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How to Write New Year’s Resolutions That Stick All Year Long

I reserve New Year’s Eve for drafting my New Year’s Resolutions (NYR). Before writing them, I reflect on the past year and practice gratitude for my life. Doing these practices first serves two purposes: 1. It puts my progress in different areas into perspective; 2. It helps me start in a positive frame of mind.

My NYRs are divided by category and most are written with my husband, at least the ones that pertain to our relationship, finances, and children because for any of these to work, we would need to be on the same page. The ones that are my personal pursuits are written by me. My 2021 NYR categories are:

  • Spiritual

  • Marriage/Relationship

  • Parenting

  • Financial

  • Health

  • Career

  • Home

  • Personal

By dividing NYR into the important categories of your life, this step helps ensure that life is balanced, that no one area dominates your attention at the expense of others. I have been guilty of being unbalanced in previous years, such as focusing exclusively on career aspirations at the expense of relationship-building or personal health. Which categories you choose will depend on what makes sense for your life.

Next, I like to choose a word or short phrase that encapsulates my intention for that category. This provides a focus for the detailed NYRs. This also helps me from losing focus. The focus words also prevent drafting incompatible resolutions.

  • Spiritual: Faith

  • Marriage/Relationship: Understanding

  • Parenting: Purpose

  • Financial: Freedom

  • Health: Strength

  • Career: Writer

  • Home: Functional

  • Personal: Growth

At this stage, I want to point the focus word I used for my Financial category. Our goals are focused on debt-reduction. We are following the strategies of Dave Ramsey’s program and we have made tremendous progress. Although at first glance, a phrase like debt-reduction may seem more fitting, the long-term goal is financial freedom, which means both debt-free and abundant wealth to have the freedom to choose our future path.

I find for goal setting, there are two major types: the ongoing maintenance goals and the deadline goals. Using the NYR Home Category as an example, my focus word is “functional” and three of my goals are deadline-based while one requires ongoing maintenance. For NYR that have a deadline, I use the S.M.A.R.T. goal strategy: specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and timely.

V’s 2021 NYR for Home:

1. By the end of January 2021, everything in the home will have a place. All drawers and closets will be organized functionally;

2. By the end of February 2021, the basement will be unpacked. Anything that remains in boxes is meant for long-term storage or seasonal, like Christmas decor.

3. By the end of March 2021, the garage will be unpacked. The garage will store lawn equipment, tools, the treadmill (with adequate space for regular use). Anything requiring long-term storage moves to the basement.

4. After the unpacking and reorganizing is complete, Andy and I will commit to maintaining organization and keeping things where they belong.

My home organization project has been broken up into manageable chunks with specific deadlines that are realistic and doable without being stressful. If I wrote to have the entire house unpacked and organized by the end of January, that would be stressful and possibly set me up for frustration given the number of unpacked boxes that remain.

I believe that the most important part of a successful NYR plan is regular check-ins. My husband and I have a budget meeting once a month in which we discuss income, bills, debts, goals, and we revisit our NYRs. Monthly check-ins during our budget meeting allow us to be accountability partners with one another in pursuit of our goals while helping us recognize whether or not we’re making progress. If we’re not, why? If we are, is there room for improvement?

I hope your NYRs are successful this coming year and I hope that these strategies help you on your way. Whether you regularly write NYRs or if this is your first, it’s never too late to hone in on your priorities and redirect your actions in pursuit of your dreams.

In summary:

1. List categories for your NYR;

2. Write a word that encapsulates the intention for that category;

3. For each category, write one to five S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and timely) for deadline goals or maintenance goals.

4. Revisit your NYR monthly to check-in on your progress.

Happy New Year!


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