How to set a New Year’s Resolution that you’ll actually keep (and that’s good for your career)

New Year is traditionally a time for making resolutions. And making resolutions and seeing them through – like any project or commitment – is the chance to reflect on your strengths and work on your weaknesses, and to practise and learn new skills.

Unfortunately, it’s also famously the time of year when most resolutions or goals get abandoned.

It’s not because we don’t want to achieve these goals – or we wouldn’t bother making them in the first place. It’s just that sometimes we don’t go about them the right way or make them unrealistic and up give up because it seems too hard.

So here’s a few tips to help you choose resolutions and implement them in a way that could make you more successful. (Don’t forget to add any new skills and achievements to your resume along the way).


Tip 1.   Mentally prepare

Think back to resolutions you’ve made in the past and come up with some reasons for why you didn’t achieve them or why they were successful. Then you can avoid making the same mistakes again.

That’ll put you in a great position to come up with goals that you’ll feel more positive about from the start.

Remember to:

  • Stay positive
  • Don’t plan drastic changes with short time frames
  • Be realistic
  • Be generous with timelines
  • Don’t give up at the first hurdle, think of ways now that could help you get back on track later on (just in case)

Planning ahead, a positive mental attitude, building resilience, time management and taking responsibility are all characteristics that will serve you well in a working environment, and they’re important to employers.


Tip 2.   Don’t take on too much

Try not to be tempted to set too many resolutions; you might end up spreading yourself too thin. Sounds easy, but it can be really hard to narrow down the resolutions that matter the most to you.

Learning to prioritise is an excellent skill to have anyway, so it’s a perfect time to practise.

Grab a pen and a post it note, find an empty bit of wall space, and get to work.

First, list all the resolutions you’d like to make – one per post it, go nuts. Stick them all on the wall, putting the resolutions that you are most excited about, or that feel most important at the top. See, you’re already making progress.

Leave the post its there for a while, let them sit, and see how you feel about the order every time you look at them. If you change your mind, re-order them, and if you decide that one of them isn’t achievable or isn’t motivating you, bin it.

Once you’ve got you list perfect, add more post its alongside each item.  You can list:

  • Time you think it might take to achieve a goal
  • Benefits of achieving this goal – think self-improvement, skills, resume material, will it help you out at school, will it be fun or a bit of a slog?
  • Will it cost you anything?

Once you’ve done that, you might see that some resolutions will be easier to achieve than others. Some will have lots of benefits and little to no cost. Does that influence your decision? Then re-order your list once again.

When you’re finally done, you’ll have a really clear idea of your options and a clearer idea about which ones are the most important to you.

Pick the top 1, 2 or 3 and see how you go.


Tip 3.   Be Specific

The more detail you incorporate, the more structured and goal oriented your resolutions become. That could make them easier to stick to, easier to measure and ultimately easier to accomplish.

For example – if “saving money” is a resolution, great. But how about saying you want to save $2,000 this year – there, now you’ve been specific. Then figure out how you’ll achieve that. How can you save about $38 a week?

  • Will you cycle to school instead of taking the bus?
  • Save half of your pocket money?
  • Do extra chores around home to earn extra cash?
  • Get a part time job and save some of it?
  • Sell some books or gadgets you no longer need or use?
  • Have a garage sale for your parents (with their agreement of course) and negotiate to keep a percentage of the proceeds?

You’ll be showing great entrepreneurial spirit and practising your budgeting and planning. Keep a spreadsheet with your current saving and anticipated earnings – there’s another tech skill you’ll be practising.


Tip 4.   Break big goals down

Ambitious resolutions are great; don’t be afraid to embrace the challenge.

Just remember to give yourself enough time. For example, if you want to get fit, give yourself the whole year to do it.

Then break it down into smaller goals, and perhaps commit yourself to one work out session and one walk, run or swim per week, for example. You can review after a few months and see if you have the time and the energy to add more to your schedule.

If you don’t manage to keep up some weeks, that’s ok – remind yourself this is a marathon not a sprint and you’ll do better next week.

This could also be a great example of project planning, which is always useful tool to use at work.


Tip 5.   Be accountable

Write down your resolutions, set deadlines, and have reminders pop up for approaching deadlines too.

Life gets hectic and change means we’re out of routine or our comfort zone. It can be easy to forget or put off your resolutions, and the longer you put them off, the more likely you are to let them drop.

Plus, reminders are motivating. When each deadline has passed you can celebrate your latest success. Plan a treat or give yourself a bit of time off.

Tell someone, a friend, parent or sibling perhaps, about your resolutions. Once you’ve said it out loud, you’ll feel more committed. Ask that person to ask you about your progress and check in with how you’re going. They can encourage you and help you to stay focused.


Tip 6.   Work smarter not harder

Find apps and services that could automate your life and help you keep track of your resolutions, set deadlines, issue reminders and set alarms.

Lots of them are even free! Here are some examples:

  • Google Calendar: recurring appointments for your resolution, i.e. scheduling workout sessions at the gym
  • Reminders (on iOS): Set up timed alerts for tasks
  • Boomerang Basic for Gmail: Schedule emails to bounce back into your inbox serving as great reminders without any effort

Plus, there’s the “to-do list” and task management apps. They can help you schedule reminders and milestones. Look at:

  1. Asana
  2. Trello
  3. Todoist
  4. Microsoft To Do
  5. Omnifocus

Then there’s apps that you can find for specific resolutions, from being a better person (motivational apps, growth mindset, journals etc), habit trackers, keeping fit, eating well, coding, languages – you name it, there’s an app for it. And lots of them are free.


Tip 7.   Be kind to yourself

Remember to celebrate your successes! It could help keep you motivated and on track.

Review your resolutions regularly and if you’re not enjoying it, you don’t have time for it or it’s not working out as you hoped, then change something or just get rid of it. You shouldn’t feel guilty; it’s not giving up if you’ve given it your best shot.

If you fall off track, just hop back on – no need to give yourself a hard time about it, we’re only human after all.


Need some inspiration?

If you’re thinking ahead to a career, here’s a few ideas that could help:

  • Attend workshops and other events
  • Volunteer
  • Start taking extracurricular classes (language, sport, music, dance, drama, art, etc.)
  • Get a study plan in place
  • Organise your life – find a calendar, set reminders, and schedule everything in for the year ahead – events, deadlines, exams, assessments, holidays…
  • Write a resume and add new material to it throughout the year
  • Enter competitions
  • Get a part time job or arrange work experience

Otherwise, resolve to do what makes you healthier and happier.

Good luck.

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