Should you bother making New Year’s resolutions and how do you keep them?

Dec 14, 2021 - updated Dec 15, 2022 9 mins

Should you bother making New Year’s resolutions and how do you keep them?
author
Ingrid Dupichot

Freelance Content Writer

You’ve heard it all before. The promise of every new year brings with it an abundance of suggestions as to what resolutions we should make. They’re everywhere: online, in magazines, on Instagram, and on LinkedIn. As the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is in sight, is it the time to grab a pen and a paper, or open the notes application, and ask ourselves, “What are my goals for 2023?” Or perhaps, “What’s the point of making a new year’s resolution anyway?”

The choice is yours, but crisis or no crisis, having established goals can help you see things more clearly and stay motivated for the year ahead. Whether or not you keep up those resolutions, in the long run, is another story. Maybe your hopes for 2022 were higher than what you achieved, or maybe you had your best year yet. Either way, why not make a new plan of action and start the year off right by taking back control of your destiny? Here are the best ways to make real resolutions and (finally) stick to them. We also sprinkle in some ideas on how to start the new year off on the right foot.

Why make resolutions anyway?

Why do we constantly strive to make resolutions as soon as the holiday season comes around? The end of the year tends to make us all a bit introspective and there is a good reason why this is often the time of year when companies organize annual appraisal interviews. So why not take this opportunity to review your personal goals for the year to come, not just your business needs or your boss’s wishes?

It’s also the perfect time to change up your daily routine. After all, change is proof of dynamism and optimism, which is good for your morale and that of your company, especially after what we’ve been through during the past two years.

We often make resolutions during key times in our lives. It’s a way to say goodbye to the negative things of the past year and to combat the uncertainty that hangs over our future. We know all too well that the past two years have caused many of us to feel stressed, depressed, or lacking in motivation. But why not use these as incentives to start 2023 on a good note instead?

Make resolutions that are effective and long-lasting

1. Review the past year

Convinced? Before you start, take a moment to review your year. When we always try to move forward, we often forget to think about how far we’ve come. Take the time to reflect on your successes and failures, and what you liked and didn’t like this year. Be very factual and try to be as objective as possible to be sure that you make strong resolutions for yourself.

Then, write down your successes by asking yourself the right questions: How did you manage them? What trials did you face? What skills have you acquired, developed, or would like to improve? What are you proud of? The Covid crisis has prompted you to be adaptable and develop new skills. So don’t shy away from praise but try to pinpoint where you need to keep up the momentum. Likewise, list any errors, failures, or difficulties you faced. How could you have avoided them? What did they teach you? The goal here is to accept them, to bounce back and progress. You will integrate what made you grow over the past year and naturally filter out the rest. But if the pandemic has been the cause of some of your failures, don’t blame yourself – it’s not your fault! However, do think about what you could have done better or differently.

Note: doing your annual review should not provoke a wave of self-criticism, be a source of guilt, or be a chance to devalue yourself. If it does, you may be suffering from the impostor syndrome and you must try to break out of this pattern of thinking: it is preventing you from appreciating your accomplishments. Reviewing your past year is above all about taking time to congratulate yourself on the progress you have made, especially since these past two years have been particularly difficult. Here’s a little trick to make sure you’re kind to yourself: do your review as if you were your own best friend. Then, try to evaluate them according to precise and measurable criteria to be able to quantify them and evaluate their quality. This goes for your mistakes as well as for your successes. Feel free to ask your relatives and colleagues for their opinion. An outside perspective is always worth getting.

2. Identify your values

Identifying your values will help you get to where you want to be and learn more about yourself in the process. In doing so, you will leave behind that unpleasant feeling of missing the mark once and for all. Your values are the motivations that guide you, your internal compass. They are neither your needs nor your duties.

For example, you may naturally show empathy with your colleagues, but you may also crave freedom. Empathy will be your value and freedom will be a need.

Identify your three key values. Start with a list of 10 values, then rework and narrow your list down to three.

Take your time, this exercise is not easy, but trust yourself.

Then, for each key value, verbalize what it represents to you. Find five verbs per value, this will allow you to better understand their subjective side.

So for empathy, a verbalization could be: “I connect with the members of my company.”

By identifying your values, you will ensure your resolutions meet your deepest motivations or, at least, are not contradictory.

3. Use the SMART method

To set achievable goals, you can use the SMART method, which involves setting goals that are simple, measurable, achievable, and timely. To do this, break down your resolutions into reasonable objectives that meet the criteria of the SMART methodology.

Specific

An objective must be specific, precise, concrete, formulated positively, and without possible ambiguity. Try to break down one general goal into several smaller goals.

For example, the goal “I want to find my dream company” should be broken down into several smaller goals, such as:

  • Clarify my professional orientation: what position/profession am I looking for? Which sectors do I prioritize?

  • Identify my ideal working environment: large company, start-up, NGO, start-up incubator, freelance?

  • Set up and maintain my network

  • Succeed in my interviews: work on my storytelling

Measurable

An objective is measurable when results can be calculated and evaluated through qualitative and quantitative criteria. If we look at the goal of “setting up and maintaining my network” as an example, you could establish a weekly schedule consisting of sending five contact requests with the aim of getting at least one meeting per week. You could then solicit each person and ask for three new contacts, and so on.

