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How a New Year’s Resolution Check-In Can Stop You from Failing

Dann Albright 10-02-2016

Setting New Year’s resolutions is a great way to start the year off on the right foot: you need to think about how last year went, identify some achievable goals 5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Goals Goal setting is a great way to cut down on procrastination and boost productivity. If you don’t have goals, you don’t have direction. Without direction, it’s easy for you to feel lost and confused. Fortunately,... Read More , and make specific plans on how to meet them. Classic self-improvement stuff.


But now that January’s over, it’s likely that a lot of resolutions have fallen by the wayside, or that you’ve slowed your progress as real life gets in the way of your ideal life. Here’s what you need to do to take stock of your resolutions and figure out the best way to keep them going through the rest of the year.

Why Do People Have Difficulty with Resolutions?

Before getting into the details of your own resolution, it’s a good idea to understand why it’s difficult to stick with New Year’s resolutions. There are a lot of different factors that contribute to it, but the main issue likely lies with self-control: it’s hard to continually exercise the mental effort that you need to stick with your diet, keep exercising, read more books, or whatever else your resolution may be.

Willpower is a limited resource, and working on a resolution exhausts it.


In short, sticking with your resolutions is difficult 5 Mistakes That Make You Quit Your New Year's Resolutions How tough is your struggle with New Year's Resolutions? If you are on a never-ending cycle of quitting on your goals every time, these tips should be motivating for the year ahead. Read More . But, if you’ve slipped or completely abandoned your resolution this year, you’re not alone, and you’re not a failure.


Psychology tells us that sticking with goals, especially if they require a lot of self-control, is quite difficult, and we can only do it for so long without taking specific steps to make it easier. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, be proactive.

Assessing Your Progress

How are you doing on your resolution?

Did you set a specific, measurable goal? Did you have short-term goals, like losing a couple pounds each month, reading a book every week, or limiting yourself to $50 5 Genius Ways to Save Money on Gaming Gaming doesn't have to be a bank-breaker. Read More on video games per month?

If not, now is the time to set those specific sub-goals. Being able to measure your progress on your resolution is crucial to assessing your success and making it easier to continue moving forward.



Set a weekly or monthly goal today. Don’t worry about what you accomplished or didn’t accomplish in January, but decide on a goal you think is sustainable throughout the rest of the year.

This might not apply when you set a goal that doesn’t translate well to metrics, like “Stop getting angry at bad customer service Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Customer Service Experience? Have you ever called customer service, only to end the call frustrated, disappointed and without resolution? Or perhaps there was a resolution, but it was unfavorable and certainly not worth the time you spent on... Read More agents”; though you may be able to find a way.

You could use the principles of the Five Minute Journal to note your progress, for example (the Five Minute Journal app is currently being redesigned, and it’ll be back in the App Store soon).


Reflecting Honestly

Now that you have an idea of how successful you’ve been, it’s time to ask yourself the hard question: why?

If you’ve had difficulty, why has it been hard? Do you find that you’re tired when you get home from work, so you don’t want to cook dinner and you end up ordering pizza? Do you call customer service when you don’t have much time, so you’re feeling impatient? Do you just forget about your goal of spending more time doing the things you love?


Take a little bit of time to journal Start this Simple Habit to Rocket Your Productivity: Journaling Journaling is an underrated career tool and a core habit of many successful people. From increasing productivity, to maintaining accountability, we explore why you should consider introducing journaling as a productivity tool into your workday. Read More about why you’ve been successful or less than successful. You might even want to think about it for a couple days to really get at the issues that are going to be useful for you to keep in mind going forward.


I highly recommend the Day One app Power Up Your Journal Writing With These Day One Tips Journal or diary writing is a great way to exercise and improve your writing skills, document what is going on in your life, and to stay in tune with your thoughts and feelings. Read More , which makes it easy to get going. When you don’t want to take the time to reflect and write down your thoughts long-hand, you can use a system like Bullet Journal, which is easy to use on the go with apps like Evernote and OneNote.

Update Your Plan

Now we get to the important part of this whole process. Reviewing and updating your plan is a good practice for any goal, but it’s especially important when you have a goal that spans an entire year. I’ll address a few common difficulties first, and then offer some more general advice.

Lack of Motivation

Everyone struggles with motivation sometimes; self-control and self-motivation are very closely linked, and you can only do so much of either. So why not take the “self” out of motivation? Find a way for someone else to keep you accountable.

Find a friend or a whole group How A Mastermind Group Can Help You Achieve More Goals The term 'mastermind group' is being thrown around a lot in the personal development sphere these days, but what exactly are they, do they work, and how could you set up your own group? Read More  of people who have the same or similar resolutions and talk to them regularly to stay accountable (and keep them accountable, too). The /r/Resolutions sub-Reddit is a great place to hang out with a lot of other people working toward their goals, and a lot of other sub-reddits like /r/Fitness, /r/Dieting, /r/Books, /r/GetMotivated, and /r/SelfImprovement can provide inspiration and useful tips.

For major motivation, there are a few apps that make you put money on the line, like GymPact and stickK. The thought of losing money because you’re not moving toward your goals can be very motivating!


Another strategy for increasing your motivation is to make sure you have regular successes. Making a notable step toward your goals is sure to give you a motivational boost. But if you’re having trouble motivating yourself to work toward your goals, how will you achieve success?

Micro-goals (or micro-habits How to Use Micro Habits and Spark Massive Personal Change Creating new habits is hard. Habits are usually built over weeks or months of repetition, and motivation is the challenge. When the going gets tough, micro-habits can be a huge help. Read More , as we’ve written about previously) will be a huge help.

Set a small goal, one that you can definitely achieve within a couple days and that will help move you toward your larger goal. Set these regularly, and you’ll keep progressing.

