How to Create Successful New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again, time for New Year's resolutions!  And yet, while many scoff at setting annual resolutions based on the failure rate attached to this premise, having a catalyst for self-reflection and growth is vital to success in both our personal and professional lives. 

One of our co-founders, Daniel Schmactenberger, recently put together a strategy and list of his favorite resources for creating successful New Year’s Resolutions, or better yet, life planning in general. 

Why a Life Planning Template for New Year's Resolutions?

A common denominator in every aspect of life is time. And your time is a fundamentally fixed resource. You can be more effective and efficient, leveraging your time with the support of other people, but you can’t actually accrue more hours in a day.

Any area of your life (health, family, emotions, friends, romance, finance, purpose, etc.) doing poorly creates suffering. Factoring entropy, each area needs a certain amount of time/energy/attention just for maintenance. Even more, energy is needed for growth.

Things that aren’t tended to proactively tend to break down, resulting in a reactive response. Planning reduces chaos, and proactive time management produces better results than reactive energy.

Also, if we aren’t clear with what is most meaningful to us and prioritize those things, it is easy to be reactive to the demands/desires/opportunities of the world and not live our own life fully.

Factoring this, it can be very helpful to map all the areas of your life, identify needs and priorities in each category, and plan your life/goals factoring the limitations of time accordingly.

How to Identify New Year's Resolution Ideas

Bucketing life into categories helps simplify, prioritize, and results in clarity. It’s generally a good idea to have a list of personal categories and professional/work/mission categories. All categories matter and all need time. All segments can have individual visions, goals, priorities, and underlying meaningfulness. All are worth planning.

The following are examples of how someone might bucket their life:

Personal

  • Family
  • Romantic/intimate relationship
  • Friends/community
  • Physical health and fitness
  • Emotional/psychological/ spiritual well being/ self-development
  • Learning/education
  • Play/creativity

Professional

  • Investments
  • Company A oversight
  • Company B product development
  • Advisory relationships
  • Networking
  • Philanthropy


Note: While personal categories tend to be similar for most people; professional categories are often very different.

For each bucket, you can then fill out the following to clarify what matters to you, why it matters, and create an action plan. Let's take the category "family" for example." Ask yourself the following:

  1. Ultimate Vision: What is your ultimate vision for this area of your life? What would your ideal look like if you thought it was possible?
  2. Ultimate Purpose: Why does this area of life matter to you? What are the core values supporting it? What is meaningful for you here? Why is this essential for your dharma?
  3. Resources: Who could help you accomplish your vision? What training or education might be involved? What hires? What reminders? What other resources can support your vision?
  4. Three Pillars: If you were limited to three action items for this category to thrive, what would they be?
  5. Self: Who do you want to be involved in this area of your life? What kind of person will that be? How do they relate to your dharma and deepest self?

Setting and Achieving Your New Year's Resolutions

The next step is to turn each category into attainable, annual goals aka New Year's resolutions. Ask yourself the following in regards to annual goals: What are my tangible goals for this category, towards your ultimate vision, that you believe you can achieve in the next year? Then break the year goals down into actions by quarter. For example: 

  • Q1: Actions, milestones, goals
  • Q2: Actions, milestones, goals
  • Q3: Actions, milestones, goals
  • Q4: Actions, milestones, goals


After each quarter, the following quarters should be updated based on your progress.

After completing each step for all categories, begin looking at Q1 goals, estimating how many hours, on a weekly basis, you will need to devote to each goal's success. This will involve further trimming and prioritization. However, the result is a basic schedule that factors everything meaningful to you with clarity so that you can reach your goals.

Rules of Thumb to Reach Your Goals

Below are a few tips to keep you focused and progressing towards reaching both your long term and short-term goals. 

Prioritize enough time and energy to maintain forward progress. If you can avoid backsliding, life is so much better. Major progress in any category requires significant attention and prioritizing. Beyond maintenance, pick a few areas at a time that you want to devote the most energy to. Factor the lens of a balance between being, doing, and becoming in each category. For more on that read How to Live a Meaningful Life.

Find balance. Balance between structure and responsiveness, planning and spontaneity, intentionality and receptivity, discipline and wildness is essential to success.The goal is to have both sides of these dialectics enhance each other rather than conflict. Factor this in your structure and planning.

Imagine your reflections on your proverbial future death bed. What will you wish you had done differently? What will be most meaningful? Factor that when planning your next year.

Check in with yourself. Consult your high level (yearly and quarterly) goals when planning each day, week and month. month, week, This will will keep your intentionality and prioritization clearly in focus. 

Track progress. Track progress to verify you're still on track to reach your goal and to identify areas that need further attention. Learn from both.

Get support. If you can, get someone to support you with this process (upfront and ongoing).

The Year End Review: A Powerful Process

Another powerful process that's valuable is a year-end review. Take time to reflect on your last year. Make a list of all the highlights (new experiences, positive experiences, meaningful relationships, accomplishments, things you are proud of). Make the time to take all these in, sit with them, and learn from them.

Next, identify challenges from the previous year. For each, write down what you learned from it. Writing each challenge out provides clarity and may result in overlooked solutions. If not clear, take the time to contemplate any obstacles. Then look at this list of lessons and the value and potency within them. Journal about what life looks like next year, when you've applied all your new learnings. Take these into your next year visioning process.

A life seen this way (in highlights and lessons), begets a life of more highlights and lessons. 

Resources and Tools for Reaching Your Goals and Life Planning

Some of the structures mentioned above were a result of inspiration from Tony Robbins course called, Time of your Life.  We also found this Planner helpful.