New Years Resolutions Don’t Work

December 8, 2014

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Photo Credit: Anomalily via Compfightcc[/caption]

Tis the season for two things: Top Ten Lists and New Years Resolution Planning.

New Years Resolutions have become a big business. In the last week or so, I’ve been pitched a number of Resolution and Goal Setting planning services. We all wake up January 1st with a list of things we want to accomplish that year. We head to the gym — because we’re going to go 3 times a week this year — and get frustrated when the wait is too long or it’s too crowded to enjoy. Because everyone has the same goal.

If you lived in a climate like Chicago, the best time to start a workout goal is in the spring. Get outside, hop on the bike and enjoy the weather. Far more motivational than slogging through the snow to the gym, trying to sneak onto the good treadmill.

Here is how I approach goal setting and resolutions:


I do it at my birthday, primarily. I’m lucky that it’s in May — far away from the January 1 rush. If you’re birthday’s closer to January, consider picking another meaningful day during the year to establish goals. (Work anniversary, wedding anniversary, etc.)

Additionally, I maintain a section of my to-do list for long-term goals. It’s not unusual to be reading a book and realize a new goal. Add that to my to-do list. There is no reason you can only add goals once a year.

I review my long term goal list monthly and think about ways in that month I can do something to push that goal forward.


Every book on short-term goal setting will say be specific. With long-term goal setting, it’s often hard to be specific. We put down “ride my bike more” versus “ride 25 miles per week.” I find a happy medium. I keep the vague long term goals but I make the goal specific each month. If it’s the bike riding goal, I know January isn’t a good month to get 25 miles in. But in May, 25 miles isn’t enough. I should be at 50. That’s why it’s important think about how to attain some of your long term goals each month.


Me, right? Well, I also goal set for others. Whether it’s things for my family to do (Take 2 meaningful vacations) or people I work with (Get them promoted this year). Anything I’ll need to expend energy on — whether for me or for others — I consider in my goal settings exercise.


New Years Eve in High School, a friend of mine said, “This year, we’re going to take a motorcycle trip across the US.” I don’t think we had to-do lists back then. Certainly neither of us wrote it down and we never ended up reliving Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance .

I use Todoist as my todo list. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to make my todo lists work. With long term goals, I setup a specific project from them in Todoist. I have a monthly task to review my long term goals list.

In past years, I created a list and posted it on my desk wall so I can always see it. I’ve changed my desktop wallpaper to have the goals as well. The important thing is to see and remember yours goals regularly. Otherwise, it will be next year before you remember you never planned that motorcycle trip.

When do you do your resolutions?