I’m not overly keen on New Year’s resolutions. They’re too easily broken, and they have an air of whimsy about them – something not to be taken seriously. Your failure and ultimate lack of resolve is foretold – you will fail! Surely there must be a better way?
I think a big part of the problem is that it’s something done at the last minute, and not a great deal of thought goes into it. It’s like any promise to yourself. Say you had a dream to go bungee jumping. Every month you say to yourself, “I’d love to go bungee jumping – that is a thing I am resolved to do.” But you don’t and the end of the year comes along and you resolve to do it next year. So, what’s changed? Nothing. These things are only going to happen if you make them happen, and promising yourself is only the first step.
Pick it and Break it up!
So I would say, rather than making a New Years resolution, make a New Years plan. Start now, not on the first of January. Pick one thing you want to achieve next year, right now. Done it? Good. Now think about the steps you need to take in order to make that come true. Write them down.
I rushed through that a bit, but certainly it can be useful to pick the first thing that comes into your head – that may be the thing that is most important to you. Breaking that down into steps can take a bit longer – you may not know all the steps. All the more reason to start the process now rather than waiting. It will likely only take a small amount of research to discover what’s needed, so do it, and make your plan all the more relevant.
Okay, now remember that we have a timeframe here – you have to complete all of these steps by the end of next year. Is there time for that? Estimate how long you think these things will take. Now double it. Don’t poo-poo that by the way. We often overestimate what we can get done in a short space of time (a year) and underestimate what we can do in a longer period of time (like, five years). So, double your estimate, because things almost always take longer than you think. If you complete it quicker than that, well, that’s still a good thing!
Now, is there anything else going on in the year that impacts this? Maybe there is something that directly impacts your deadline, meaning it absolutely has to be done by May, for example. What events might help you reach your goals (like NaNoWriMo). Now look for planned events that are likely to take your attention off this goal, like major birthdays that need planning (or births for that matter), or holidays.
Now, take your steps and slot them around these events as necessary. If possible, aim to complete everything a month or two before your deadline. That way, if you fall behind, you’ve got that extra slack built in to catch up. The alternative is seeing that it’s hopeless and giving up entirely.
At this point you may be looking at your plan and realising that you cannot possibly fit everything in. That may be disheartening, but it’s okay. At least now you know your original goals were unrealistic. Now you can pick somewhere achievable within that list of steps you made. Change getting your novel “completed”, to getting the first draft finished for example.
Look your plan over and tweak it if necessary – you may go through a couple of drafts of your New Years Plan before you’re happy with it. What you want to end up with is something that is clear and realistic, so you can look at it and see what stage you need to be at in March, for example.
When it’s finished, put it somewhere you can refer to it often. Write it on a single A4 sheet and pin it above your desk, or write it small so that it fits on a single sheet in your diary. Even better, start making use of an online calendar service like Google Calendar. Here you can add events throughout the year – your steps on the journey to resolution, and add reminders days or weeks in advance that can be emailed or even sent to you via text. Useful, eh!
And finally, don’t forget that your plan is not written in stone. Sometimes unavoidable things will happen to get in your way – none of us know what’s going to happen in that year. That’s why you built a buffer into your plan, so use it. Adjust your plan and see where that puts you. The same goes for when you’re doing particularly well, too.
Do you have any tips for making a New Years Plan? Are you one of those people (I’m assured they do exist) that can make a New Years resolution and simply stick to it? Discuss below!