1.Make a cue-based plan
Just as cues tell Broadway stars when to step onto the stage, research has shown that adding a cue to your plan helps you remember when to act. Be sure to detail when and where you'll follow through.
If your New Year's resolution is to meditate five days each week, a plan like "I'll meditate on weekdays" would be too vague. But a cue-based plan like "I'll meditate at the office on weekdays during my lunch break" would fit the bill.
Plotting when and where you'll execute on your New Year's resolution jogs your memory when it's opportune and generates guilt if you flake out. Detailed planning can also help you anticipate and dodge obstacles -- so if you plan to meditate during lunch, you'll be sure to decline a proffered lunch meeting.
2.Consider a penalty clause
This may sound sinister, but ensuring you'll face some penalty if you don't achieve your New Year's resolution can work wonders.
One easy way to do this is by telling a few people about your goal so you'll feel ashamed if they check back later and find out you haven't followed through.
A steeper penalty than shame, however, is putting cold hard cash on the table, and there is excellent evidence that self-imposed cash penalties motivate success. You can make a bet with a friend that you'll stick to your New Year's resolution. The logic for why this works is simple. Incentives change our decisions, and penalties are even more motivating than rewards.
3.Make it fun
Most of us strive for efficiency when it comes to achieving our goals. If you want to get fit, you figure a punishing workout will be just the thing to produce rapid progress. If you want to ace a class, you assume long, distraction-free study sessions are key. But research has shown that focusing on efficiency can leave you high and dry because you'll neglect an even more important part of the equation: whether you enjoy the act of goal pursuit.
If it's not fun to exercise or study, you're unlikely to keep at it. But if you get pleasure from your workouts or study sessions, research has found you'll persist longer. And in the end, that's what often matters most to achieving a New Year's resolution.
One way to make pursuing a goal that normally feels like a chore more fun is to combine it with a guilty pleasure. Consider only letting yourself watch your favorite TV show at the gym so you'll start looking forward to workouts. Or only letting yourself drink a mocha latte during study sessions so there is a hook to get you to the library.
4.Allow for emergencies
If you deviate at all from your New Year's resolution, your instinct may be to declare yourself a failure and throw in the towel. Researchers call this the "what the hell effect." Here's what it looks like: You planned to get to bed early every night but couldn't resist staying up late one Friday to watch an extra episode of "Succession." After that, your early-to-bed plans went out the window because "what the hell," you'd already failed.
Happily, there is a way to dodge this fate. By setting tough goals (like a 10 pm bedtime every night) but giving yourself one or two get-out-of-jail-free cards each week, you can get better results than by setting either tough or easy goals without wiggle room, research has revealed.
5.Get a little help from your friends
Spending time around high achievers can boost your own performance. If your New Year's resolution is to run a marathon or write a book, you'd be wise to start hanging around friends who've made it to the finish line (literally or figuratively) and can show you how it's done. You'll pick up a bit just by spending time together because you'll be inclined to conform to their patterns of behavior.
Strangely enough, there is evidence that coaching friends with shared goals can improve your success rate, too. When you're on the hook to give someone else tips on how to achieve, it boosts your self-confidence. It also forces you to be introspective about what works in ways you might not otherwise.