3 Ways to Not Fuck Up a New Year’s Resolution

3 Ways to not fuck you your new year's resolution - a metaphor

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions. I figure there’s nothing all that special about a new year, and there’s no good reason you can’t make up your mind to do anything you want any day of the year. April 12th, October 27th: all of these are great days to get started towards something new. No need to wait for fireworks.

Still, there is something to it. Rebooting a cycle does seem to force us into a state of reflection, for better or worse. Us humans, we love patterns, and the new year symbolizes a new swath of time to mold into something new, a new lump of time with a beginning, middle, and end.

So for the moment, I’ll do my best not to be cynical, and see if we can leverage this holiday for our own benefit.

Today I’ve got three tips. Three things that I think will help you with the resolute part of your resolution.

Here we go.

TIP ONE: Don’t set definable goals

This probably seems counter-intuitive.

So, I know everybody wants you to set these smart goals that are specific and attainable, but I’m not sure how great of an idea that really is for this purpose here.

To be clear, there’s nothing really wrong with setting SMART goals in the short term. Or maybe at work? I mean, they make sense if you’re building out a project plan for your new website. In that case, by all means, use quantitative like plans that measure these types of things.

But a resolution isn’t really a project plan. It’s a resolution. A commitment.

Most new year’s resolutions aren’t one-offs. They’re meant to be full lifestyle changes.

They’re things like:

  • I’ll exercise and eat better so I can stop being unhealthy
  • I’ll learn guitar
  • I’ll spend more time with the family
  • I’ll do that thing I’ve always wanted to do

Yeah, you can use project plans as you get to the more tactical elements of achieving these changes. If you’ve read my previous blog posts around scheduling your life, you’ll see that’s exactly what I do.

But lifestyle changes are big, sea changes in how we understand ourselves in relationship to the world we live in. They’re not work assignments.

So for now, let your resolution be a little…ambiguous.

Instead of, “Weigh what I weighed in high school” how about “Eat healthier and workout more.”

Instead of “Be able to play the Free Bird guitar solo by April,” how about “Start learning to play guitar.”

And instead of “Come home from work by 5 every day,” just say “I’ll spend more time with my family.”

TIP TWO: Put resources towards your resolutions

If you’re like most people, you’re two biggest scarcities are time and money. Now between those two, people are far more inclined to be motivated by time than money.

At first glance, that might seem a bit strange, but think about it.

Let’s look at the gym. How many people do you know that sign up for a gym? They sign a contract, commit to giving the gym 50 bucks a month for a year, and then what? They never go.

Why is that?

Because time is intrinsically linked to active motivation. Think about how many times you dropped your last dollar on a big mac because buying food at the grocery store and making it just seemed like a pain. Time forces you to commit effort. Money doesn’t.

Time is kind of a big deal. In fact, I typically argue that it’s the component that’s going to make you succeed or fail.

Because of this, in my opinion, it’s critical to only have resolutions that you can regularly commit TIME too.

Types of time

There are only two types of time relevant to our story today.

  • Time you don’t want to use
  • Time you can’t use.

You can check out my calculator to see how I determine my actual free time to invest in hobbies.

The long and short is that you take all the time you’re alive during a week; subtract work, sleep, familial responsibilities; divide that by a factor, and what you’re left with is the time you’re probably wasting staring at the TV or facebooking.

The obvious next step is to consider a plan to invest that time towards the resolution you’ve proposed.

Let’s say you have a ton of time! Great, commit those hours to working on your project and enjoy your success.

Let’s say you have no time! Fine, you’re probably living a full life. Commit those extra hours to working on your project, and budget expectations correctly.

The point here is continual progress buttressed by the reality you live in.

Saying you’ll spend 10 hours a week at the gym when you’ve got a job, kids, and a bustling social calendar isn’t reasonable and will set you up for failure.


Just a quick note on money. If your resolution is something like yacht racing around the world and you’re flipping burgers at McDonald’s, maybe consider a resolution along the lines of “make more money.”

Tip 3: Set as many additive resolutions as subtractive one

We love adding shit to our to-do list. Who knows why, but it’s true. I’m super guilty of it.

Unfortunately, this is largely the reason we never get anything done. Our lists get so bloated, we run out of time and money to do anything. And anything we do try to do, we have such minimal resources to devote to it, we end up half-assing, and inevitably failing.

One of the hallmarks of success is the ability to cut the fat.

This is probably a post for another time, but a lot of that fat looks oh so close to the real meat.

Accepting this as a true premise, we should consider not just what we want to do in the New Year, but what we DO NOT want to do.

Here’s an idea. For every additive new year’s resolution you make, i.e. Go to the gym, learn the guitar, etc. Why not shoot to also have a subtractive resolution. One that takes away from what you’re going to do.

For example: Only watch 1 hour of tv a day. Don’t watch football all day on Sunday. Only go out with your friends 1 day a week. Stop reading romance novels. Delete your facebook account. Quit your softball league.

Audit! Relentlessly and angrily. Make a list and consider the relative value you’re getting out of each of your time and money expenditures.

It will hurt, but if you’re overloaded, chances are that you’re inefficient and reckless with your time.


Those are my 3 suggestions. Take ‘em or leave ’em! In my next post I’ll go over some of my own new year’s resolutions and the examples I’ll be taking on in the new year.

Happy 2018!


3 Ways to Not Fuck Up a New Year\'s Resolution

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