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How to make your new year's resolutions stick

How to make your new year's resolutions stickMost new year's resolutions don't last. Find out how to make yours the exception.

Be specific

Classic new year's resolutions like 'eat healthily' or 'save money' are too vague. This can make it difficult to work out exactly what you need to do to achieve them, as well as giving you lots of opportunities to make excuses. Instead, try to make specific resolutions like 'Drink water instead of sugary drinks' or 'Save £20 a week'.

Set a realistic target

Setting a target is important so that you have something to work towards. It should be something that you can measure objectively: for example, if you want to get more sleep, you could set a target of going to bed by 10.30pm five days a week.

However, it's important that your deadline is realistic. Plenty of new year's resolutions have failed because they were too difficult. For example, if you decide to give up junk food completely, you risk feeling like you've failed the first time you're tempted by a packet of crisps – and then you might give up completely. It's better to choose a target that you're confident you can reach, even if it won't quite get you where you want to be: you can use this as a starting point for a more ambitious target later on.

Set a deadline

One of the dangers of new year's resolutions is that it feels like you have a whole year to achieve them. Every goal takes a different amount of time to reach - so what are the chances that your resolutions should take a full year?

Think carefully about a sensible deadline for what you want to achieve. Your deadline should be close enough that you'll be motivated to work hard, but not so tight that you'll miss it if anything goes wrong. It's also useful to set smaller targets with their own deadlines on the way to your main one: this will help you to keep track of your progress.

If you're the only person who knows about your deadline, it can be difficult to stick to it. Think about sharing it with someone else and asking them to check your progress.

Make a plan

Once you know what you want to achieve, how you'll measure it, and when you'll do it by, you can make a plan for the action you'll take to get there. To do this:

  • Break your target down into smaller sub-targets.
  • Write down the actions you need to take to reach each sub-target as specifically as possible.
  • If you're struggling to work out what actions you need to take, break your targets down even further. If this doesn't help, you might need to rethink your main target.
  • Include a way to motivate yourself. This could be a reward when you meet a target, or a list of the benefits you'll get from reaching each target.

Track your progress

Tracking your progress doesn't just allow you to work out how well you're doing: it will also help to keep you motivated. Try to find a visual way of recording your progress, so that you only have to glance at it: this will help to keep your goal in your mind. For example, if you're trying to get into a new daily habit like getting up early, you could mark off every day you succeed on a wall calendar.

Don't wait for the new year

When it comes to achieving your goals, there's nothing magic about January 1 - all of these steps can be used at any time to improve your chances of success. In fact, trying to make all your changes at once might just wear you out: spreading them out will give you a chance to focus on each one properly.

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