Mark off your progress with a free goal tracker like Joe’s Goals, 21habit [Broken URL Removed], or Disciplanner to remind yourself that you’re doing well. You can also use a simpler solution, like marking off your progress on Google Calendar or an Excel spreadsheet.

Lack of Self-Control

I really sympathize with this one. Self-control is something that comes and goes in phases with me; sometimes I feel great about resisting temptation, and sometimes I’ll just eat an entire frozen pizza instead of making a salad. The key to managing your self-control is to manage willpower. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can use technology to manage your willpower 4 Ways to Make Smart Use of Technology and Power Up Your Willpower We all have enough motivation to want to do things but not enough motivation to actually do them. As a result, we turn to technology to bridge the gap of that motivational purgatory. Read More .

For example, you can use Victories [No Longer Available] to provide yourself with some extrinsic motivation to exercise self-control — win battles, gain levels, and check out analytics on your goals.

Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) is another fun way to turn your goals into games HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive Change your habits for the better by tying them into challenges in a role playing game. Level up for doing things you know you should and lose hit points for indulging in habits you know... Read More , which can make it easier to muster the necessary self-control and motivation you need.


Finding ways to reduce the number of things you need to do each day can save mental energy that you can then devote to self-control. Automating daily tasks with Zapier Create Awesome Life Automations with Multi-Step Zaps Zapier, the single largest competitor to IFTTT, announced that it now offers users the ability to create multiple action automations called multi-step zaps. Read More , for example, can make dealing with email, Slack, or Google Analytics much easier and less mental-effort-intensive.

You can even automate your Android phone How To Automate Your Android Smartphone To Do Just About Anything Having a smartphone can make your life a whole lot more convenient. When you're lost, it can help you find your way home. When you're in a strange town that you don't know and want... Read More with TaskBomb to open specific apps or take actions at certain times. If LoseIt! opens every morning when you wake up, you’ll be much more likely to actually use it!

Also, remember that willpower is like any other skill — you need to practice it to get better How to Work The Willpower Muscle Some people don't have the willpower problem. What makes those productive people different? As it turns out, there's plenty of research on the subject, and the answer turns out to be pretty simple Read More . Every time you resist temptation, whether that’s to go home instead of going to the gym, to eat a burger instead of a salad, or to drink water instead of coffee, you’re improving the strength of your willpower.


To work on your resolution, you need to remember that you set the goal in the first place. Fortunately, technology can help you remember anything How To Make Sure You Never Forget A Task Ever Again You're an organised person. You always add upcoming events to your calendar, and you have a decent labelling system in Gmail. But you need some automation to get them into your to-do list. Read More . Most task-list managers can send you notifications, and if you want to get notifications on all of your devices, you can integrate Wunderlist with Google Calendar (don’t forget to use its really useful folders How to Use New Wunderlist Folders to Boost Your To-Do List Wunderlist got a big update with two new features essential for a good to-do app: organizing and quickly adding tasks. Do these help it become the productivity app of your choice? Read More , too). You can even add reminders directly to Google Calendar Reminders Make Google Calendar an Incredible To-Do List Do you maintain a to-do list and a separate calendar? It introduces friction because tasks and scheduling are interdependent. Google now solved this by introducing Reminders to Google Calendar on Android. Read More  if that works better for you.

General Tips

Updating your plan with additional goals related to self-control, motivation, remembering, or anything else can seem like it will only make things more difficult—now you have two things to work on instead of one. But by getting help on your willpower and motivation using something as simple as an app, a Facebook group, or a regular catch-up over coffee can make your resolution significantly more manageable.


Remember that a wide variety of resources can help you stay focused: from motivational TED talks 10 Motivational TED Talks To Help You Chip Away At Your Mental Blocks The valuable lesson from the lives of achievers is that they chip away at their mental blocks more consistently than others. Ten TED Talks underscore one simple thing – it’s all in the mind. Read More to gamification apps Points For Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification My brain is stupid. It thinks I can get done tomorrow what I need to do today, and that I can do this afternoon what I need to do this morning. It puts everything off.... Read More  (Habitica has made a huge difference in my own daily routine, and I highly recommend it). A New Year’s resolution is like a year-long project, and you can use a lot of the same motivational techniques How to Stay Motivated on Long-Term Projects and Not Give Up If motivation was easy to cultivate, nobody would have any problems doing so! For those who lose motivation over long term projects, these tips may prove fruitful. Read More  to succeed.

And don’t forget to take advantage of anything you can automate.

Automating your finances 4 Ways You Can Save Money With Apps and Websites It's vital to have enough money in your savings accounts. Take the first steps to financial security by using these apps and websites. Read More  with apps like Digit and Betterment can go a long way toward helping you meet your goals. Use IFTTT with your FitBit Connect Your Fitbit Tracker and IFTTT to Automate Your Home and Life You may be surprised to learn that the Fitbit is one of the most convenient devices to use as your first step toward building what many people would consider a "smart home". Read More  to get useful notifications and reminders. Sign up for a great newsletter Learn Something New With 10 Worth-It Email Newsletters You will be surprised at the quality of newsletters today. They are making a comeback. Subscribe to these ten fantastic newsletters and find out why. Read More like Now I Know to send you interesting information every day so you can keep learning all year.

Anything you can automate will help you save mental energy, keep you from forgetting, and take motivation out of the equation.

Your Resolution Check-In

Ultimately, you have to find your own productivity framework. Go for an analog system or digital tools. But try to get back on the horse.

How did your New Year’s resolution check-in go? Are you doing well or struggling? What systems will you put in place to help you get moving? Share below and start taking advantage of social accountability right away!

Image Credits: Syda Productions via, via, A. and I. Kruk via, Erce via, CREATISTA via,

Explore more about: Habits, Motivation, Planning Tool.

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