Random-Flavored Words

No More New Year's Resolutions

December 30, 2023

For a long time, I've followed a similar habit: Every year on December 31st (or sometime around then), I would sit down and write a journal entry recapping and reflecting on the year. Then I'd make a list of New Year's resolutions for the coming year. The resolutions varied from year to year, but they usually involved some sort of health or fitness related goal, like going to the gym three times a week or eating more fruits and veggies. Come January, renewed and recharged from the holidays, I'd buckle down eagerly on these goals.

This will usually last for a few weeks, maybe even longer, until something happens that breaks my momentum. Maybe I'll come down with a cold, or maybe there will be some major deadline at work that has me working late nights. I stop going to gym for a week, or I skip my veggies during dinner for a couple of days. After that, things quickly go downhill, and before I know it, my resolutions become lost somewhere in the back of my mind. A few months later, something I read or watch will somehow remind me of the resolutions I made ages ago, and feeling guilty for not sticking to them, I'll make new plans to continue again with these resolutions. The resurgence will last another few weeks, until something else comes up and they get buried, yet again, in the back of my mind. Before I know it, it is December 31st again and I'm staring down at the list of resolutions I made 12 months ago, not a single one of which has been fulfilled. I write my journal entry and new list, resolving to do better next year.

Unfortunately, I tend to be the type of person who spends a lot more time planning and making to-do lists than actually doing things. I've been guilty of having the some to-do item on my list for weeks, meticulously writing it down in my planner day after day but never getting around to it, until I finally decide to give up on it. Tired of never making things happen, I started trying out a slightly different approach this year. At the center of this approach is the fact that there's nothing particularly special about January 1st. This isn't the only day that you can make changes and resolve to make yourself better; in fact, you can do this on any given day of the year. Instead of always trying to "start over" on New Year's Day, I started approaching my goals as a moving target that I continuously work towards, whether it's within a given year or across years.

The first thing I did was to sit down and make a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the short-term and long-term. The definitions of these may be different for everyone, but for me, short-term is in the next 3 months or so, and long-term is in the next year or two. It would probably have been helpful to have an even longer term plan, but this is what I started with for now. I found it useful to divide my goals into categories. For example, my current categories are family/house, kid, and me. My goals could be either something that I want to accomplish within the given time frame (for example, potty training my kid) or things that I need to do (for example, book a family vacation or find a new doctor).

This high-level plan served as a blue-print for my day-to-day planning. At the beginning of every month, I would look at my short-term goals and determine which of these I wanted to focus on and what I needed to do this month to make progress towards the goal. At the beginning of each week, I would look at my monthly goals and break them down even further to determine what I needed to do for the week. You could take that even further and plan each of your days this way, but I found that just having a weekly to-do list was enough for me to know what I should be doing each day. At the end of each month, I would check in on my short-term goals and cross off the ones that were done. If anything wasn't making much progress, I'd reevaluate to see what was holding me up - had it become lower priority on my list, or was it still high priority and I needed to push myself to step up my game? I'd them look at my long-term plan and see if there was anything that I wanted to bring over to my short-term list.

In this way, I was able to keep myself accountable and focused on what I wanted to accomplish on any given week or day or the year. Instead of starting the year off with a list of vague resolutions that would disappear in merely a few weeks, this alternative approach gave me something concrete that I could stick to and make achievable progress with. I'm looking forward to continuing to try out this approach next year. Here's to a great 2024!