As we approach the new year, there’s no better time for self-reflection — and to plan for self-betterment. That’s part of the drive that inspires some 40% of Americans to make New Year’s resolutions each December, as reported by the Washington Post.
Unfortunately, people who make New Year’s resolutions fall short more often than not — and quickly. By as early as January 17, most resolution-makers start losing momentum and falling back into old habits, according to USA Today. In the end, some 80% of resolutions fail, leaving people frustrated and disappointed.
If you’re planning on making New Year’s resolutions to help manage your personal and professional goals, you’ll need a plan to help you push through the difficult stretches and avoid the snares that knock so many people off track.
Here are seven tips for increasing your productivity, accomplishing your goals, and preparing yourself for success in the next year and beyond.
Tip 1: Set realistic New Year’s resolutions.
The most important way to ensure that your New Year’s resolution is successful is to make an effort to avoid getting overwhelmed. That starts with setting realistic, attainable goals. When you’re planning what you want to achieve in the next year, you should avoid pushing yourself too far — or setting too many goals that may bog you down.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious, but you should try to focus on one or two attainable outcomes. Be sure to keep in mind all the social, professional, and personal obligations you might have, and set goals that you can reasonably expect yourself to stick with and complete.
It may be too difficult or unwieldy to complete some goals in one calendar year. For example, if you want to build new career skills to earn a better salary, you may pursue further education through an online college degree. Since that’s a multi-year process, set your expectations on researching, enrolling, and getting started — not finishing.
Remember: What’s important is making progress. You can always keep it going with next year’s resolution.
Tip 2: Make sure your New Year’s resolutions are clearly defined.
New Year’s resolutions aren’t very useful if they’re too vague. When you’re making yours, consider what you want to get out of your efforts and what you hope to accomplish. What metric can you use to quantify successful completion of your goal? Try to imagine a tangible, definable result, so you have an ending point in mind — and so you can assess your progress.
Are you hoping to get in shape? Give yourself something to track: number of pounds to lose, number of miles to jog, amount of weight to bench press. Want to earn more money at work? Set a goal like earning a promotion or raise at your next employee evaluation, pursuing relevant education, or attending a certain number of professional development conferences throughout the year. Want to travel more? Come up with a list of just a couple new places to visit, then plan your trips throughout the year.
When you have a clearly defined goal, you’ll be able to track your progress and keep your motivation high. Just remember tip No. 1 and make sure your goal is attainable.
Tip 3: Break it down and plan ahead.
Once you’ve set a realistic goal for your New Year’s resolution and defined the terms of your success, you can set a plan and get to work.
The best way to do this is to break down your overall goal into manageable, trackable chunks. Establish checkpoints for yourself so you can make sure you’re on track throughout the year, and reward yourself for meeting shorter-term goals.
In many cases, it’s wise to start with smaller, more easily achievable checkpoints. Consider training for a marathon. The end goal is to be able to persevere through a 26.2-mile run, but a proper training regimen begins with much shorter one- or two-mile jogs. As you make it past these smaller checkpoints, you’ll gain the stamina and confidence to attempt — and ultimately overcome — larger obstacles.
As mentioned above, some resolutions, like earning a college degree, won’t fit into just one year. It’s especially important to prepare to track your short- and long-term progress for these goals, so you can make sure you stay on target. If you’re thinking about going back to school and don’t know where to start, a simple first step could be to dedicate time to research degrees and program options.