Claims of a “new year, new me” fizzle out by mid-January. By February, strict, self-enforced regulations are beginning to lose their potency. By March, many of those New Year resolutions have been more or less forgotten about and will be replaced with an insistence on summer health and travel goals by April. So, what happened to the influx of inspiration to self-improve that comes with each Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve?
We set expectations too high. We made too many goals and tried to act on them all at once. We got stuck in a rut. The list could go on and on, but one correlating factor remains: life always finds a way to get in the way. If you’ve taken just about any science class ever, you learned that correlation does not equal causation. While speaking in absolutes is generally frowned upon in scientific circles, it is pretty safe to say that the connecting factor between all these variables point directly to our hypothesis—if you set a resolution, life will get in the way.
But if the inevitable is just that, if we are more or less destined for failure, how are we expected to keep growing as people?
I didn’t set any real resolutions this year. I learned at a young age that without real conviction, these resolutions will either end up partially-started or halfway finished, and I was sick of letting myself down (and occasionally having to explain to people that, no, I never quite got that novel started). A lot of the time, my resolutions were too big. It’s difficult to complete these plans when you can’t even think of how to start them. So, instead of a list of resolutions to complete throughout the year, I’ve started making lists for the day/week.
I start with what things need to be done by the end of the day. For a hypothetical list, let’s say I have a quiz, a short story and an article for Her Campus due. These are the things I place on top of the list so that they are prioritized. Then, I list the things that should be finished within the next few days—perhaps I should fill out a study guide, edit someone’s short story, and edit a video. Finally, I list the things that should be done within the week but don’t necessarily have to be done immediately—like write a story, work on some music and paint. As I finish things I cross them off, and at the end of the day I erase the things I have completed and add new items in a different color.
Not only is this super helpful when it comes to being a college student and keeping track of work, but it helps keep me productive when I have “nothing else to do.” That part is in quotes because, really, when you have nothing to do, chances are you have something to do. Instead of being intimidated by a list that says to “Read 24 books by December,” my list just tells me to “Read.” It doesn’t really matter how much I read, or how long I read, just as long as I read something.
Courtesy: Orange Crate Art
I’m not saying to scrap your New Year’s resolutions in favor of your daily tasks. I didn’t make any official resolutions, sure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t grander things I want to accomplish this year. I’m graduating in May, so if there weren’t bigger goals, there would be a problem. I’m just saying that your New Year’s resolutions should not be the end all, be all. Keep these things in a little journal and keep track of them, certainly, but don’t discount the little things. Be proud of all your accomplishments, because a step in the right direction is a step that matters. What counts is that you are making progress.