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How to Make Smart New Year’s Resolutions 

woman jumping over large "2021" at dawn

It’s that time again. We’ll see our social media flooded with “new year, new me” posts and watch as people commit to countless resolutions for a new year. After a particularly troubling year for many, it might be best to leave that tradition in the past.

However, if you find that you enjoy making resolutions each new year, there are some simple guidelines you should follow for how to make smart New Year’s resolutions. 

Why New Year’s Resolutions End in Failure 

There are three reasons, according to psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, that approximately 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned in the first month. 


  1. They aren’t specific enough. 
  2. They aren’t actually relevant to us. 
  3. They are negatively worded. 


Resolutions often set us up for failure – changing our habits is hard

That’s because our habits are not just habits. They are deeply ingrained behaviors that have roots in our psychological, neurobiological, and social systems. 

Resolutions usually fall into three categories: to stop doing something, to stop avoiding something, or to begin doing something. All of these resolution types go against who you are as a person. 

Instead of making another New Year’s resolution, we suggest taking stock of the past year. 

Especially this year. 

Write everything down – the new things you experienced or learned, the people you met, the books that you read, and what you accomplished. We promise you – you’ll feel more optimistic about the future than if you opt to take the resolutions route. 

However, if you feel you are motivated through resolutions, understanding how to make smart New Year’s resolutions is crucial to your success. 

How to Make Smart New Year’s Resolutions: Choosing the Right Resolution 

One of the biggest parts of deciding how to make smart New Year’s resolutions is choosing the right resolution for you, your goals, your life, and your capacity to take on new or extra things. 

Take inventory of your day-to-day life and decide what you have the capacity to take on. If you want to read more books in 2021, having a realistic understanding of how many new books you can actually read will help you make an achievable resolution. 

Additionally, you must make a resolution that is relevant to you. Resolutions that are influenced by friends, family members, and society will not succeed. You should only resolve to try something new if it’s truly personally important. 

If no one else were paying attention, would you still want to change? 

If the answer is no, then that is not the resolution for you. 

2021 calendar with coffee cup and pencil

How to Make Smart New Year’s Resolutions: 5 Tips 

One of the biggest challenges people faced this year was making the shift from working in an office setting to working from home. We created makeshift offices in our living rooms, had to learn how to guide our children through online learning, and we didn’t have a ton of time to adapt to it all. 

For many, this change in how we work decreased our ability to interact across the office. We no longer had to trek across our office to refill our coffee cups – instead, our Keurig machines were just fifteen steps away in the kitchen. When mysterious All Hands on Deck meetings showed up in our calendars, we didn’t have to slink across the workspace to chat with the most notorious office gossip about what the topic may be. We only had to Slack her. 

Being sedentary for long periods of time is not good for your health. Sitting at your desk for long periods of time puts you at an increased risk for obesity, high blood pressure, joint issues, and back pain. 

Unfortunately, with the spike in Coronavirus cases and a new strain popping up in the US, working from home will likely be the norm for the remainder of 2021 as well. In fact, remote working will be a bigger part of how teams work for the foreseeable future. 

A SMART goal is used to guide you through the challenges of goal-setting. This criteria is used in a number of industries and ways – such as in project management and employee performance – to create realistic, achievable, and scalable goals. For our purposes, we’ll be using the SMART criteria for personal development – moving around more while we work from our home offices (or couch, bed, patio). 


Your resolutions must be specific and should answer several of the following questions: 

  • Who? 
  • What? 
  • When? 

Simply setting a goal to “move around more” is too vague. Instead, set a goal like, “I will take a ten-minute break every hour of every work day to walk through every room in my house.” 

To help hold yourself accountable, set a timer. Many smartphones and smartwatches have the ability to alert you to get up and go. 


You must be able to quantify whether or not you are making progress towards your goal. 

By setting the aforementioned specific goal, you already have your measurable. Moving every hour for ten minutes is measurable. 


This is where the understanding of your personal capacity to take on a new project, goal, or dream comes in. You must truly understand when a goal is simply unachievable. 

Let’s say, instead of getting up to walk every hour, you made a goal to do 20 pushups every hour. There are a number of things that could prevent you from completing this goal every hour – a phone call may interrupt you, your puppy might think it’s play time, or it may just be simply too hard. 

Setting an achievable goal is paramount to your success. Of course, achievability is in the eye of the goal-setter. 


Realistic resolutions are closely related to achievable resolutions. Realistically, are you able to leave your desk every hour? Maybe not. Perhaps you have several video conference calls daily and you don’t have the ability to just get up and walk around whenever the timer goes off. 

If your goal is not realistic, you are less likely to follow through. Instead of walking through your house every hour, commit instead to go for a walk before you start work, during your lunch break, and when you’ve signed off for the day. 

When setting your goal, answer the following questions: 

  • Is my goal within reach? 
  • Am I able to commit to this goal? 

If you can answer these two questions with an honest and resounding “yes” then you are on the right track. 


Your goal must have a clear start date and end date. For New Year’s resolutions, the start date and end date is implied. You will start on January 1st, 2021 and end on December 31st, 2021. 

However, it is also important to have other definition timestamps. In our examples, the timeliness is clearly defined: “I will take a ten-minute break every hour of every work day.”

Activating Your Resolution

Be kind to yourself when setting your goals and be cognizant of how you’ve framed your resolution. If you are prone to feeling guilt, perhaps frame your goal with an “I will try…” versus a definitive. 

Use your resources – is there someone in your life that can help hold you accountable? If you have a partner or a trusted co-worker, ask them to help you stay on track. 

Write your goal down and place it somewhere you can see it. Use a Post-It note, put a reminder on your phone, or stick it in your calendar. 

New Year’s resolutions are not always the best way to accomplish a goal. However, by setting yourself up for success by understanding how to make smart New Year’s resolutions, you will have a better chance of achieving them. 


Happy New Year!

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