Here we are at the start of 2016 with a whole new year stretching ahead. For many of us, now is the time that we will start to think about what we want to get from that new year, changes we want to make and goals we want to set. However, while resolutions can be a great way to focus the mind, they are also often just a temporary set of goals that quickly slip because they’re not realistic. In fact, time management organisation Franklin Covey says that 30% of all New Year’s resolutions are in the bin by February. To help you create new year’s resolutions this year that will really make a difference we’ve identified the problem ones and some better alternatives.
Yes, I’m sure this features on the lists many of us have made for this year but something as broad as this – or ‘lose weight’ if you’re looking for less extreme results – isn’t really a very sensible choice. Instead, set yourself a realistic weight loss target in figures, one that you can easily meet with the demands of your lifestyle, and most likely exceed.
Example: lose two pounds a month throughout the year.
Another classic new year’s resolution that we all make without really setting out a clear picture of how to do it. The most important element of any goal is the detail so make sure you communicate – to yourself – what this promise actually involves. How will you exercise, when will you exercise, what are the goals of that exercise meant to be and when are you going to start? Use these to create a much more effective exercising resolution.
Example: start running twice a week for 10 minutes and increase by five minutes per month (remember, if you have any medical conditions, you should always consult a doctor before you start exercise to make sure it’s the right type for you). And building exercise into your daily routine is a much more effective plan, even if it is simply walking to work.
Pay off debts
This is a resolution that can be made when filled with hope and then quickly abandoned if your debts are a mountain that is very difficult to make into a molehill. Rather than finding yourself giving up half way through the year when you realise you’ll never pay off all your debts by 2017, reduce your goals and targets to something more manageable. None of us knows what lies ahead next year but if you’re aiming to get those debts down, regardless, start small and work up.
Example: start budgeting and set aside a small amount each month to put towards your debts. Even £50 a month will add up to £600 by the end of the year. And you’ll save even more on not paying interest. And using the Solution Loans Quickstart tool can help you check if switching your type of debt could help you too.
Go out less
Whether you’re looking to start budgeting and you need to cut down on the amount that you spend on leisure activities, or you want to cut back on trips out for health reasons, changing your lifestyle can have some really positive benefits. However, this kind of resolution rarely works unless you replace it with an alternative. We humans are really not that good at denying ourselves and, as countless diets over the years have proved, the more we tell ourselves not to do something, the more we want to do it. Set yourself a positive goal, rather than a negative one and you will find it easier to stick by.
Example: spend one weekend a month entirely at home, get two full nights of 12 hours of sleep, catch up on cleaning, exercise and life admin.
Get married/get a partner
This is the kind of resolution that inevitably ends in disappointment when you put such a fierce time limit on it. Although there’s no need to sit around and wait for Mr or Mrs Right to come along – or if you feel like you and your partner are ready to get married, why not – attaching these life decisions to a set of new year’s resolutions sort of diminishes their value. Plus, you’ll feel like a terrible failure if you aren’t able to achieve these things, which are actually far less within your control than something like weight loss or making financial savings.
Example: focus on you instead. Make more ‘me’ time for you to have to yourself – take up meditation, read more books, do more walking – and make your big decisions when the time feels right rather than when the year is coming to an end.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley