Yes, the year is almost over (we can’t believe it either). Yes, your plate is already full with work, family, social, and travel obligations. No, you don’t want to think about New Year’s Resolutions right now.
But the truth is, if you want to make a major change in 2020, you need to start now.
Unfortunately, according to surveys, 70-80% of people don’t even last one month with their resolutions. But why is that?
Of all the factors that cause you to give up, the most common is not having a clear action plan.
So if you want to plan for success in 2020 without adding a ton of extra work to your already loaded end of year schedule, it’s important to start today. Here’s how.
Why New Years’s resolutions are so easy to break
It might make sense to wait until the haze of the holiday season dissipates before you plan your resolutions. But there are reasons barely 20% of people get past 30 days of working towards their big goals:
- January 1st comes up way too quickly. Thanks to the Planning Fallacy, we all think we have more time than we do. Throw in the hectic holiday season and it’s easy to get to January 1st without setting aside time to plan.
- You fall into the traps of poor goal setting. Even if you’ve set aside time to set some goals for the New Year, there’s a good chance you picked a goal that’s either based on what someone else is telling you to change (for example, lose weight) or simply too vague (for example, make more money). If you want to stick to your resolution, you need to follow the guidelines of SMART goal-setting.
- You don’t have a realistic plan and support system to see it through. Setting a New Year’s resolution is only part of the battle. The real work is in creating an actionable plan and support system to help turn these new behaviors into habits.
While all of these are major issues, it’s the last one that causes most people to fail at their resolutions.
A plan gives you guidance. But more importantly, it gives you something to fall back on when you lose motivation at the end of January.
Here’s an example. In a 2015 study, researchers paid two groups of people to go to the gym. The first group was paid if they started their workout within a 2-hour window (that they’d chosen in advance). While the second group was paid anytime they went to the gym, regardless of their schedule.
At the end of a month, the people with a more flexible plan were most likely to stick to their gym habit. As one of the study’s leads, Dr. Milkman writes in The New York Times:
“It’s critical to learn how to have a backup plan rather than just throw your hands up and give up.”
In other words, you need a system in place before you start trying to make major changes to how you live and work.
3 reasons why November is the right time to commit to your New Year’s resolutions
Waiting until January first means you won’t have enough time to set up a system that will guarantee success. But that’s not the only reason to set your New Year’s resolutions today.
Here are a few key reasons to make the commitment to your New Year’s resolutions today.
1. You’re in a “motivational wave” before the end of the year
Most people feel a rush of motivation at the end of the year. There are projects to finish, deadlines to hit, and quotas to meet before everyone takes off to recharge. And while it might seem like you don’t want to add more to your plate right now, this is actually the perfect moment to set future goals.
Stanford professor BJ Fogg has a concept he calls the Motivation Wave. The idea is simple. There are moments in the year where we naturally have more energy and are more motivated to do our best work.
But instead of just powering through these moments, the most productive people use the Motivation Wave to set up systems that will carry them through the inevitable dip afterward.
This doesn’t mean you need to start working towards your resolutions right now. Instead, you’re just using this extra time to set up support systems that will help carry you through the natural post-holidays lows.
2. You’re already in reflection mode and can pick the right resolutions
Most New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re not personal enough or clearly connected to your values. It’s easier to give up on a goal like “be more productive” than “spend an hour every evening learning to code so I can get that promotion at work.”
November and early December are the perfect time to reflect on the past year and think about the personal changes you want to make.
A personal annual review will help you understand the biggest barriers that got in your way over the past 12 months and how you can move past them.
If you wait until after the New Year starts, you’re losing a powerful moment to set realistic and meaningful goals.
Need help with your 2019 annual review? Check out our guide to doing a personal year-end review in RescueTime.
3. You have time to create a plan for when you hit hurdles or fall off the wagon
Finally, as we said before, 80% of people give up on their resolutions within one month. This is most likely because you don’t have a plan for when you mess up.
By planning your New Year’s resolution journey now, you can create an action plan to help you through these moments. Here are a few suggestions for what you can do today to help you in the New Year:
- Find a way to track your progress: According to Dr. Pauline Wallin, a psychologist and author of Taming Your Inner Brat, we lose motivation to work towards our resolutions when we can’t see clear progress. A clear plan (alongside a tool like RescueTime) will show you the changes you’re making and help you stay accountable.
- Don’t rely on positive thinking: According to Gabriele Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University, positive thinking can actually get in the way of working towards your resolutions. Instead of picturing your future success, she suggests understanding and writing out the obstacles you’re most likely to encounter and creating a plan for dealing with them.
- Use a commitment device: Any major change requires some commitment—whether public or private—to keep you dedicated to seeing it through. Tell a friend what you’re working on, find a support group, or sign up for a structured program like The RescueTime Productivity Challenge.
In the end, almost all New Year’s resolutions come down to time management
Even if you start early, set the right goals, and create a support plan, you can still feel like you don’t have the time to work towards your goals. That’s why the underlying challenge that decides the fate of your New Year’s resolutions is time management.
No matter what your goal is—whether it’s to save money, get in shape, read more books, or travel—you need to “find the time” to work on them. If not, you’re destined to fail.
That’s one of the big reasons we created The RescueTime Productivity Challenge.
Over four weeks of video lessons and exercises, you’ll learn how to make time for your most important goals, optimize your daily schedule, build better habits, and block distractions.
Best of all, you’ll be able to track your progress along the way so you can stay motivated. Each lesson pairs proven theories and strategies with RescueTime’s acclaimed time management software so you can actually see yourself becoming more productive.
If you want to make 2020 your most successful year yet, sign up today to get notified when registration opens.