How many Productivity Ninja Resolutions have you set yourself? Still motivated to follow through? If you have trouble sticking to resolutions, you’re in good company. Eighty percent of folks who plan to turn over a new leaf abandon the effort by early February. You can be one of the 20 percent. As long as you’re realistic and prepared, you can achieve a very happy new year.
1. Slow Improvement
Self-improvement is great, but don’t try to do a full makeover all at once. With too many resolutions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. After all, giving up feels good. Instead, pick just one thing to work on. What bugs you the most? A work quirk? Exercise attitude? Dietary habit? Lifestyle rut? Don’t worry about starting small, just focus on doing one goal at a time. That makes your success more likely.
2. Back It Up
You know how essential it is to get a printed warranty when you buy a car. You should feel the same way about your New Year’s resolution. If you put it in writing, your goal is more formalized, more real. That means you’re more likely to follow through. Be specific. Determined to run? Which days? How long? Where?
If you want to use your time better at work, list the behaviors, such as:
- Not always picking up your phone – especially not when you’re in the middle of a task and making progress
- Avoiding social media distractions
- Take plenty of breaks throughout your day – it’ll give you an energy and productivity boost
3. First Up
New Year’s Day is your starting line, so get ready. Make plans and gather materials, so you’ll have no excuses. For instance, if you’re starting a running program, be sure you have appropriate running shoes and clothes. Want to focus better at work? Get rid of distractions, such as certain apps — you know the ones — and desk toys. Set the stage for success.
4. Tell Everyone
As the New Year approaches, you may be tempted to keep your resolution to yourself. After all, if you fail — and, face it, the statistics are bleak — you don’t want an audience. Nevertheless, secrecy may just be your downfall. If you share your goal with supportive friends and family, you’ll have a personal cheerleading squad. Don’t worry, I won’t do a cheer routine for you.
However, the people who love you want you to succeed. You may even find a resolution partner. It’s easier to change when someone is suffering right along with you. It’s also true that if you know others are expecting a certain behavior, you’re more likely to come through. This holds true even if it’s just so you don’t have to explain why you skipped the gym today or spent three straight hours watching YouTube.
5. Keep Up
Great news! Some people form new habits in less than three weeks. Ready for the bad news? Other individuals need eight months or more to reach their goals. Yikes! Chances are, you fall somewhere in the middle. A 2010 study found the average time to turn a resolution into a habit is 66 days.
That’s 66 days in a row. Not 12, 25 or 47 days within a 66-day period. To succeed you’ll need to work on your resolution every day. Don’t give yourself a pass on weekends, holidays or vacations. Consistency means you’re more likely to become a resolution statistic — the victorious 20 percent, that is.
6. Do a Check Up
It’s OK. Be shameless. When you don’t feel like buckling down to work or going out for a run, a little guilt might do the trick.
Imagine how you’ll feel if you follow through. Make those adjectives work for you: productive, successful, energetic, healthy, etc. Picture yourself when you’re done. Then lay on the guilt. How will you feel if you skip out on your resolution today? Imagine facing your supervisor’s disapproval or walking past your unused running shoes.
If you visualize what’s in store, you’ll probably make a positive choice.
7. Fire Up
Theoretically, the only compensation you need for sticking to your resolution is the personal joy you feel when you’re successful. Theoretically. In practice, a little reward doesn’t hurt. It can help you slog through the stressful times when your goal seems more like a curse. After you’ve established the habit, an extrinsic bonus isn’t necessary.
Take running, for example. Starting — or changing — a workout routine is stressful, and your initial few weeks will be difficult. But after a while, the endorphins and stress relief that come with exercise will be their own reward. Until then, treat yourself to a small square of dark chocolate or an extra chapter in your book — but only after you’ve paid your dues.
You’ve made a resolution because you think it’ll be good for you personally, professionally — or both. Think about the future. If you succeed, what will your life be like? Maybe you’ll have that promotion you want, or you’ll never get winded climbing stairs. Enjoy those happy thoughts.
Then let darkness descend. What if you fall short and never achieve your goal? Conjure up a thorough, accurate and perhaps frightening picture. Stuck in a dead-end job. Breathing heavily just walking to your car. Go ahead and scare yourself. Those running shoes will start looking more attractive.
9. Vision is Key
A picture is worth a thousand words. Use an encouraging visual cue to remind yourself how well you’re doing. Use an actual physical calendar that you can hang in sight. Calendars on electronic devices have less presence. Every day you meet your goal, make a big mark. Use whatever makes you happy. A red exclamation mark? A smiley face? A gold star? Get a streak going, and you’ll be motivated to continue.
10. Get a Leg Up
Help yourself out as much as you can. Imagine ways you could slip up, and then create a successful environment. For example, if you know you get distracted when checking emails at work, set a timer and don’t check your inbox — don’t even peek — until the timer goes off. If you want to run in the morning but find it hard to get going, prepare your exercise gear the night before.
If it’s appropriate for your particular resolution, get it over with as early as possible. You’ll feel relief that you’ve completed your mission, not dread that it’s still hanging over your head. The sooner you’ve done your task, the more likely it is that you won’t forget, get too tired or get too busy. So run in the morning, if you can — or at least right after work. Wait until after dinner, and you’ll be tired, full and too comfy to move.
Even if early isn’t an option, try to be consistent when carrying out your goal: same time, same place. This regular schedule will help your resolution become a habit. Carve out space in your day, and you won’t have to worry about fitting in your new behavior. “No, I can’t go to Sunday brunch at 11:00; that’s my yoga class time. How about 1:00?”
If keeping resolutions were easy, people wouldn’t choose a special day to start them. However, there’s nothing magical about New Year’s Day. You still have to do all the work. Develop an action plan so you can love your successful self.
Set yourself a goal to become more productive in the new year? You came to the right place, check out our Time Management Workshops and get started on completing those resolutions.
What are your resolutions? How are you getting on with them? Let us know if the comments below and @thinkproductive
By Lexie Lu
Lexie Lu is a freelance designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest trends and always has a cup of coffee in close proximity. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.