How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
I’ve meditated everyday for the last two years. And this year alone, everyday, I did yoga, wrote, and drank 80 ounces of water. I also became an informed citizen, expanded my musical knowledge, got ahold of my biggest nemesis (my email inbox), got into the best physical shape of my life, read four books, and stopped myself from saying the word “like,” like, every other sentence, like. How’d I do it? Read on.
For the last two years, I’ve run a social experiment — the Year of The Hustle. I’ve been making resolutions for over 20 years and this is the only method that’s worked for me. 2014 was the best professional and personal year of my life — and 2015 was even better.
In 2015, I’ve missed only four days of doing my resolutions. At this rate, my percentage for sticking to my resolutions for the year will be 99%. That’s just slightly above the, oh, maybe 4% I pulled in other years (when I threw in the towel around January 15).
You can click that link above for background or any questions you may have. It’s all about my journey. Me, me, me. But what about you? OK, to cut to the chase, here’s a step-by-step process on how to do it:
- Order a Year of The Hustle calendar. Even if you wait till 12/29, you should still get it in time for 1/1 (with extra for shipping). If you’re not willing to spend $35, then perhaps self-improvement isn’t for you. (OK, that was a bit harsh but you feel me.)
- Think about the improvements you want to make — as a son, sister, husband, friend, citizen, etc. It helps to explore the different spheres of your life — mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc.
- Write out S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Tangible/Time-Bound). Tim Ferriss recommended converting any “be” statements to “do” statements. “Be a great chef” is hard to measure. “[Do] cook a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for six of my close friends” is easy to measure.
- Prioritize the list. Personally, I put the most important one first (meditating). But then I added the easiest one in February and the hardest one in December. This way, I built momentum. As much as possible, only add one thing per month.
- Hang up your Hustle calendar in a prominent place in your pad/office. Force yourself to look at it and others to ask, “What is that?” The more people enrolled in your success/failure, the more accountable you’ll feel and therefore be.
- Start doing your first task on January 1. You may want to consider starting even earlier. You know, that momentum thing.
- Track the items on your phone as you go through your day. (In the below pic, I’ll show you how I do mine, even though you may not understand each note-to-self.)
- Mark an X on the calendar for every day that you do the task.
- Add your next task on February 1. Add the next one on March 1. (Yes, they’re cumulative or it would only be a New Month’s Resolution.) I marked a blue X for every day that I meditated. But then I circled that X in green for every day that I did every other task. I marked a red circle for every day that I missed even one task. I would’ve marked a red X had I missed a day of meditating, but I didn’t, so.
- Report your progress to your friends every month — on a blog/social media, to an email distribution, over a phone call. Whatever your thang is.
- Celebrate in December how much more legit of a person you are.
Here are some suggestions. Obviously, yours will vary, but I figured it might help you brainstorm.
- Meditate. (Calm helps.)
- Do yoga.
- Do 20 sit-ups.
- Do 50 pushups.
- Do 20 minutes of cardio.
- Eat a piece of fruit.
- Eat something green — a vegetable, not mold.
- Take a multivitamin.
- Drink 80 oz. of water.
- Work on your craft (e.g., write standup) for 30 minutes.
- Check your email only once a day (afternoon best).
- Listen to an album or a podcast.
- Wake up and go to sleep without your phone.
- Read five news articles. (Twitter and Pocket help.)
- Listen to or watch 30 minutes of news.
- Learn and use a new vocabulary word. (Vocabology helps.)
- Do the biggest task of the day first.
- Pay somebody a compliment.
The biggest challenge for me was getting my emails under control — I missed three days in June as I added this one. On February 14, I forgot to read my quotes. Other than that, I’ve been right on the mark.
Why Does It Work?
It’s the cross-pollination of several ideas:
- “What you do daily determines what you become permanently.” — Mike Murdock
- “If you never read The Odyssey, you’ll become a person who never read The Odyssey.” — Rakesh Satyal
- True story: There was once a computer scientist who started dabbling in standup comedy: he was a dilettante. At a comedy club, he ran into Jerry Seinfeld and asked him for advice. Seinfeld replied, “The key to standup comedy is writing. So get yourself a calendar, preferably one that shows the entire year on one page. For every day that you write, mark an X. You’ll have some scattered Xs and then two in a row and then three in a row and something happens psychologically… your only job is: don’t break the chain.”
- So, I combined this with another pearl of wisdom: somebody said it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, I made a list of 12 behaviors, starting with the easiest. January 1, I started doing the first one: meditating for five minutes a day. Then February 1, I kept drinking water but then I also started drinking 64 ounces of water a day. Yes, ounce. I’m American. And by the end of the year, I became the person I wanted to be. In 2013, I missed 8 days. In 2014, 4. In 2015, 4. And the last four years, I’ve missed 0. I’m perfect. I’m not — my wife can tell you that for sure. But it’s just that simple.