Learn why most New Year’s resolutions fail, how to plan realistic goals, and how to format your resolutions so you actually achieve them.
Have you ever made new year resolutions before? If you have, how many times did you actually follow through with them for the entire year? I’m guessing that number is pretty low, but I want you to know it’s not your fault. The problem isn’t you; it’s your plan. You did have a plan, right?
Whether this is your first time making resolutions or it’s an annual practice, I’m going to share with you why most resolutions fail within the first one to two months of the year, and how to reframe your goals so you actually stick with them through December 31 and beyond. And I promise, it’s way easier than you think.
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Why Resolutions Are Hard To Keep
First let’s talk about why most resolutions don’t work out, and I think the answers might surprise you. It’s not that you’re too busy or you didn’t put in the work, it’s just that you either didn’t have a plan or that goal didn’t actually suit your lifestyle.
Sure, having 6-pack abs or a highly simplified home sounds really great on paper, but these aren’t just things you get and then cruise on with life holding onto them forever. They take work and time to maintain.
Meaning when you get them, you have to continue your new habits to keep them. For some people, a lifestyle change is totally fine and those goals are achievable. But for others, the stage of life they’re in just doesn’t support a full overhaul of your routines.
That doesn’t mean you failed and you’ll never have killer abs or a decluttered home Pinterest would be jealous of, it just means that the timing is off and it’s not for you right now. We live incredibly busy lives with distractions and unexpected circumstances popping up constantly. No wonder it’s hard to stick with a big goal.
So before you even set one single resolution for the year, give yourself a pass on all the incomplete intentions you’ve set in previous years. This is a completely fresh start, a chance to come at your goals in a new way, and the following tips will show you exactly how to make them happen.
4 Tips For Realistic New Year’s Resolutions
I’ve spent years working with clients, blog readers, and social media followers helping them perfect a process that defines goals without being overwhelmed. Here are the four tips that have worked almost every time.
- Evaluate your current lifestyle
- Divide your main goal into 90-day checkpoints
- Create a “not-to-do” list
- Stick with just one or two resolutions
1. Get Really Clear On Where You Are Now
Before you can start throwing out resolutions just because they “sound nice” you need to really evaluate where you are in your life in all aspects. This helps you decide which goals are going to fit into your life best and which ones aren’t really as big of a priority as you think they are.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down the following categories in a list:
- Home & Family
- Health & Fitness
- Love & Relationships
- Career & Future
- Spirituality & Happiness
Now I want you to go through and rank each category on a scale of 1-10. Ten being “I’m rocking this category right now” and one being “this category is messier than a junk drawer.”
Be super honest with yourself because these rankings really help you focus on what you truly need versus just picking random goals. It’s best to focus on the lowest two rankings. If fitness got a 5 and future planning got a 4, while the others ranked 7 and above, it would be in your best interest to create resolutions based on fitness and future planning.
Of course you can choose whatever you want, but this mini exercise is an in-your-face way to see what really needs work and prevents your resolutions from falling to the side…again.
PS: If you want a printable rating sheet instead of making your own, you can grab my New Year Resolutions Planner from the Organized-ish Shop. It includes guided pages to plan and organize all your goals.
2. Divide goals into 90-day chunks
New Year resolutions seem impossible to plan for, and that’s because they are impossible. You know that standard job interview question of “where do you see yourself in one year?” We all hate that right? There’s no way we can know where we will be in 12 months because there are constant surprises popping up that we could never have expected… 2020 taught us that, right?
The truth is, one-year goals just don’t work.
I highly recommend breaking up your big annual goal into four 90-day goals instead. It’s a lot easier to track, visualize, and stick with a three-month goal versus a 12-month one.
You’re going to take that big resolution you decided on and break it up into four steps. Those four steps are your four 90-day goals and are way more achievable.
So if your resolution is to have a completely organized home within the next year, your first quarter goal would be to organize all the bedrooms and closets in the house. Next would be to organize all the bathrooms and living spaces. The third quarter can be all about the kitchen and dining areas. And the fourth quarter would be hobby and storage rooms.
This gives you a clear plan, deadlines, and a sense of control on how you’ll reach your resolution. You can break down each 90-day goal into monthly checkpoints if you’d like, but I like to keep things simple around here. Too much planning adds pressure and makes you feel less motivated. Keep it loosy-goosy so you can work on things when you’re motivated and want to versus doing it because you just have to.
3. Make A “NOT-To-Do” List
If resolutions aren’t your thing, or you don’t have any big goals you want to work towards, you can still improve your lifestyle and habits by creating a not-to-do list. We all have some kind of habit we want to break, and a not-to-do list is really beneficial in making those changes.
Typical resolutions sound like “I will go for a walk every day” or “I’ll improve my finances” which can be a little vague.
But a not-to-do list would turn those goals into boundaries you follow for a better lifestyle. Now you have a set affirmation of “I will not avoid my daily walk just because I don’t feel like doing it.” Or “I will not go grocery shopping without a list.” These simple mindset changes help you stay on track without needing a specific plan to stick with.
4. Limit Your Resolutions
My final tip is to not get carried away in making too many resolutions. It’s really hard to focus when your mind is being pulled in a bunch of directions. If you were to make a resolution for all six categories you listed on that piece of paper earlier, can you imagine how much time you’d need to add to your daily schedule? You’d be even more all over the place than you are now.
One to two main goals for the year keep you from getting distracted and falling off the wagon. They help you build habits and routines that become second nature and you don’t have to work so hard to make them happen.
A goal of holding a 60-second handstand becomes achievable when you have intentions of practicing for 15 minutes a day. But when you’re trying to work in six different new habits to your routine, something is going to get pushed aside, or maybe all of them.
Alternate Method: Quarterly Category Focus
If you are dead set on working on more than one or two areas of your life, choose one single category per quarter. So from January through March you work on home organization and decluttering, April through June can be personal fitness, July through September could be finances, and October through December could be career improvement.
This gradually adds habits to your routine, so after the three months of focusing on them, you’ve either seen good results already or have gotten used to taking time for them. You’ll be able to add a new habit for the next quarter much more easily without interrupting last quarter’s goal.
Need A New Year’s Resolutions Planner?
If you are feeling intimidated by planning annual goals, my Organized-ish New Year’s Resolution Planner can guide you through the process. It has pages for everything I mentioned—lifestyle evaluations, not to-do lists, and monthly habit trackers—plus action plans, bucket lists, and reading lists. At the back, there’s space for affirmations, manifestations, and all things positive thinking. You can grab the printable or digital Goodnotes-compatible planner here.
If you have a brilliant hack or unique method that keeps your New Year’s resolutions on track, share it with us in the comments. I can’t wait to hear what you’re planning for the new year and how you’ll rock your goals.