The turning point from one year to the next is a traditional time for making resolutions. New Year's resolutions are promises that you make to yourself that take a special effort to keep. You want to stop doing something negative like smoking, or do something positive, such as getting in shape, getting organized, spending more time with family and friends, and losing weight. You may feel tempted to quit when you see the effort that this takes. You may think you'll get to it later when you have the time. Adopt this "later" idea and you are procrastinating.
If you want to stop procrastinating on carrying through with your resolve, here are 12 tips to get past procrastination barriers to make your New Year's resolution a reality:
1. Resolve to do something that is truly meaningful, measurable, and achievable. It doesn't matter if this is getting your taxes done on time, quitting smoking, or completing the work for a college degree.
2. Keep perspective on what is important. Would you rather include in your autobiography how you achieved your dreams or whether you filed your taxes in February? This is not an either\or choice, as both are important. However, there is a time difference. Achieving a dream may take a lifetime; once past procrastination, preparing taxes may take several hours early each New Year.
3. Check the strength of your commitment. What do you gain? What do you tradeoff? Is the gain worth what you give up? Note: If you resolve to do something that is not that important, you're normally better off choosing nothing or choosing something else.
4. Plan for success. Goals are easy to set. Most New Year's resolutions flounder due to a lack of planning. A plan is a design for achieving the goal. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, what do you do first, second, third? What do you do when an urge to consume fattening goodies threatens your diet plan?
5. Exercise self-efficacy. This is the belief that you can organize, coordinate, and regulate your thoughts, emotions, and actions to reach your goal. This belief is like a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you believe that you are in control of your actions, you empower yourself.
6. Watch out for the Wheedler. This is the cunning, conniving, contriving part of thought that threatens your best intentions. It's the "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die" part of the psyche. You may hear a Wheedler voice, such as, "Don't sweat the details today. You can always start tomorrow." Flip things around. Beat the Wheedler at its own game: "Let's start now, for we can always play later."
7. Follow a "do it now" philosophy. This is a dedication to do reasonable things, in a reasonable way, within a reasonable time so that you can increase your effectiveness, accomplishments, and happiness.
8. Reward yourself. Create multiple incentives to support your progress. Follow designed actions with appropriate short-term rewards that are a normal part of your daily routine, such as drinking coffee or reading the newspaper. By making natural rewards follow goal-directed actions, you may persist with greater vigor.
9. Avoid blame. It's a distraction to blame yourself today for what you delayed doing yesterday. Start now. The First Century AD Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said it well when he remarked: "Your past is gone, your future is uncertain." You have some control over what you do in the present moment. Over past moments, you have none. The future will soon reveal itself but you can help shape it by taking productive steps in the present moment.
10. Make accepting discomfort part of your change plan. You may feel awkward or uncomfortable as you think about the uncertainties about what to do to achieve the goals you chose to undertake. Discomfort dodging can lead to abandoning your resolution early on. If you build the expectation of discomfort into what you do, you're likely to experience less tension and get more done.
11. Don't bite off more than you can chew. You can teach yourself to meet deadlines, overcome negative habits, and pursue your dream. However, it takes the brain time to adjust to a change. Multiple major changes that take place around the same time can overwhelm the system. Preferably, work one at a time.
12. Take a global approach. Pick a start date. Make a plan to gear up for the change. Publically announce your intentions. Get a buddy to daily monitor your progress. Chart your progress. Force yourself to start at the anointed time. Routinely remind yourself about the long-term benefits you can gain and the long-term hassles you can avoid. Accept that some of the steps you will take can involve uninspiring drudgery; this discomfort can be a prelude to the joy of accomplishment. Grind it out. When the going gets tough, live through the tension and sustain the effort. Accept the ambiguities of change until you experience a firm sense of ownership in the process and result. There is no easier way to execute meaningful personal lifestyle change challenges than through pressing forward. If you can find an easier way that works, do it.
Dr. Bill Knaus