Published on April, 18, 2023
Authored by Pfizer Team
31st of December: everyone is counting down to when the clock strikes midnight. The party is buzzing, while friends and strangers bond over our collective tradition: the New Year’s resolution. ‘New Year, New Me’ has been the mantra of many a New Year with a Finder survey reporting that 72% of Australians set at least one New Year’s resolution in 2022.1
Fast forward to the present - and it’s now April. But how many of us are still sticking to our New Year’s resolutions? If you answered no – don’t worry, you're not the only one. Research has shown that only 55% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions one month after making them.2 This number falls to 43% after 3 months2, with some estimates indicating only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.1
Sticking to New Year’s resolutions is hard! It’s a commitment to making a long-lasting behavioural change, to break habits that we have held onto for years. So how can we do a better job of sticking to our New Year's resolutions?
Here are some tips to help you keep your New Year's resolutions on track.
Tip 1: Dream big but keep it realistic
Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to run a marathon. But, like many of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, you haven’t left the couch for three years. Will you run a marathon in the next couple of months? Possible… but unlikely. But you can start by running 1 km, then 3km, then 5km, and eventually build to a marathon.
Dreaming big is great – great things come from big dreams, but living up to big dreams can be daunting! Research on procrastination has shown that large, overwhelming goals increase the chances of making excuses to not pursue that goal.2 Chunking the goal down into realistic smaller parts will increase your chances of success.
Tip 2: Get specific
Research has shown that specific goals are more likely to succeed than goals that are vague or abstract.2 So get specific on what you want to achieve, how you will achieve it, and when you will achieve it by (but don’t forget Tip 1 to keep it realistic). Not only will this give you an actionable plan, but it will be measurable to track your progress.
Tip 3: Scheduling is the new black
As the saying goes – we don’t find time, we make time. In our busy schedules, it is easy for us to deprioritise ourselves and let our personal goals fall to the bottom of our to-do list. Scheduling time in your calendar to focus on your resolutions forces you to carve time out for yourself, keeps you on track to hitting your goals, and puts you back on top of your priority list. Showing up for yourself will also help you show up for others.
Tip 4: It takes a village… to achieve your resolutions
As much as you might cringe at the thought of divulging your New Year’s resolutions to someone else, it is so important in achieving your New Year’s resolutions. The journey to achieving your goals comes with ups and downs. Having a network of family and friends to celebrate the wins, support you during the lows, and keep you accountable on your journey will increase your chances of success.
Tip 5: Set up to step up
Digital cues like calendar reminders and alarms are great, but they are also easy to snooze and forget. Physical cues are harder to ignore, keep your goal front of mind, and can remove barriers to getting started to improve your consistency. Try setting up your space the night before or placing physical reminders around the house to make it easier for you to stick to your goal.
For example, if your goal is to take better care of your mental health by journalling for 10 minutes every morning, try laying out your journal and pens next to your coffee station the night before. When you go to get your cup of coffee the next morning, your journal will be conveniently waiting for you and prompt you to take care of your mental health.
The key is to put your cues somewhere obvious and make your goals as accessible as possible.
Tip 6: Stack your habits like you stack your pancakes
We are creatures of habit and the sum of what we do every day. To make your goals as accessible as possible, try habit stacking to build on the momentum of existing habits. Habit stacking is the practice of piggybacking new habits onto old ones. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, outlines a formula of:
" After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]."3
Depending on your New Year’s resolution, this could look like this:
After I brush my teeth, I will put my phone in a different room to charge overnight to stop myself from scrolling on social media before I sleep or when I first wake up.
Before I drink a cup of coffee in the morning, I will drink a glass of water.
When I leave the house for work in the morning, I will take my gym bag with me.
After having lunch, I will take a short walk around the block.
James also recommends picking a habit that matches the frequency of the habit you want to incorporate – for instance stacking a habit you want to do every day onto a habit that you do once a week won’t be helpful.3
To learn more about habit stacking, you can read James’s article on his website here.
Tip 7: Be kind to yourself
Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions is difficult – remember only 8% of us achieve our New Year’s resolutions! So, it’s important to be kind to yourself and to be patient with your progress. There will be times when you make a lot of progress then plateau. Other times it might seem you are hardly making progress at all. Remember that it all takes time. A 2009 study found that it takes around 66 days to form a new habit.4 If you find yourself struggling, remember it’s a process and reach out to your social supports (remember it takes a village – see Tip 4) for help.
We hope these tips will keep you on track to achieve your New Year’s resolutions and become your best self! And if you’ve fallen off the resolution wagon or didn’t get on the wagon in the first place, it’s never too late to get on.
Click here to download the resolutions tip sheet and share this with your family and friends.
-Habit Stacking: How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones by James Clear