New Year's Resolutions

New Year's resolutions are often considered to be one of the best ways to promote productivity. Cliche examples of resolutions include "I'll go to the gym five days a week" or, better yet, "I'll finish writing four books this year!" (The second example is obviously hyperbole. If you're writing that much in a year, you're either a professional writer or insane.) However, the other cliche about New Year resolutions is that they're never kept. Ever. So why are we calling 2020 a fresh start if we're all just headed back where we came from?

2020 deserves to be recognized as a milestone year. Fresh starts require goals, and goals are useless if they aren't met. Here are seven helpful tips to help you meet your goals, regardless of whether you're celebrating 2020 or just trying to finish that novel.

1. Set realistic goals.

Writing four full-length novels in a year probably isn't realistic goal. It doesn't matter what's realistic to you - maybe you can write one page per day, or maybe ten, or maybe half. No matter what you can do, make sure you don't overtask yourself, or you've set yourself up for frustration.

2. Don't set too many goals.

Rather than setting goals that involve scheduling every moment of every day, set goals that leave room for free time. That way, you won't feel rushed and it'll be easier to form good habits.

3. Figure out which goals are most important.

Life is busy, and sometimes unexpected things happen. It's important to know which goals can be put on pause, which can be dropped, and which need to be pursued so that you don't have to make this decision under pressure.

4. Schedule your goals.

Make sure you have time for your goals, and if you don't, try to set aside time for them. Writing for just half an hour every day can get you a full-length novel by the end of a year.

5. Reward yourself for meeting goals rather than getting frustrated about not meeting them.

Studies have shown that positive re-enforcement (reward) is far more effective than negative re-enforcement (punishment). If you stick to your hypothetical goal of writing for half an hour every day for a week, maybe you decide to use that half hour for something different (like reading). The only trick here is to make sure that the reward stays a reward and doesn't become a habit.

6. Don't forget about your goals.

Put a Post-it on your mirror, a sign on your forehead, or a Sharpie note on your hand. Far too often, people simply forget about going to the gym, or writing, because they get caught up in something else. Prevent this by setting and keeping regular reminders.

7. Learn to say no to other things.

Let's say you've been sticking to your schedule of writing for half an hour every day for a few weeks. Suddenly, a friend shows up in the middle of your writing time and asks you to help them solve the latest Sudoku puzzle. Say no to extraneous requests like this, or postpone them until later. People often feel guilty for saying no, but in the end, saying no will help increase your productivity and teach you to discern between the important and the unimportant. For more information about learning to say no, I highly recommend the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

In conclusion, the time has come to make New Year resolutions once again. Let's make this the year that changes us for the better and inspires healthy, productive habits!

Speaking of which, if one of your goals involves finding new books to read, consider Stories of the Night, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more!