By Chris Dato • January 02, 2015
The holiday parties are over, the eggnog has been drunk and the fruitcake has been… well, its gone. Now it is time for everyone’s least favorite part of the holiday season (besides the fruitcake), making New Years resolutions. It seems like each year we get so excited at the prospect of starting the new year by making positive changes, only to resign them to the following year two weeks into January. As a business student, setting and achieving goals is a skill that I have studied quite a bit, and that is particularly useful when it comes to effective New Year’s resolutions. So, here are some tips to help you succeed this year, as well as tips for accomplishing some common resolutions.
Although it seems obvious, the first key to keeping your New Years resolution is to understand that it is a goal. Because it is a goal, it needs to be something that is truly important to you, not just something you think you should do. A good way to ensure your resolution is really personal is to start planning it throughout the year, instead of just randomly picking a handful on December 30th. Also, it is important to pick SMART goals. SMART is a business acronym used to check the feasibility of a goal, but I have found that it is applicable to many aspects of life. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Running your resolutions through these criteria will help ensure that they are worthwhile goals. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a laundry list of resolutions that you can’t keep track of, either. Instead, it is better to pick two or three goals that are the highest priority to you, and focus on coming up with a realistic game plan for accomplishing them. Keep in mind that your goals do not necessarily have to be for a year, which can be a daunting amount of time. Setting milestones on you way to your ultimate goal can make them seem much less intimidating. Remember that it only takes 21 days to form a habit.
Not only is getting more organized a solid New Year’s resolution in itself, but it is also a great way to help you stick to others you have set for the year. Many people make use of the digital calendar on their laptop or smartphone, which is useful since these devices are often with you anyway. However, some people (like myself) prefer to keep it old school by using a physical planner. This Weekly Pocket Planner by At-A-Glance is only $12.99 at Office Max, made of 30% recycled materials, and at 2 ½” by 4 ½”, it is small enough to easily keep with you discretely. Actually writing down events by hand is a good way to ensure that they will stick in your memory.
Make A Budget
Especially once the credit card bills for the Christmas season start showing up in January, maintaining a budget can be a very appealing new years resolution. The key to keeping your budget on track is to come up with a manageable strategy for saving. Determine your average weekly expenses, and use this information to figure an amount from each paycheck you can afford to put away. Then, have a separate saving account that automatically gets transferred that amount each pay period. Also, don’t wait until April to do your taxes. Instead, do your taxes yourself at the beginning of the year, and use the return to cover some of your Christmas debt. Tax service software, such as Turbo Tax by Intuit, makes this task simple with intuitive tax forms and tutorials each step of the way.
Losing weight is undoubtedly the most popular New Years resolution. However, as far as goals go, this is far too general to be effective, which is why people fail so often. Instead of ‘losing weight,’ make a goal to workout for one hour twice a week, which seems much more manageable. If you dislike working out (more than most, that is), pick an activity you enjoy such as playing basketball or soccer at your local park. Why not use that new iPad you got for Christmas to watch a couple episodes of your favorite TV show on Netflix while you walk around the neighborhood? If none of these options sound like something you will stick you, forget exercising and think about snacking smarter to cut out calories. Check out these healthy snacking subscription options to kick-start the New Year.
Finally, don’t stress about little slip-ups. The goal of a New Year’s resolution is to create better lifelong habits, not to be perfect. So stay motivated, stay positive, and be sure to reward yourself for reaching milestones. Above all else, have a happy New Year.
Chris Dato A Southern California kid born and raised, Chris is happiest with sunglasses on his face and sand under his back. Although a self-proclaimed master money saver, he prefers the term 'responsibly frugal' to 'cheap.'