8 Steps to Picking a New Year’s Resolution in 2020—and Sticking to It!

By Jackie Lam
December 16, 2019

Believe it or not, another year has managed to whiz by. As we round out 2019, it’s time to drum up your New Year’s resolution list for 2020. 

Whether you want to eat clean, take up archery, save more money, or seek better career opportunities, it’s time to step into the new year with gusto. Yet, by about March, you might find yourself slacking off, or forgetting about your resolution altogether.

You aren’t alone. It turns out that only 25% of folks stick to their resolutions one month in, and a mere 8% of people accomplish them.

In this article, we’ll review the most common New Year’s resolutions, how to go about picking your own goal, and most importantly — how to actually stick to your resolution.


Most common New Year’s resolutions 

Let’s see what the most prevalent resolutions are, shall we? 

According to a survey of 2,000 people, the most common ones for 2019 were: 

  • Eat better
  • Exercise more 
  • Save more and spend less (gotta love this one) 
  • Spend more quality time with loved ones 
  • Learn a new skill or hobby 
  • Stop smoking 
  • Drink less 
  • Pick up a book and read more 
  • Look for another job 

As you might have guessed, the majority of New Year’s resolutions have to do with health, diet, money, and general self-improvement. Interestingly enough, about a third of respondents didn’t plan on making a resolution.

Now it’s time for you to decide on the best resolution for you. Once you’ve done that, let’s look at how you can actually accomplish it, shall we? 

How to stick to a New Year’s resolution

1. Start Small 

Trying to do everything all at once will only lead to feelings of overwhelm. In turn, it could make you feel discouraged altogether. Instead, chunk it down. 

For instance, I recently completed a 30-day pushup challenge. The goal is to do 50 pushups by day 30. Mind you, I have historically been very lazy when it comes to exercise. 

The challenge started with five push-ups. And I could hardly believe it: By the end of the month, I was able to do 50 in a day.

Is your top New Year’s resolution a money goal

Start small. If you want to save for an emergency fund, for example, start by saving $20 a week, and go from there. 

2. Focus on one thing at a time

Instead of trying to tackle a long list of things you’d like to achieve, focus on one thing. 

Begin with a small action. And keep it as specific as possible. Otherwise you run the risk of spreading your efforts too thin, and you won’t stick with it.

Let’s say you want to eat healthier. Rather than completely deny yourself of all carbs, start with cutting back on, say, savory snacks like chips. Give yourself a designated time frame to adjust – like a week. During this time, look for healthier substitutes, and see how you respond to cravings. 

3. Believe in the power of automation 

Research reveals that willpower works like a muscle. When you’re tired, stressed, or overwhelmed, that muscle weakens. In turn, it’s hard to stay disciplined. 

Why rely on a flabby muscle? Instead, try automating as much of your goals as possible. Going back to that emergency fund: Start by auto-saving $10 a week. Or if you can swing it, aim to save $3 a day, which roughly adds up to $90 a month. 

4. Use an if/then statement

It turns out that changing your habits can be as simple as starting with an “if/then” statement

Start by recognizing what it is you want to change. For instance, if you want to eat healthier, zero in on what obstacles get in your way.

Take it from me. Tacking a “healthy plate” diagram onto your fridge isn’t enough to get you to load up on veggies come mealtime. So, if you want to eat more simply and clean, figure out your obstacles – like maybe you’re prone to stress eating. 

Then, see if an “if-then” statement can help you change your behavior. For example, try this statement: If I get stressed out, I will then eat one of the healthy snacks in my pantry. I’ll then load up on delicious and healthy nibbles: Nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, carrots and hummus, and what have you. Maybe you have a different struggle, like you’re too busy or plain lazy to cook some nights. And instead of cooking a bunch of veggies and tofu over your stove, you get greasy burgers delivered to your doorstep. 

In this case, try this statement: If I know I’ll be having a busy week, then I will meal prep the weekend before.


5. Get an “accountabuddy”

When I was doing my 30-day pushup challenge, I had two online buddies who also participated. When we finished our set of pushups for the day, we would simply message each other with “Day X, ✅”. This was all I needed to stay focused and committed. 

Along the same lines, during the summer, my friend and I started working on our drafts of our first books. To keep each other in check, we’d send a quick email with a daily word count update. My friend admitted that when I first made this suggestion he thought it would get annoying. But it turned out to be something he looked forward to after a writing sesh. 

Along the same lines, share your goals. Discuss them on social media, tag them appropriately. Making it known to the world will help you stay accountable. 

6. Tweak your environment

If you want to cut back on candy, don’t leave it in the house. If you want to drink water first thing after you wake up, leave a glass of water near your bed before you go to sleep. 

In other words, tweak your environment.

When I was working on fiction, and aimed to write for at least 15 minutes each morning, I would set up my computer at my designated space to only write fiction. It helped me stick to the plan. 

You’ll also want to lower what’s known as the “activation effort.” This is the energy you need to get started doing something, whether it’s doing a yoga series or practicing your drums. 

According to author Shawn Achor, lowering the time to get started by just 20 seconds makes a big difference. So instead of leaving your guitar in your case, set it out, and tune it before you plan on playing it. Or, if you want to get started on a new painting, stretch out the canvas and set up your paint palette so they’re ready to go.

7. Give it time to stick

You know how they say it takes 30 days to form a habit? Well, it looks like the average is closer to 66 days. 

And note, that’s the average. Per a study by a team of researchers in the U.K., it could take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a new habit to form. So give it time. The good news is that if you can skip a day or two, you’ll still be a-okay.

As you might expect, no two habits are created equal. Some habits, such as checking your bank account balance or drinking a glass of water every morning may be harder than say, doing 200 crunches before bedtime. 

8. Keep your goals broad

Those one word intentions are popular for good reason. If a single, specific New Year’s resolution isn’t working for you, consider keeping them broad.

For instance, think of a cluster of goals or a general direction you want to be headed. Can these goals be summed up by a single word? For instance, “abundance,” “curiosity,” or “creativity?” Then drum up a bunch of ways you can express and achieve this goal.  

Know your “why”

Whatever your New Year’s resolutions or intentions might be for 2020, knowing why you want to achieve your goal can help you move in the direction of being a happier, more fulfilled you. 

So, give it a go. Come up with a resolution and use these 8 tips to stick with it!

Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based financial writer whose clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD.

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