The new year offers hope for a fresh start. You tell yourself, THIS year I will get things done, THIS year I will make my resolutions stick!
You write goals, make a vision board and perhaps even get started on your plan.
By now, if you are like most people, you’ve fallen off the New Year’s Resolution wagon and think: why even bother? Why is it so difficult to get personal projects completed anyway?
Issues with New Year’s Resolutions
1. There Is No Time Limit
We rarely set deadlines for ourselves, or respect them if we do (or is that just me?). We keep pushing them and justifying why, simply because we can.
Not everything on your list needs a deadline of course, but if you want to get your next big project done, treat it like a work project and put a date on it.
2. You Don’t Know Where to Start
Starting something new usually requires some extra effort, especially when it’s a personal endeavour and you don’t know where to start.
If you lack knowledge to begin your project, make learning about it part of your plan. Search online, register for a class, talk to someone who’s already done it or hire an expert to help you get started. Learn a little bit, but don’t wait to have all the answers before you start, you’ll learn faster as you take action.
3. You Are Not Accountable to Anyone
A lot of people, myself included, tend to do everything else that’s expected of us from work, from our partner or any other outside source. We leave the promises we make to ourselves for last, when there is usually no more time or energy left.
It’s easy to procrastinate on starting or completing a project when you have a million other things pulling at your attention. So make yourself accountable to something (a community – online or in person) or someone who will help you and remind you of your goal when you falter (a friend, your spouse, your mom or even me; drop me a line and we can chat about your goals) .
4. You Have No System
Systems are what makes the world go round. Without them, there would simply be chaos. When things fall apart, systems are what saves the day. That’s why cities have emergency plans, for example. If you’re trying to introduce a healthy habit in your life, build systems around it to make it easier to say YES to the new habit.
A good example of a system is creating and sticking to a simple night routine, so your mornings are manageable.
5. Your Expectation Are Unrealistic
You want to declutter and organize your whole life in one week? It’s possible, but you will probably have to put EVERYTHING else on hold and you will require a lot of stamina to get things done.
Makeover and so-called “reality“ shows let us think we can make big changes in a short period of time. And it’s true that sometimes it’s possible, but most times, we still need to go to work, feed the kids, clean the house, do laundry, etc.
Make sure your plan is realistic depending to the time, effort and money you are willing to put towards your project. Adjust your timeline accordingly.
6. Your Goal is Not Specific Enough
When a goal is not related to anything, it’s hard to remember why you wanted to do it in the first place.
Let’s say you want to declutter your digital photos. That’s a worthy goal right?! But why? Because you should? Because your phone is full? What if you said instead: I want to declutter my digital photos because I want to create a family photobooks by the end of this year as a present to my loved ones. More compelling no?
Creating and Loving Self-Imposed Momentum and Deadlines
So once you’ve thought about your goals and you’ve made them specific and compelling enough, what comes next?
Pick Your Priority
When time and energy are limited, it’s better to focus on just one thing.
Pick one easy project or task to start with. It’s easier to build momentum in short bursts than try to tackle a huge project.
Let’s say you’ve decided cleaning out your closet was going to be your next priority.
Break Down the Goal Into 15-minute Tasks
Decide what’s the easiest or shortest thing you can accomplish to move you closer to completion. Do that. Pick another short task. Do that one. That’s how you build momentum.
So, in your closet, start with one drawer or one type of clothing, let’s say t-shirts or one section of your closet. Pick up 5 items to discard that don’t fit you anymore
Stop there for today. Repeat tomorrow or next week.
Make it a positive experience
There is nothing worse for motivation than a restrictive plan. Think: If I don’t do X then I can’t get Y. This is why diets don’t really work.
So instead, create a strict positive reinforcement policy. Reward yourself when you do good by your goal, be understanding when you can’t, but firm on your resolution to keep going
Once you hit a milestone, let’s say, getting rid of a third of your clothes, reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting for a while (one new pair of flattering pants to replace all the ill-fitting ones you got rid of) or a fun activity like taking a whole weekend morning to read or hike, or cook, or … you get the idea, anything that makes you happy and fills your soul.
I don’t know about you, but I want to work on giving my personal projects the attention they deserve this year.
I hope this helps you make and keep working at your personal goals, regardless if they come from New Year’s Resolutions or not.