I have a confession to make. I’ve never once actually achieved any of the New Year’s resolutions I’ve set. While that’s an embarrassing admission, I’m far from the only one who didn’t follow through on my goals. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, an overwhelming majority of people—80 percent, to be exact!—fail to reach their resolutions. Even more disheartening, they lose resolve by mid-February.
There are a variety of reasons why the failure rate is so high. It could be because we’ve established unreasonable goals—it would be great to become a millionaire this year, but is that truly attainable? Or maybe it’s because we’re not clear on our goals, or we feel overwhelmed, or we get discouraged when we don’t see progress.
You don’t have to throw in the towel just yet. Here are some of the changes I’ve made to avoid failure with my New Year’s resolutions:
1. Find someone to hold you accountable.
This year, we implemented a health contest at my business: We each set our own goals and put them in a spreadsheet. It sounds simple, but it allowed our team members to remain aware of the goals they set and also track their progress. Accountability like this is key.
Some of the goals focused on mental health, while others were about exercise and diet. Each one, however, had a space next to it that said: “This is how you can help me succeed.” Now, when I feel like I’m backsliding, there’s a straightforward support system where I can ask someone I trust for help.
In the past, I’ve had people take on something of a “bossy” role to hold me accountable, which made it discouraging and not as much fun; I was running away from something, not toward something better. As a result of this challenge, though, I’ve seen consistent encouragement around the office, and personally, the positive energy has encouraged me to keep it up.
2. Own your most precious asset: time.
One of the things that stood out to me when we were gathering data for Calendar was that the No. 1 reason people don’t accomplish certain objectives is due to a lack of planning and scheduling their time. Therefore, this year, I’ve made the effort to plan out every minute of every day.
It sounds crazy at first, but I’ve been very deliberate about dedicating time toward meditation, quality time with my family, working out and mapping out the rest of my tasks. This ensures that I put my priorities first and won’t get distracted by anything else during these blocks of time.
Personally, I’ve found that working on the most important tasks in the morning guarantees that I get them done. With my top priorities out of the way, I can give my full attention to my resolutions. Besides, for most of us, we get into an afternoon slump, where our motivation and productivity decrease. This makes the afternoon ideal for things like exercising and preparing for tomorrow.
3. Embrace new technology to help you along the way.
“There’s an app for that” has never been more important to remember. Take meditation, for example. Apps like Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer provide guided meditations. For exercise, there’s Peloton, where you and a digital community can have an expert push you in real time. If you want to ditch bad habits, consider Way of Life. It tracks your routines and picks up patterns to make sure you’re meeting your goals. It also sends reminders and custom messages to keep you motivated, and it even has a journal to note what triggers bad habits.
Once you set your goals, immediately visit the App Store or Google Play to look for new tech that can make it easier for you to stay on track.
4. Understand how habits work.
This comes from Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. Researching people’s habits, Duhigg developed a framework to get started on reshaping your own habits—breaking a habit into its three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward.
For example, let’s say your bad habit is smoking cigarettes:
- Cue: I’m tired and unfocused.
- Routine: I go outside and have a cigarette.
- Reward: I feel stimulated.
The way to change the behavior would be to replace the stimulant—in this case, cigarettes—with something else, like coffee or a walk outside.
“Obviously, changing some habits can be more difficult. But this framework is a place to start,” writes Duhigg. “Sometimes change takes a long time. Sometimes it requires repeated experiments and failures. But once you understand how a habit operates—once you diagnose the cue, the routine and the reward—you gain power over it.”
5. Manage your expectations.
There are several reasons why you haven’t been able to achieve all of your goals in the past, or stick with the ones you just established. It could be because your work capacity has increased, you’ve had to deal with a family emergency, you get distracted by shiny new objects or you’re so stressed that you turn to unhealthy comfort food.
What I’ve finally admitted is that while I’m trying to make a change, life doesn’t stop. I’m still going to be swamped at work. Fires constantly need to be put out. And there will always be one of “those days” that’s overwhelming.
Instead of letting these setbacks prevent you from achieving your goals, manage your expectations. For instance, you may not be able to exercise daily for an hour while launching a new product, but you probably have the time to do at least a 10-minute workout in your office each day. (Besides being a feasible option to keep exercising, research shows that 10-minute workouts actually work.)
While I’m only a month in, these tips have set me up for success better than ever in previous years, and I’m optimistic that they’ll prevent me from failing in the months to come. Are you with me?