Achievable

An achievable goal requires effort and commitment. The ambition level for each goal should be set at the right level: not too high (frustration) or too low (boredom). This is essential, but remember that you can adjust the bar as you go.

Back to the example: You sent three emails and, luckily, you got three positive responses and lots of referrals. However, you realize that the contacts collected are drifting away from your ideal work environment. Try to better target your contacts, even if it means reducing the number of people you reach out to per week.

Realistic

To be realistic, an objective takes into account your current situation, your resources (time, energy, money), and your current context (family, professional, financial). Evaluate how much time your various activities take up, and review the goal in light of the other goals you’ve set for yourself to pinpoint possible conflicts.

Example: Three of your contacts propose meetings in the same week. However, you already have two gym training sessions (your ambitious self plans to run a half marathon in two weeks). You can readjust your schedule and push the next calls back two weeks.

Timely

The objective must be confined to a time frame. You can establish an end date and frequency (daily, weekly, etc), allowing the objective to be regular and/or one-off.

Example: You give yourself two months to set up your network and generate contacts (one-off goal) and from now on get into the habit of devoting two evenings per month to networking events (regular goal).

The SMART method allows you to visualize the goal and move more easily from idea to action. Once your resolution is defined and ritualized, the hard part will be done and you will have a better chance of staying motivated. All you have to do is visualize it and let go.

Apply these tips to keep track of your resolutions

Make your resolutions your passwords

We use passwords often and we forget them all the time. Setting your resolutions as your passwords will make them easier to remember because every time you log into your email or social media, you’ll get a reminder of the resolution that you promised yourself to keep. This is an effective daily reminder that’s easy to set up and fits into your routine without impacting your schedule.

Find a quote that motivates you

There are bound to be expressions that inspire and motivate you. Try to find one that fits your current mood or your key resolution for the coming year. A quote that, every time you read it, will give you that little boost you need. You can write this sentence on a small piece of paper in your wallet, use it as your screensaver, set it as a reminder on your phone, and put it wherever you want.

Write one sentence every day

This is what Gretchen Rubin advocates in her book The Happiness Project. You don’t need to write a novel, just a short sentence to sum up what you learned that day. Doing this exercise daily is a good way to keep track of your progress and show yourself that you are moving in the right direction (or veering off track), and keep your resolutions. You might ask “Do we have to stick to this resolution too?”, and the answer is yes. It’s all about motivation.

5 ideas for resolutions to make at work

1. Take the time to improve continually

Have you heard of the Japanese technique of Kaizen which means “continuous improvement?” It is intended as much for personal life as it is for work. Initiated in large Japanese companies and borrowed by many Western entrepreneurs, it achieves its objectives without having to deal with the resistance that often comes with radical and sudden change. The technique involves taking small steps daily that help you to achieve continual and gradual improvement, leading to long-term impact. It can be experienced personally but also as a team and even at a corporate scale.

2. Keep defeats in perspective

Looking at the context around your defeats after the fact is good, but doing it as soon as you encounter them is even better. Throughout a year, we’re bound to fail once or twice. Knowing how to bounce back quickly rather than dwell on your mistakes will allow you to move forward in your projects with ease. Your mantra: do not be discouraged. Remember that failure is necessary for learning and growth. A baby learns to walk by falling, right? And in some cases, failures have even led to the greatest successes.

3. Set an example for everyone

What if your resolution was to encourage others? What if you were to set an example? Work is also collective and after two years of unpredictability when team morale may be at its lowest and where motivation is lacking, why not set an example and show that you are motivated, launch projects, and propose solutions? This will boost your colleague’s morale and will make them want to follow through with this process. In her book The Illusions of Happiness, Malene Rydahl reminds us that in Denmark, the collective begins with oneself and it is up to everyone to set an example. The rest will follow naturally.

4. Surround yourself with the right people professionally

Select your professional entourage carefully, find mentors and sponsors. Surround yourself with people whose journey inspires you, try to understand how they got there, and determine who could support your career. Choose a mentor whose values align with yours to ensure your professional evolution is going in the right direction. If you have conflicts with certain colleagues, try to resolve them or rise above them as tension or hostility in the workplace is never good.

5. Stay attentive and productive

Learn how to allocate specific time slots to focus on deep work. Just like an athlete knows that their performance depends on their training, your work depends on the quality of your attention. Multitasking can cost us up to 40% of our productivity, according to a 2001 study from the American Psychological Association (APA).

To create an environment conducive to concentration, you should:

  • Turn off your email and your web browser
  • Turn off your phone
  • Isolate yourself as much as possible (or wear noise-canceling headphones) to give yourself enough time for reflection and analysis.

You should also favor value-added tasks, according to the famous Pareto principle, which states that 80% of results come from 20% of actions. When applying this to work, you should focus on 20% of the most qualitative tasks, as in, those that will lead to 80% of your results. In practice, this could mean saying no to long lunch meetings, for example.

We’re coming to the end of a difficult three years, so making resolutions for the year to come is a good way to regain motivation for 2023. However, don’t push yourself to have all the answers. If you feel that now is not the right time for you to set new goals, don’t. You might make yourself even more frustrated by making resolutions that you don’t want to achieve, or that you don’t feel able to achieve, than if you had just gone with the flow and let the year run its course. If you can’t keep your resolutions even after following these tips, don’t give up. The most important thing in a resolution is the motivation it provides and the boost you get when you make it, more than actually reaching it.

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