There are a lot of reasons people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions, but I’m going to mention two that I haven’t heard many people think about.
Two of the biggest reasons people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions are:
- They don’t know where to write them down.
- They don’t know how they integrate with their other goals.
It is not sufficient to simply say “write down your resolutions.” If you don’t know where to write them down, that’s not helpful because you’ll write them down and then forget about them.
If you write your goals down in a Word document, for example, how are you going to remember to look at it? Or if you write them down on a piece of paper, where do you put that paper so you can review it regularly?
The other problem is: So you have these 3 new resolutions for the year. But what about the 30 other things you have going on in your life? How do you keep those 3 resolutions in mind so that they aren’t crowded out by everything else you have going on? And what about the 5 other goals you have which aren’t new year’s resolutions, but are just as important (or more so)?
In other words, your new year’s resolutions need to fit clearly within the wider context of your whole life. If you don’t see where they fit in relation to all of your other priorities, it is easy for them to simply turn into vague intentions.
This relates to the problem of where to write them down. The reason people don’t know where to write them down is that they don’t know how they fit into the wider context of their whole life.
Which takes us to the importance of a productivity system.
Your new year’s resolutions are really goals. Don’t let the term “resolution” throw you off. These are goals. Therefore, they need to be kept with any other goals you might have and they are accomplished in the same way: by reviewing them regularly, and breaking them down into “next actions” and/or “projects” to keep the ball rolling.
In other words, you need to put your new year’s resolutions (goals) into a trusted system that you review regularly. By making them a part of a “system,” your goals aren’t just a random document filed some where. Rather, it is kept along with all the other outcomes you are seeking to obtain and actions you need to take. This integrates it with everything else that you have going on, and makes it easy to review them.
I thought about going into detail on how to do this, but that risks too much detail at this point. If you are using Outlook or OmniFocus or something like that to manage your projects and next actions, then it’s simple: Just create another level called “Goals,” and put your goals (which includes new year’s resolutions) in there. Then review your goals regularly along with your projects and next actions.
If you use a paper planner, then just make sure that you have a “Goals” section in there, put your resolutions in there along with any other goals, and make sure to review it regularly (in the GTD system, that’s the weekly review).
If you don’t use any software or a planner to manage your life, then you could start simple by just creating a Word document. List your goals, projects, and next actions (creating a separate heading for each) and then maybe put it on your desktop so you can easily open it every day. (Usually I don’t recommend putting things on your desktop, but when starting out here this would be the main exception.)
There is so much more that could be said: how to organize goals, how to word them, how to break them down appropriately into projects. But takes us beyond the point of the post right now.
In sum, if you want to accomplish your new year’s resolutions, you need to not simply “write them down,” but write them down in a place that you review regularly and which reflects the wider context of your whole life.