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I will reduce my reliance on the Internet — so I vowed at the start of this year. Much against my expectations, that has turned into the first new year resolution success story of my life.

Last year, when the question of new year resolutions loomed large, I asked myself, “What’s the point? Whose resolutions last beyond January anyway?” But I resisted the idea of doing away with them altogether. Instead, I tried to figure out why most such resolutions fail and what I could do to make mine work. Here’s how I increased my success rate with new year resolutions, and you can too.

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Have One Primary Resolution

The promise of a fresh start is misleading. It can cause you to take on too many changes with eagerness, to patch a bad habit here, fix an unhealthy lifestyle there. But you know it and I know it. You’re not going to eat healthy, work out, slow down, read more, quit smoking, and spend less come January 1st. What you could do is turn your attention to just one of those things and give it your all. That’s what I did.

A week-long digital vacation What Happened When I Went Completely Offline For A Week What Happened When I Went Completely Offline For A Week Living in the Internet era has changed us to such an extent that the idea of having to live completely offline even for a little while sounds like a prison sentence. But it really isn't. Read More last year showed me how addicted I was to my online life. I wanted to reduce computer/tablet usage to counter the symptoms of RSI, but my over-dependence on the Internet wouldn’t let me. It was the source of other harmful habits such as ignoring the need for fresh air and exercise, consuming content mindlessly Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Clay Johnson compares this to a bad diet. "If you only... Read More , and shopping online excessively.

Making better use of the Internet while reclaiming my offline life was top priority, which is why I made it the focus of my new year resolution.

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The advantage of having just one resolution has scientific backing too. As concluded from this study (pdf) by Baba Shiv and Alexander Fedorikhin, willpower and cognition depend on the same pool of mental faculties. Focus on either one and you’re depleting resources available to the other. The more you scatter your energies trying to keep up with multiple resolutions, the less you’re able to exercise the full force of your will.

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Want to make more major changes than just the one? It’s still a good idea to restrict them to one or two areas of your life and tackle them in serial order. Joel’s post on 12 productivity habits to tackle 12 Productivity Habits To Finally Hack Your Life In The New Year 12 Productivity Habits To Finally Hack Your Life In The New Year A common resolution for most working people is to be more productive. In this article, we'll explore twelve bad habits that you can change -- one per month -- to drastically improve your workload productivity. Read More in the new year can show you how to achieve that. And here are unusual resolution lists of some famous people that you might find interesting.

Frame Your Resolutions Right

Wording your resolutions well is half the battle won. For example, you’re more likely to follow through on a resolution that says Eat five almonds a day / Replace coffee with green tea than one that says Eat healthy.

As a mantra for the new year, my resolution sounded great, but it was also quite vague. What did I mean by getting rid of Internet addiction? What did it entail? When could I say for sure that I had succeeded? I answered those questions as best as I could.

I wanted to:

  • See the Internet as just another medium of communication
  • Be okay with digital disconnect for long periods of time
  • Use online resources with care and for something positive

I decided that when I regained my enthusiasm for offline hobbies and activities, I could consider myself to be on the right track.

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Next, I listed down certain actions steps and turned them into the following mini-resolutions.

  1. I will stay completely offline for at least two Sundays every month.
  2. I will make fewer, and more mindful, online financial transactions.
  3. I will scale down my use of gadgets, apps, and services.
  4. I will switch from eBooks to printed ones.

You can opt for a similar approach and break down your main resolution into multiple small ones. This forces you to think in practical terms and weed out unrealistic changes before you set about making them. Every mini-resolution you act upon brings you a step closer to fulfilling your main resolution.

On a side note, instead of having a new year resolution, you can choose one word to inspire you all year long and guide your actions in every area of life. Visit sites like OneWord365 or My One Word to learn more about this approach and find others who swear by it.

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Take Some Action Daily

When you have framed your resolution well and come up with a realistic action plan, you’re less likely to mess up and make the wrong choice. But it’s important that you take baby steps everyday toward your goal. This will set the stage for small successes that will then boost your motivation to stick with the program.

If you plan ahead and pack a meal for the plane or carry some nuts, you won’t just grab anything because you are famished, and are more likely to minimize the slipups and stick with your resolution for healthier eating.

~ Arthur Agatston, MD, author of the best-selling The South Beach Diet | From New Year’s Resolutions, 1 Month Later on WebMD

In my case, my four easy-to-remember mini-resolutions made several of my choices simpler.

All these tiny actions simplified my online life a great deal and helped me get off the Internet more often.

Tweak Your Strategy Every Quarter

What’s important to remember is that it won’t be smooth sailing all the time. You will get caught up in trivialities. You will slip up. You will feel guilty about it. That’s okay. As long as you stay on track about 80 percent of the time, you’ll do just fine.

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Every three months or so, I took a clear look at what part of my resolution I was succeeding or failing at, and why. I tried to find workarounds wherever I could. For example:

Problem: I could not stay completely offline for two Sundays a month.

Tweak: I stayed offline for a couple of hours or so on a regular basis, and switched to offline apps for my work Try These 3 Beautiful Note-Taking Apps That Work Offline Try These 3 Beautiful Note-Taking Apps That Work Offline If you want an uncomplicated note-taking app, Simplenote is not the only noteworthy (excuse the pun) option available to you. Read More .

Problem: My love of shiny new things online and my job writing for a technology blog made it difficult to avoid digital overload.

Tweak:  Instead of signing up for new apps and services, I figured out how to use existing ones in unusual ways How To Use Slack For Project Management With These Simple Tips How To Use Slack For Project Management With These Simple Tips With Slack's clever set of features and distraction-free UI, the platform can double up as a project management tool for many people. Learn how to set it up as your online personal assistant. Read More .

Good Enough Is Great

I still get obsessed with Web apps once in a while and also fall back into bad computer-related habits. But I have cleaned up my digital life 4 Solid Ways To Get The Best Of The Web 4 Solid Ways To Get The Best Of The Web The Web is a a gigantic labyrinth. If this digital minefield leaves you overwhelmed and anxious, adopting the following simple mantras can act as a tonic and help you manage your Web space better. Read More , put a stop to brash online purchases, and switched from eBooks to printed ones. The lack of an Internet connection is a non-issue, as long as I can get my work done. As part of my life offline, I learned to solve the Rubik’s cube What Is The Easiest Way To Solve A Rubik's Cube? What Is The Easiest Way To Solve A Rubik's Cube? The Rubik's cube is one of those puzzles that are endlessly fascinating to people of all age groups. But, trying to solve it for the first time can be an exercise in frustration. Read More , took up swimming lessons, ticked several books off my reading list, and traveled some (minus an Internet connection). All in all, it’s the first time I can say that I have fulfilled my new year resolution.

It might be impossible to stick to your goal one hundred percent, but with the tips listed above, you can do a pretty good job of it.

Do you have a new year resolution success story to share? How about outlining a strategy that worked for you?

  1. Brad Merrill
    December 30, 2014 at 5:12 am

    Great tips, Akshata.

    I have found new year resolutions to be problematic at their very core because they emphasize starting over in January. The coming of a new year is pretty arbitrary — I say if you want to accomplish something, plan it out now and start today. Take the advice outlined above and apply it to your life now, regardless of whether it's the first week of January or the middle of August. You say your resolution is to do XYZ, but what are you doing about it now? Why wait?

    • Akshata
      December 30, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Thanks, Brad. That's a great point you have made - not waiting for a new week/month/year to take action. Just begin and let the chips fall where they may.

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