The beginning of the year is always busy for leaders and entrepreneurs. Between setting goals for your employees and making commitments to business plans, it's likely that your own personal resolutions take a back seat. But there's no reason to wait till the clock strikes twelve to start on your personal resolutions. In fact, by starting early, you might even be more successful at maintaining them throughout the year (and beyond). Here are four simple, science-backed ways to get a jump start on your resolutions.
1. Reflect on your past year.
A new year doesn't mean you have to change everything. There are probably habits and routines you currently follow that are worth continuing. Set aside some time to think about your day-to-day as it stands. You can do this right now. What are some rituals that you really like? What do you do that makes you happy? What are you grateful for? Write it down. Reflecting will enable you to learn about where you stand and provide you with necessary perspective. It will spark ideas around what's missing and what you might want to change. Research also suggests that penning your gratitude and happy moments might make you happier and more optimistic, important qualities as you look ahead to a new year.
2. Do a trial run.
According to behavioral economics, the illusion of progress motivates us to keep at, and achieve our goals. In one experiment, people received buy-ten-get-one-free loyalty cards for a coffee shop. Researchers found that as people got more stamps, they more frequently purchased coffee. The progress motivated them to keep going.
Do you want to sleep more? Or start exercising? Or maybe you want to engage with your team in a new way. Whatever it is, consider doing a test run before the end of the year. This might look like setting a timer to go to bed at 10:30 PM one time this week or going for one ten-minute jog before breakfast. Even a small bit of progress will leap you forward to achieving your goal.
3. Try something new.
Often, we shy away from trying new things because we are scared of their outcomes. At the start of the year, when everything is fresh and unmarred, it can be especially intimidating to plunge into a completely new activity or habit, despite our best intentions. Fear is paralyzing. The benefits of trying something new are powerful, however. When we try something new, it makes us more creative by forcing the brain to think in new ways. It also enables us to overcome fear and to get to know ourselves better--all qualities that you likely want to bring into the new year.
Lessen the pressure by doing something that scares you before the end of the year. If you fail, you can leave it behind in 2017 and if not, it will open doors for you in the coming year. Either way, you'll learn something.
4. Find an accountability partner.
Although resolutions are highly personal, there's value in bringing a trusted partner along on your journey. In one experiment by researchers at the University of North Carolina, it was found that people who shared progress toward their weight loss goals on Twitter were more likely to meet their goals than those who didn't. Sharing our progress also fulfills a basic need for social connection, and provides us with positive reinforcement to keep going.
Before the end of the year, tap a friend or loved one to be your accountability partner. Establish a way for you to communicate progress (be it something simple like sharing Activity on your Apple Watches or something more involved like a weekly email update). Even better, you might find someone with the same goal as you so you can work together (for example, weekly lunches with a colleague who wants to eat healthier or a friend to run with).
The new year is a great time to start anew. But you can't expect any magic--you are driving your own success. Give yourself a head start by setting your resolutions in motion now. This way you can start 2018 on the ground running (or eating healthier, or being a more authentic leader or....).