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Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Failure sucks.

We all know it. So the idea of making New Year’s resolutions makes a lot of us squirm, because we’ve totally blown them in the past. Why subject yourself to something that will ultimately make you feel inadequate?

The answer is that the purpose of New Year’s resolutions was always on point: to help us realign our priorities and shed complacency in favor of achievement. We’ve just gone about resolutions in the wrong way.

Make them achievable. If changing your life were easy, you would’ve done it by now, so recognize that it’s a gradual process and measure yourself accordingly. Also, don’t shame yourself if you fall off the wagon. Instead, treat resolutions as opportunities instead of obligations.

Need some ideas for attainable New Year’s resolutions? Try one of these eight.

1) Manage Your Time Better

Stop procrastinating.

Easy to tell yourself; easy to ignore, too.

You can actually do it, though, or at least improve your time management somewhat, by using the right tools. Here’s a great, partial list of productivity tools, taken from Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes:

• Pomodoro Technique: Use this method to put parameters around how you use your time. The idea is to work for 25 minutes straight without allowing yourself to be distracted. Set a timer for that amount of time, and when it goes off, take a five-minute break away from work. After four rounds of this, take a longer break (15, 20, or 30 minutes). It’s a great rhythm of work and relaxation.

• Write or Die: Not for the faint of heart (like me) or non-writers, but it sounds like it could work, in a crazy way. Basically, Write or Die is an app in which you can write something and experience consequences if you stop. Examples of consequences include sirens and deleting your writing if you sit too long.

• Cold Turkey: Use this site to temporarily blacklist (block) certain sites from your computer. This is perfect for those that have a really hard time compulsively checking Facebook or Buzzfeed when they want to be working.

2) Make One New Friend

Making friends is hard, especially if you’re an introvert. But a goal of making just one new, quality friend over the course of an entire year is completely attainable.

Look everywhere you can: local writers groups, book clubs, church groups, and other niche clubs in your area. Assess the people you see all the time to determine if your personalities mesh: co-workers, baristas at your favorite coffee shop, or friends of your friends. Wherever you spend most of your time, keep your eyes open for people you like and connect with.

3) Learn Something New

Random knowledge might feel useless, but it’s not. The more you learn about diverse subjects, the more you will have the ability to hold a conversation with anyone, and that’s a valuable skill.

So learn one new thing this year: it can be big if you want (e.g., learning a new language), but it can also be simple. Choose a wild subject and read a book on it, or read 10 articles, or watch a string of documentaries and movie that center around the subject. Learn about the country of Chad, the concept of codependency, the life of stars, or your favorite sports figure, actor, or musician.

And make it fun: you can learn about a real historical figure even in the context of a vampire adventure. Good novels teach a lot of other neat things along the way, too. (Did you know Bulgarians nod to say “no” and shake their heads to say “yes”?)

4) Save $5 a Week

The top financial resolution people make is to save more. Again, you can do this if you scale it down.

Put $5 away every week as a long-term saving strategy. Pick something you want to do or a place you want to visit a few years down the road, and slowly trickle your savings to do it.

By saving just $5 a week you’ll have saved $800 in three years. If you’re able to save $5 a day during that time, you’ll save $5,500 in three years. European vacation, anyone?

5) Start Running...Or Else

A lot of people want to start running regularly, but one of the best ways to actually do it is to back up the desire with cold, hard cash.

The idea: make a bet with friend to run a mile every day, or every week (“achievable” is the watchword). The first to break the streak has to pay up. It should be an amount that won’t cripple your finances but is enough to make it hurt.

No need to get nasty, here. Agree to loose rules: if you miss a day, double up on the next, or play basketball instead of running, etc. The idea is to motivate each other to better health.

6) Choose a One-Word Theme

Example of a bad resolution: I want to do better about not getting distracted, to stop getting lost in my own head and not hearing what people have to say, and to be able to treat people with more respect than I usually do.

Instead: Listen.

One word. That’s all you need for a personal resolution. Pick a theme for yourself in one word, and focus on that word as you go through your days in the next year.

You’re not going to remember that long manifesto for personal change come April, but you’ll probably remember that “listen” is your theme of the year. You’ll notice that that one word encapsulates everything the first example said, much more simply. As you move into the year, you can repeat your focus word like a mantra; it’ll sink in better that way.

7) Love People in Cool Ways

Most of us want to make people feel special. We just get caught up in the day-to-day.

Set alarms and reminders for yourself throughout the year at some pace you’re comfortable with, like once a month. Put a different person’s name on each (or repeat names if you want) and when the alarm goes off, immediately brainstorm something cool to do for that person in the near future.

That way, you don’t have the pressure of constantly remembering to step outside your routine for others. You have an alarm that does it for you, and if you set it up at the start of the year, you’ll be ready for the whole year.

8) Keep Track of the Year’s Milestones

Significant things happen to us every year. It’s extremely helpful to be able to look back at them and follow their patterns.

Take a notebook or an online tool/app - Clear is wonderful for this, though there are many others like it—and record the short highlights of your past year. It might look something like this:

2015 was the year of:

• Buying our first house

• Growing closer to friends

• Going back to school

You get the idea. It’s a simple but really helpful way to track the arc of your life. Make sure to commit to doing it next year, too.

Achievable, For Real.

You don’t have to totally give up on making New Year’s resolutions just because they haven’t worked in the past. Scale them down and make it easy to feel like you’ve accomplished something you set out to do next year.

Because you know what doesn’t suck? Accomplishment.

What are your goals for the year? Let us know in the comments!