverb: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Whether you missed a school recital or aren’t as far along in your career as you hoped, you have to get over the longing to be all things to all people, ditch the guilt, and meet yourself where you are. Give yourself a forgiving timeline to meet your goals and allow yourself to simply be good enough.
2. Establish new traditions
Schedule a new family outing once a month on the weekends—maybe explore a hiking trail or visit a local museum. Fostering a sense of adventure and trying new things can help you get out of a rut, and it also allows you to prioritize family time in a fun way outside of the house. Plus, once a month is a reasonable goal to set, and something the family can look forward to every time the calendar page turns.
3. Take a personal day once a month
Prioritizing self-care is something working parents “forget” to do (or perhaps feel is impossible), but it is something you need to do in order to remain centered, healthy, and able to be a good employee and a good parent. A whole day to do those little tasks that have been nagging but not urgent, or to get yourself organized, or take a long bath or read a good book—whatever a personal day looks like to you that would help you re-center—can allow you to de-stress and gain better overall focus. When you have too much going on, sometimes it’s important to just hit the pause button. You can tackle all your tasks the next day, we promise.
4. Ditch the multi-tasking
Have you heard multi-tasking is bad? Like, really bad. When you try to do two things at once, which is actually impossible, you do both things worse and your ability to focus suffers. But parents, whether you are aware of it or not, are constantly multi-tasking by default, trying to meet the needs and demands of multiple people at once. So, it takes extra care to try to focus on one task at a time. You need to establish boundaries. Kids know when you’re distracted, so half-listening to your daughter tell a story as you write an email sends the wrong message to her. Give yourself a clear space to do this task; go into another room and help your kids learn patience as they wait until you are finished.
5. Declutter your commitments
Parents get really good at saying “no” to their kids but are not necessarily good at applying the same practice to peers or coworkers. When you’re juggling too much, you have to prioritize. Will doing this make me happy, will it make me a better person, will it enrich my life? Make sure you feel a strong “yes” when you agree to do something. You don’t need to bend over backwards for everyone. Learn when your “yes”es constitute being a good coworker, a good parent, or a good citizen, and learn to say “no” when things are too much.
6. Curb your email
This is along the same lines as learning to say “no.” Email “autoreply messages” aren’t just for vacation time. It can be really freeing to turn on your autoreply message on your email as the last thing you do before you step out of the office. It sets a clear boundary in your mind that you will leave work behind, and also communicates that to others. If you don’t have a 9-to-5 job, this can prove trickier, but all the more vital. Set times when you will actively not check email and not think about work.
7. Declutter your “stuff”
The new year brings all the stuff you collected over the old year plus the new stuff you got from the holidays. It’s time to make space for that new stuff: recycle, donate, make a few bucks on Ebay, and empower your kids to decide what they no longer use and discover what clothes no longer fit. This can be a seasonal practice. But if you find your collection of “stuff” too daunting, even just getting rid of just one thing you don’t need in the new year will clear your mind and make you feel productive for 2019.