New approaches to a new year

Sara Batts recommends incremental and measured change for 2011

New Year's Day seems a long time ago already.   The daily round quickly crowds out those virtuous resolutions and our willpower dissipates.   Somehow as soon as January reaches double figures the newness of the new year has already worn off.  Yet there are still 350 days to go!   This article is about how reviewing and planning might take place at other points during the year. After all, resolutions are just goals set for ourselves, by a different name.

The calendar change is a significant date.  But does it really reflect the change in your year? For some time I have designated 1st September as my ‘new year', because this fits better with my life and the goals I have set.  Each 1st January, rather than start afresh, I review where I am in relation to the last four months.

Monthly resolutions

Why not set resolutions for each month? Instead of trying to change everything overnight on 1st January, the gradual introduction of new ideas or changes means it's not all-or-nothing.  This will raise your chances of success by allowing bedding-in time for a new change. Scheduling goals so they make sense allows progression and subsequent initiatives to take hold.  Imagine the classic get fit/ eat healthily/lose weight trio that seem to be high on many 1st January lists. None are short-term goals, so why do we expect to be a shinier version of ourselves within weeks?   By starting with ‘healthy eating' in January, and adding ‘exercise' in February, by March we would be well on the way to the third goal.  Not to mention we'd have missed the January crowds in the gym.

New job or new you?

Resolutions are often couched in terms of drastic change. Thinking about a new job, for example, might be symptomatic of a desire to find bigger and better challenges. It's not new advice that making a drastic change like this could be a case of leaping from the frying pan to the fire. Remembering that the one thing that is constant wherever you work is you may be a good place to start thinking about whether it really is the current job that's a problem, or how you approach it.

Measure your progress

Whatever you've decided to do differently, or to carry on with, do note and review progress. If circumstances change, don't be hard on yourself. Keeping a journal can be helpful, or a separate diary that make brief notes in. Relying on memory may distort how you see your progress. That which is measured, can be managed, after all.

Image: thanks to Jeff Golden, via Flickr