Creating New Year resolutions are easy (in fact, you can reuse them year after year) with the SMART criteria. What’s difficult is to keep to your New Year resolutions.
Here are 7 steps you should take to help you achieve your goals for 2012.
1. Create an Action-Plan
You need to come up with a list of tasks that you need to take in order to reach your goals. To prepare this list, you have to do research – go learn how to achieve your goals. Your research will give you insights on what small steps you need to take.
Another method is to work backwards. Say you want to lose 10kg by 31st December 2012, which works out to be roughly 1kg per month. In order to lose 1kg a month, you’ll need to exercise X minutes per day (you’ll have to find out what X is by doing research). So the item ‘exercising X minutes every day’ will be in your action-plan.
Do set aside exact timings to do each task. For example, exercise every day from 6pm to 6.30pm.
2. Plan rewards
All work and no play make everyone sad. Although some goals are rewarding by itself (e.g. no more breathlessness over a flight of stairs as your fitness improves), rewards are great to keep you going. Rewards can be anything – trip to the theaters, dresses, and gadgets – whatever you will look forward to.
So go ahead and enjoy that chocolate ice cream for every 5 tasks you have completed. You deserve it.
3. Remind yourself
The surefire way not to keep to your New Year resolutions is to keep your goals and plans tucked away in that dust-collection corner of your room. So don’t do that!
Instead, put your goals and plans EVERYWHERE.
Put some reminders on your pet, if it doesn’t mind.
It doesn’t have to be text. You could stick a picture of a dress you’ve wanted to wear, or a family portrait could remind you of your goal to quit smoking.
Your rewards could also be used as reminders. Put up that picture of the Maldives or iPhone to remind you of your goals.
4. Track your progress
You can’t see improvements unless you make an effort to track them. Tracking helps you reflect on what you have done so you can plan on how to improve.
To help you track your progress, you could simply draw up a calendar and note down what you have done. Else, you can use some of these free trackers online:
- iDoneThis: This service will send you an email every day that you can reply with what you’ve done for the day. All entries are kept in a calendar form so you can track your progress.
- HabitForge: Helps you form new habits in a 21-day cycle. If you miss the habit for 1 day, it’ll restart.
- Rootein: Similar to iDoneThis, except with more functions. You can create a list of to-dos and check them off when done.
5. Be Accountable
We humans like to be consistent. If you tell your friend that you’re a helpful person and he points out an incident where you resisted helping someone, your immediate emotions will be surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. This experience is known as cognitive dissonance.
You want to put yourself in this uncomfortable situation. It seems like a bad idea, but its discomfort is a good source of motivation: you do your best to avoid it.
How do you create accountability? Don’t keep your goals private. Tell your friends (or blog about) your goals and plans, and update them regularly on your progress.
Don’t write off your plans just because you’ve failed on many attempts. Instead, try to find out what is the underlying cause of the problem.
For example, let’s say your goal is to sleep at 12am every day and you’ve failed to do so for the past week. Here’s how you should analyze your problem by asking tons of ‘why’:
Why can’t I sleep early?
Because I had too many things to do.
Why did I have so many things to do?
Because I can’t finish them.
Why can’t I finish them?
Because I underestimated the time I need to complete my work.
In this scenario, you will realize that the root of the problem has more to do with how you plan your work than setting 12am as your bedtime. With this insight, you can correct the problem and continue pursuing your goals, instead of labeling them as impractical and forget about it.
7. Tie goals to charity
How about making a pledge to donate $10 to a charity of choice for every kg you lose? In this way, your efforts are tied to doing good and this will motivate you greatly. Just think of all the welfare the animals at SPCA could get, simply because you kept to your goals!
This kitty will go hungry if you don’t exercise. Still have the heart to slack?
Try, try again
Perseverance is the key to success. Don’t beat yourself up just because you couldn’t keep to your goals. Don’t give up either. The air doesn’t smell fresher in January; so don’t wait till the next January to start again. Just pick a date and you’re good to go.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!