How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Work

Okay, I can’t really justify writing a headline like that. My new year’s resolutions for 2019 only sort of worked…But considering most new year’s resolutions fail by mid-February, I guess I’m doing better than most. So what’s my secret? It’s simple.

I make new year’s resolutions every three months.

No, I’m serious. I changed my new year’s resolutions every three months to improve them. I changed them so much that it’s hard to describe exactly how will I did, but here is a quick summary.

Exercising: completion rate 31%.
Reading: completion rate 94%.
Writing: completion rate 84%.
Blog posts: completion rate 83%.
Publishing attempts: completion rate 48%.

That is indeed better than most people do, and changing them as I went definitely helped. So how did I do it? Well, I’m not exactly sure how I arrived at my ideas, but from experience, I have a few pieces of advice that I think will apply generally.

First, resolutions should be specific. So, to use the Standard ResolutionTM, “I’m going to go to the gym more” isn’t going to work. Admit it, you’re probably not going to the gym. Especially by mid-February. “I’m going to go to the gym three days a week” works better.

Second, resolutions should also be achievable. So actually, “I’m going to go to the gym three days a week” probably doesn’t work. Who has time to go to the gym? Seriously, you need to get out of the house in the middle of winter. You need to take a change of clothes. You have to be around sweaty people in a crowded (for the first few days) environment that draws attention to your physical appearance. It becomes a whole thing. “I’m going to exercise at home three days a week” works better. It’s easier. You’re more likely to do it. (It can be tricky if you live in an apartment, but there are options.)

Third, if you’re taking resolutions seriously, they’re about building good habits. Sure, maybe there’s something special you want to do this year in particular, but if you’re making resolutions, you’re probably trying to better yourself. That means be aware of your schedule; be honest about your willpower, and make your resolutions the good habits you want to build within that framework. Personally, I fiddled with goals per week, per month, and per day until I got them right last year. Which brings me to my last point.

Fourth, and most importantly, if a resolution isn’t working, don’t give up! Learn from your experience, and change it to something that will work better. And don’t wait till next year to do it! That’s why I changed mine every three months. That’s how long it took me to see if they worked or not.

So, what are my resolutions for this year? Well, some of them I’m keeping the same because I think I have them nailed down better. I’m not sure if that technically qualifies them as “resolutions,” but I’m certainly not going to stop them. Others ones…not so much.

—Write 5,000 words per week across all of my projects.
—Write 500 words immediately after supper on nights when I don’t have anything else going on. (I increased this from 250.)
—Write 1 blog post per week.

—Read 1 chapter each of one audiobook and one paper book per week. (This is just so I don’t fall out of the habit.)
—Watch 1 episode per week from my TV backlog. (Hey, I’m a science fiction writer. This is serious research.)
—Read 1 Bible reading per day from my custom chronological reading plan. (It sounds like a lot, but we’re usually talking less than 20 minutes.)

—Um…this didn’t work out so well. Trying to get a book published is too complicated to break down into “do this every week” bits. I’m going to try to draw up a plan of what needs to be done month-by-month to get where I want to be by the end of the year.

—Yeah, I’ve got nothing. I tried over the past year and had some limited success, but as soon as some kind of crisis hit, or a big event like moving, it was the first thing to go. I’ll have to think if there’s some other way to tinker with this goal that will work.

This might sound crazy. I’ve got six definite and two possible new year’s resolutions on this list. Many people struggle with one or two. But like I said, this is about building good habits. Most of these are things I’ve already proved are achievable and work for me. In fact, in the past I’ve found that having regimented goals like these, even just for hobbies, makes me more productive in both those hobbies and at work.

Besides, most of these are “per week” rather than “per day,” which makes them much less onerous.

Good luck in 2020, and Happy New Year.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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1 Response to How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Work

  1. Congratulations, Alex! Looks like you had a good year. I have a quarterly system, as well–I came out of the business environment before moving into full-time writing. This past year was good for reading, writing, and weight loss. Not so good in the publishing department, but that means 2020 is front-loaded with projects. BTW, Space & Time Magazine is regularly open for submissions. You might want to submit there. I’m an Associate Editor (that means I read the slush pile). The new editor Angela Yukiro Smith is trying to get the magazine out quarterly, so the acceptance rate has gone up. Best of luck with your writing, publishing and science in 2020!

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