How to turn your New Year's resolution into an actionable pursuit

Jan 5, 2016

‘Tis the season to clear up the holiday detritus, throw the noisemakers into the trash, and regret purchasing those disposable 2016 sunglasses. Many of us make significant personal and professional resolutions for the new year – and summarily forget or abandon them.

A new year is a great way to start afresh and accomplish goals! But how do you turn those resolutions into real actions?

1. Be specific

So you want to break your bad habit of invoicing late?

Plan out how, specifically, you will build a GOOD habit to replace the bad habit. Be exact about when and how you will change your ways. It’s easier to scrap unspecific plans than focused strategies.

For instance, set aside a specific time to invoice each week – and clear time in your schedule to do the same.

Then, determine how you will measure success: What will your benchmarks be? When are your deadlines? How will you reward yourself for accomplishments – and what will the consequences be if you don’t succeed?

Devote some time both to thinking of possible benefits and ‘doomsday’ scenarios. Get as specific as you can about your goals and how they’ll fit into your life – it’ll up the chances of sticking to your guns.

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2. Be public

Perhaps once a month, I tell my cat that I will stop procrastinating. “I mean it this time,” I say, “I’m over it.”

Unsurprisingly, I don’t stick to this resolution – because my cat does not nag me to follow through.

Rare indeed is the person who sticks to those ideals that are only articulated to herself. If you’d like to accomplish your goals, find a way to share them with a party who will hold you accountable: a friend, a family member, or even a trusted colleague. Pick someone who is likely to hold you to your promises!

If that’s too overwhelming, write down your goals and post them someplace prominent within your home office. Don’t develop your plans and then bury them in a desk drawer; incorporate them into your life.

3. Be measured

Much of the time, we abandon our resolutions because they seem too titanic to accomplish – in both minor and major ways. They disrupt our little habits and our overall equilibrium – even if we’re attempting to evolve in a positive way.

Embrace that you may feel uncomfortable, and that you may fail along the way. Shoot for the moon – be bold and ambitious – but accept that the journey may take a while.

If you have a long-term goal, break it down into reasonable, manageable steps. Again, set short-term deadlines and benchmarks. Move towards sustainable growth; allow yourself some room for error and frustration.

Be reasonable and measured – you’re trying to accomplish change over a whole year!

Your specific resolution may indeed require a cold turkey approach to succeed (like quitting smoking), but build in long-term tactics for health; a calm, measured approach will get you farther than spasmodic attempts to change.

It’s a new year: go forth and turn those dreams into reality – even if it takes a while!

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.