It’s time to put your New Year’s resolutions into action.
They could be specific achievements, such as getting a new job or promotion, or acing your next exam. Maybe you want to do more traveling, write a book, start a business, lose weight, be more considerate of others, exercise more, procrastinate less, or save more money.
Whatever your resolutions are, making them is easier than keeping them. Here are nine practical tips to help you stay motivated.
1. Find the purpose
Ask yourself: “Why is this resolution important to me? How will it benefit me or those around me?” If you can answer these questions, you’ll feel positive when working toward your goal, because you’ll envision the good that will come out of it. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful secret to keeping your New Year’s resolution.
2. Look at your resolutions every day
Many of life’s daily distractions can make you forget your goals. Write down your resolutions and post them in a place where you can see them daily. This simple action will keep you on track and focused on the bigger picture, and it will help you prioritize daily to-dos.
3. Plan: Make time and break it down
Amidst a busy schedule and the barrage of distractions, if you don’t plan ahead, you may never be able to secure enough time for your goals. Schedule a regular early morning routine or set aside time every Sunday to dedicate to your goals.
Break down your big goals into smaller, more manageable steps, and set realistic deadlines for them. You’ll be more conscious of the time available to you and appreciate that your goal is achievable.
4. Turn it into a habit
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”– Aristotle
“What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while.”– Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”
Working towards your goal on a consistent basis is not only a realistic approach, but will also build momentum, and thereby—compared to working at it once in a while—makes starting easier, keeps your mind focused, and keeps the pressure off.
What’s crucial is to commit yourself—diligence and persistence are qualities that you’ll cultivate gradually as you work towards your goal.
If you’re planning to change some habits, change them one habit at a time.
“Let’s say you want to wake up earlier, exercise more often, and introduce a new organizational system at work… If you’re like most people, you’ll start by tackling all three at once,” writes Scott H. Young, who has been a productivity blogger since the age of 17.
“It turns out willpower is a limited resource—something that gets depleted with repeated use. Roy Baumeister did the first experiments on this phenomenon, known as ‘ego depletion,’ showing that the exertion of willpower in one area makes it harder to exert it on another task later.”
Young writes that, while it may seem slow, by focusing on a habit a month for a year, you could potentially change 12 habits!
American writer Pearl S. Buck once said: “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.”
5. Eliminate distractions
Find out what distracts you and block these out ruthlessly when working at your goal. You may need to sign out of all social media websites, turn your phone to airplane mode, confine yourself to a quiet room, or decline any calls to go out on a particular day.
Keeping distractions at bay will bring added importance to the task you’re engaging in and increase your productivity. Take frequent breaks, such as once every hour or half hour for ten minutes at a time—fatigue is a sneaky distractor.
Limit your pursuits this year to only a few at a time. Having too many pursuits is like juggling more balls than you can manage. There are all kinds of opportunities out there: ask yourself which ones are worth it and whether you have enough time.
If you take on something new, consider dropping something else to balance the time in your schedule.
6. Look after your health
“What if I told you that you’re being selfish every time you deprive yourself of sleep?” writes personal development guide Daniel Wong in his article “How To Make the World a Better Place by Sleeping More.”
Wong writes that when he didn’t get enough sleep the night before, “I was less friendly, positive, kind, encouraging, and considerate than normal,” adding that exhaustion can make a person unintentionally more impatient and irritable.
Work out how much sleep you need to function well. For an average person, this is about seven hours.
Alongside getting enough sleep, drink plenty of water, cut down on the sugar and caffeine and don’t skip meals. Your body is precious. Look after it by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising regularly. This will help you maintain your energy levels everyday and steer clear of fatigue and bad moods—two factors that can greatly demotivate you from any undertaking.
7. Find support to overcome your blockages
Turn to a trusted family member, friend or colleague if you need more support and encouragement. You’ll also develop a sense of accountability towards your goal.
Join another person or group dedicated to the same goal as you to gain more insight as you share your experiences and strive together.
Seek help from a personal coach or tutor to guide you in your work, or a counselor to help you overcome mental challenges to your goals. Seek out resources that explore how to boost your productivity, manage your time well, and steer clear of procrastination. (Some recommendations are listed at the end of this article)
8. Keep a diary
A diary acts as your sounding board, allowing you to keep track of your progress and capture powerful ideas as they come in isolated or passing thoughts. You can also record what you’ve learnt throughout the year, identify patterns of action that are fruitful and those that aren’t.
A diary also acts as a means to plan your short- and long-term goals, and serves as extra encouragement. Journal regularly—once every day for ten minutes at a time. Make it a habit and you’ll find it easier as you go.
For more on journaling your every day, read the excerpt “Keeping a Diary to Catalyze Creativity” from 99U’s “Maximize Your Potential.”
When you stumble or slacken off at your resolution, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t fear failure. Failing means that you’ve tried. Find out what didn’t work, bounce back and continue your journey. When things get tough, give yourself some time to break and recover. Persist. Trust yourself and be strong! Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Here are some more helpful resources: