Happy New Year! – and how to make sensible resolutions

Happy New Year!

The beginning of a fresh new year prompts some of us to consider setting resolutions for the year ahead. Problem is, these resolutions can be unrealistic, and won’t last beyond the first few weeks of the year.

I find that it’s better to set objectives at various points through the year – not just at the start of the year. In the past I’ve had the view that resolutions are a waste of time – but as someone who’s fascinated by numbers and dates (a topic for another day if ever there was one), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a buzz out of starting something new on January 1st.

Below are a few tips to help with setting decent resolutions that you’ll hopefully stick to.

Alcohol and dieting

If you had a lot to eat and drink over Christmas, January can feel like a good opportunity to knuckle down, eat properly, drink less (and be merry?). Problem is, these changes tend to be very short-term. Giving up drinking for a month, or dieting for a month, just isn’t enough of a lifestyle change to be worthwhile. Once you hit February, chances are you’ll celebrate with – guess what – a night out, or lots of food. There goes all your hard work!

If you’re constantly going on diets or stopping drinking only to start up again a few weeks later, you’re probably doing it wrong. The best tip is to moderate. It might not sound fun, and you may not do it perfectly all the time – but if you’re constantly falling off the wagon and needing to go cold turkey only to fall spectacularly off the wagon yet again a few weeks later, something’s not right with that.

If you enjoy drinking alcohol, why quit completely? Have a couple of drinks here and there. Don’t cut it out altogether unless you plan to do that for longer than one month. As for Dry January, why not moderate your drinking for longer than one month – and give directly to charity as soon as you can afford to?

 

Why start in January?

January is an obvious choice for making changes to your life. But how many times have you made a long list of resolutions, only to forget them all (or fail them all) by March? It’s no wonder some of us decide that resolutions are a waste of time.

If you’re going to start going to the gym, January might not be the best month to start. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s likely to be dark and cold – especially if you go to the gym in the morning. You’re not just introducing the gym as something new – you’re also throwing in a much earlier start to your day. Plus, lots of people join the gym in January.

Why not join in March? It could be a bit quieter – the mornings will be a bit lighter – and it’ll be warmer. Give yourself a break for the first two months of the year. It’ll give the idea more of a chance.

Don’t tell people about your resolutions – at least not yet

Some people motivate themselves by putting an idea out there and saying they’ll do it. And this can work. However, there can be things we set out to do that don’t come to pass for whatever reason. While this can be an easy excuse to do nothing, what I try to do is to start something new before telling people about it. By the time I bring it up, I’m already well into it.

You can also mention something you’re working on, but hold back some of the specifics. For instance, I’d like to write more, but I’m not committing to writing daily. It’s too easy to miss a day and then it feels like I’ve failed. However, if I managed to write for 300 days out of 365, that’s surely better than 20-30 days (which is the amount I wrote last year). And it’s definitely better than zero.

Note: “write more” is a vague goal to set. You should set more specific goals than this – e.g. write at least 20 blog posts every month – even if you don’t share the numbers with your peers.

Get to know your resolutions

What are you setting out to do? Why? And how will you measure success? “Spending less money” is far too vague, for instance. Are you trying to save £50-100 each month? Is that for a savings account or for a large purchase? Or are you setting aside £50-100 each month to donate to charity?

When you start to dig into the what, the why and the how of your resolutions, you’ll start to come up with an action plan. That’s a good recipe for achieving what you set out to do.

Review, review, review

While it might seem like the last year has flown by, a year is quite a long time when it comes to setting resolutions. If you set your resolutions on January 1st and only review them again on December 31st, you’ll be lucky if you’ve made good progress.

Find a sensible time to review your progress – say every 2-4 weeks. Maybe the first Saturday of the month. Or the first Wednesday. Whichever works best for you.

Pick a friend (or a group of friends) who are doing the same thing. Meet up for drinks and dinner, or lunch, and tell everyone about how you’re getting along. Meeting every 2 weeks might be a bit too frequent, but meeting only once a month makes it easy to show up for the social aspect, and either say you’ve done nothing, or you’re giving up. However, everyone gets busy… so it could be tricky to commit to more than a monthly thing.

Why not set up a Whatsapp group, or a Facebook group, where you can share some of your achievements as they happen? You’ll find that the success of others spurs on the group. Don’t feel you need to start the group in January – as with going to the gym, wait until March if you like. But keep it going.

Best of luck – and Happy New Year!

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