In some ways I’m not the best person to be writing this article, I don’t have any big New Years Resolutions this year and I’m not great at sticking to them anyway.
On the other hand however, I’m seemingly always putting my internal foot down about something I want to stop doing (wasting time on social media) or need to start doing better (exercising and praying daily).
“Alright Liam, this has gone too far,” I’ll tell myself, “It’s time to get on top of this.” This has worked, but not quite enough as I’d like.
So these past few months I’ve been reading and binge-listening to podcasts about procrastination, productivity and forming habits - here are 4 things I’ve learnt.
1. Know yourself
Okay so the thing about most New Years resolutions is that they either try to cut out something you’re naturally inclined to do (binge on social media), or do something you don’t naturally want to do (exercise or wake up earlier).
When faced with following through with the Resolution, we will feel like giving in. Be honest with yourself about that. The emotions that come with facing this 2 way road (do I follow through or give in?) have to be ignored, and the little lies we will try to tell ourselves (Just this once…I’ll do it later…I need some me-time) have to be ignored as well.
If we go into a resolution knowing ourselves, what we’ll feel (this stuff is emotional) and what we’ll tell ourselves - we can overcome it easier.
2. Time Management is generally not the issue
I’m borrowing this one straight out of studies on procrastination, and it’s that: while you need time in your day to do what you said you’d do - making time is not even the first step.
We can trick ourselves into thinking that setting aside time in our day to pray, exercise, study, or do what you said you’d do, doesn’t mean we’ll actually do it.
It can even feel like setting that time that you’ll do what you said is a little victory in itself, but it means nothing until you actually do it.
3. Implementation Intentions
An Implementation intention is a fancy word for a type of strategy to achieve a goal that is proven - yeah, by science - to work.
They help you give a structure around what you intend to do. So rather than say, ‘I want to start flossing more’, you have a clearly defined way of making that happen - ‘If I put toothpaste on my toothbrush, Then I will begin flossing.’
Basically it’s an if-then statement
They can be applied to things you want to avoid, “If I feeI like eating chocolate, I will have fruit or nuts instead,”
And to things you want to start doing, “When I put the kettle on in the morning, I will get out my Bible, journal and pen.”
4. When focused on doing a task, don't get distracted
So you know when you’re in the middle of doing something you don’t particularly want to do, anything else seems like its suddenly the most important thing in the world?
When I’m cleaning the house (not a huge fan), I’m suddenly the home maintenance king of tiny things. A table leg is a little wonky? Better fix it now. Plant looks a little bit uncared for? Better water it now.
Sometimes even cleaning becomes the distraction from what we’re trying to do. Yes it’s something that probably needs to be done eventually, but right now you are in the middle of what you’re trying to do. Losing focus and doing other things severely decreases your likelihood of finishing what you set out to do.
One of the biggest markers of someone who can set goals and achieve them is that they are in tune with their future self. They can feel what it would feel like if they didn’t follow through, or they can better see the consequences.
Whether it’s studying vs procrastinating, exercising vs sitting on the couch or getting up early vs sleeping in - being mindful of your future-self allows you to feel what it would feel like if you gave in to feel good now. Good luck with your New Years Resolution, you may need it!