How to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Manageable

Some people think the hype over New Year's resolutions is silly — why not make decisions to improve yourself at any time of year? While they may have a point in that you can make changes any time, the excitement and the "blank slate" feeling of the new year can be great motivators. Still, even if you psych yourself up with a "new year new me" mentality and hang a list of perfectly-penned resolutions on your bulletin board, you might not be motivated enough to actually follow through. I propose a middle ground between not even trying in the first place and setting your sights so high it's easy to give up. Hamilton's a rigorous and often high-pressure environment, so if you put a lot of pressure on yourself to do extra things, you might get discouraged quickly. Cut yourself some slack, figure out what's best for you (not your roommate, your best friend, or some lifestyle guru on Instagram), and take some steps in the right direction! If you start small, you'll be more likely to actually form good habits and work up to doing more if you think it's necessary. And even if you think resolutions are dumb, consider choosing a couple aspects of your life to enhance; it can only make things better. Here are a few tips on making some common resolutions more manageable: 

Getting in shape

If you (like me) are starting from a point of rarely working out, it's probably not realistic to tell yourself you're suddenly going to start going to the gym for an hour 6 days a week. Start with planning to work out 3-4 days a week, for thirty minutes or so. As you get a feel for what you have the time and motivation for, increase your frequency and duration. More importantly, figure out what kind of working out is best for you, and what time. If you often find the day getting away from you, get up a little earlier and do it before class. If Wednesday nights tend to have the least homework, dedicate some time then. Decide if you want company from friends, or if you want to combine a workout with some me-time. Experiment with the gym, Glen walks, fitness classes, and online videos in the privacy of your room. Or, join a club sport that you've had your eye on! 

Drinking less

College campuses are rife with partying, and anyone here knows that it can sometimes go too far. But, though aggressive peer pressure is usually just a thing in the movies, it can be easy to be dragged into events where alcohol is plentiful and your friends are encouraging you to drink. If you want to tone it down, try limiting yourself to one night a week. Chances are, you're not the only one of your friends who has this goal. Get together for a movie marathon or some other dry activity one night, and try different strategies to pace yourself if/when you do partake. Make weak mixed drinks instead of taking shots, and tally them on your wrist to keep track or check the time on your phone to make sure you're not having more than one an hour. 

Saving money 

If you're in the habit of spending a lot of pocket money, you'll probably find it hard to stop all at once. Allow yourself one or two days a week to spend money on food, one of the worst offenders. The rest of the time, stick to your meal plan or practice your cooking skills in a dorm or suite kitchen. When you do spend money, put all your coins (or even anything under a $10) that you get in change aside and eventually deposit it. There are even apps that will round up your change for online purchases and save it! If you're prone to online shopping, try finding other things to distract yourself with when you're tempted to window shop the entire Internet. This distraction will probably be more effective if it's not on your computer or phone, because you won't be able to just open another tab. Finally, pick some other goal for the month, and reward yourself with one reasonable purchase for your accomplishment! 

Studying more 

Like I said, Hamilton is rigorous. Some people might come back from break reenergized and ready to get back in the swing of things. Others might not be so ready. At some point or another, everyone could use a little more dedication to their academics. Try setting aside half an hour or so every day  to to knock back some of the non-essentials you told yourself you could get away with not doing (like the reading you can maybe fake your way through talking about, or that cover letter draft that you should finish in time for someone to look at before you send it off). And make yourself do at least a little of your work in advance instead of always starting things the night before they're do. Set aside a block of time for only that (be it a project, a paper, studying for a test, etc.). It will be easier to get started if you can look forward to stopping soon, and you may even find that you're motivated to do even more than you originally planned. Either way, you'll be in better shape come t minus twelve hours to the deadline. Finally, be honest with yourself about how you best study. Don't convince yourself you get more work done with friends if you actually just want to procrastinate by talking to them, but on the other hand it might be motivational to do work with a very studious friend that you can trust not to distract you too much while also making the work more enjoyable. 

Less screen time and/or social media 

While smart phones might not be the brain cell-killing enemies some say they are, it isn't good to spend too much time with your eyes glued to them. If you find yourself ignoring your friends in favor of Buzzfeed listicles or going to bed an hour later because of dramatic Twitter threads, you may want to cut down. One thing that can help is deleting certain apps from your phone. You can still access the websites, of course, but the couple of extra steps to get there might make you rethink. Also, turn off most of your notifications so you aren't distracted so frequently. You'll also be less tempted by your phone if you have other things to focus on. Try setting aside a short amount of time every day to put your phone aside and do something you enjoy. Start reading for pleasure more, or practice cooking or drawing or something else that interests you. Get your friends or significant other involved and plan dates or group activities where you all limit your phone usage. You can even try replacing certain phone functions with other things, like getting a separate alarm clock instead of sleeping with your phone right next to you, and carrying a mini notebook rather than opening your phone to jot something down and getting sucked down the rabbit hole.

There are plenty more resolutions that you may have, but you get the gist: start small, think about what works best for you, and don't pressure yourself too much! Remember not to compare yourself to others, either. Whatever your goal, good luck!