Eighty percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. That’s a discouraging statistic to hear on the eve of 2018. The question is why are we so terrible at keeping our resolutions? Did we set our goals too high? Do we not have enough willpower?
The answer is a bit of both. We tend to set incredibly lofty goals to be met at an undetermined date and then we lose the will do complete them a few months into the new year. As we resume our daily routines of work, taking care of the kids, cleaning the house, etc., it’s easy to push New Year’s resolutions aside.
How Can We Succeed?
Don’t let that failure rate get you down. There is hope! The reason most people fail in sticking to their New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t break their goals up into smaller chunks.
Why can’t we fulfill our grand plans? Because achieving a goal requires a lot of willpower, a finite source in our brains. When you stack that small amount of willpower up against a huge goal like learning a new language or losing 20 pounds, your brain kind of gives up immediately.
That’s why breaking your goals up into mini-goals is important. You can focus on a specific timeline to meet your mini goal then move onto the next goal.
Most conventional wisdom says it takes 21 days for a person to form a habit. The caveat here is you can form a habit in that time if the action is short and simple. More complicated tasks take longer to form habits.
Keeping tasks simple is an important psychological hack to keep in mind. The simpler you can make the task you want to become a habit, the better chance you have.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to be more productive in 2018. That’s a fairly big and vague goal, and you will most certainly fail if you keep it that way. If we break that goal into chunks (measurable is always better), you’ll achieve those goals more easily and form habits along the way.
Continuing with our example, we’ll say for the month of January you want to start writing out your daily schedule and tasks either the night before or the morning of. That’s a simple task that should take you a max of five minutes. Decide how you want to write out these tasks - electronically or on paper - and set an alarm to remind you each day.
We know all too well that it’s also super easy to blow off your phone reminder. Commit to dropping what you’re doing when that alarm goes off and doing your daily task. By the end of January, you’ll notice you start doing that task without the reminder, meaning you’ve formed a habit. In February, you can add on another simple task like putting papers that have accumulated on your desk away at the end of each day.
If you’re not sure how to break your habits into smaller chunks, especially ones related to organization, consult with a home organizer or productivity coach to help you break down your goal.
Other Habit-Forming Resolutions
There’s truly no limit to what you can make your New Year’s resolution. The important thing to remember is if you’re not 100% committed to making the change you’ve set out to make, you’re not going to succeed.
To help you form habits, you can track your habits using applications like Done or Productive. If you’re a bullet journal keeper, create a habit tracker at the beginning of each month to see how you do.
Here are some other examples of New Year’s resolutions to give you some ideas:
Decluttering the House
Set up your mini goals in a way that makes sense to you. Committing to decluttering one room each month and committing a couple of hours each weekend to doing so will help you get rid of unused items in your home.
For general decluttering to help keep the house looking clean, consider mini goals like not leaving clothes out or making the bed every morning.
The most popular New Year’s resolutions tend to be losing weight and getting fit. These are easy to break down and are also easy to track with numbers.
If you want to lose weight, break your end of year goal weight into 12 and commit to losing a certain number of pounds each month. For those looking to improve their fitness, set goals for how fast you want to run or how much weight you want to lift each month to reach your goal.
Saving money and sticking to a budget is another top resolution for many individuals. Setting a budget is usually the first step. Next, determine how much money you want to have saved by the end of the year and break that into amounts for each month. In the case of saving, you might consider changing the amount you need to save each month based on what’s going on in your life. For example, saving gets a bit more difficult around the holidays or times of year when you need to travel.
When you break year-long goals into smaller goals, they suddenly become easier to achieve and easier to turn into habits. Make sure your daily tasks are short and simple, and that your mini goals are easy to measure. Whether you need to take before and after pictures to track your progress or use a habit tracker is up to you.
If you have questions about turning your New Year’s resolutions into habits, especially when it comes to productivity or being organized, send them to Ditch the Clutter and we’d be happy to answer them for you.
Happy New Year, and good luck!