Keeping your resolutions

It's that time of year when many people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions and the changes they want to make to their lives.

Sadly, it’s estimated that nearly a third of people break their newly-made resolutions before the end of the first week.

If you want 2012 to be the year that you make good on your New Year's resolutions, there are a few practical things you can do to keep your focus and motivation.

Clear time to focus on your goal

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are doing more exercise, learning a new skill, and spending more time with the family. And the most common reason for breaking these resolutions is a lack of time.

Do an audit of how you spend your day and try to identify the ways in which you spend your time on unnecessary things. It might be watching television, or surfing the net, or getting obsessed with the housework… Try to understand the things that distract you from efficiently getting your work done, and trim the activities from your schedule that you are not completely passionate about.

Spend money over time if you can do something more productive with that time. Whether it’s spending $10 to get your groceries delivered, or getting a cleaner to tidy up your house each week, weigh up the cost with the time you gain. Can you use that time to do something that’s worth more to you that the often relatively small cost in monetary terms?

Don’t be a perfectionist

Everyone wants to improve their health or life, but focusing on how short you fall of your aspirations is not going to bring motivation. If you fall short of your goals, ask yourself what kept you from achieving them and then try to make the necessary corrections.

You need to be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable when you slip, but continually punishing yourself and focusing on the negative will only set you up for failure.

Set realistic, achievable goals and don’t make absolute resolutions that you are likely to break in the first week. Set realistic goals that are attainable, and then break them up into small steps that you can easily manage. Don't try to lose 5kg in a week or quit smoking cold turkey with no preparation.

Instead, create a plan, join a group if that’s going to help you, and plan to lose 1 kg a week, or move from cigarettes to nicotine patches to start with. Whatever you do, make sure you recognise partial success every step of the way.

Make them meaningful

Psychologists say that many people start the year badly by making resolutions that aren't actually meaningful to them. Your goal should be something you really want to change or achieve, not something that others say will be good for you.

If you don't have strong, internal motivation you probably aren’t going to be successful.

Share the burden

Social support is critical to changing all kinds of behavior so tell someone you trust about your resolutions. Friends and family can gently nudge you in the right direction when you veer off course - or give you positive affirmation when you stick to your plan.