It’s perfectly safe for all of us to admit that we sometimes fail to follow our New Year’s resolutions. As I’d always say, acknowledging what went wrong is the first step to making things right.

If we were to explore the why of failing to live by our resolutions, a number of factors crop up. Lack of discipline, inability to keep commitments, and disinterest are just some of them. But the reason might not be that complex in the first place.

What if we fail to follow our resolutions because our process for identifying them is flawed or incomplete? We might think that simply making a list is enough. To be fair, a list is very useful in most cases. It helps us to remember things that we might forget if we just commit them to short-term memory.

A list is rather basic, though. We often add bullets or several tiers to a list, just to be able to record more information. Without that, a simple list has gaps. And our brains are hardwired to reject gaps in information. We want the complete picture, at all times.

So instead of making a simple list of things we’ll start doing in the year ahead, why don’t we categorise? As an example, I’ve begun to imagine my New Year’s resolutions like so:

Start

  • Sleeping and waking earlier
  • Posting on Gentility consistently
  • Sticking to a workout routine

Continue

  • Learning about clothing and footwear craft and quality
  • Taking good care of my long-term material possessions
  • Gradually chipping away at my backlog of movies, series, and games

Stop

  • Consuming too much sugar, sodium, and fat for dinner
  • Collecting too many empty containers and other semi-useful junk
  • Giving in to random snack cravings

I don’t claim this to be a novel way of listing resolutions. A fair number of people probably already make their lists in this or a similar manner. But most of us don’t, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try.

The advantage of listing resolutions in this specific manner becomes obvious when we reflect on why following them can seem like such a chore. It’s because a simple list of resolutions is one mass of generalized information that doesn’t help us answer the following questions:

  • What should I be doing?
  • What am I doing that’s already great?
  • What am I doing that’s not great?

These are questions regarding level of activity. Being able to answer them can help us keep track of which resolutions we’re acting on and which ones we’re not. We can also identify how many habits of each type we have to address at any given time.

For example, if there are a lot of items under the Start category, we need to come up with a plan to follow all of them adequately without feeling overloaded.

Having a crowded Stop category means we have a lot of bad habits to minimise. And a long list under the Continue category indicates that we started doing a lot of new good things recently, and that we must focus on maintaining them.

Those things I listed above actually are my New Year’s resolutions. I’m gonna add a few more under each category though: I’m determined to fill 2019 with opportunities to fulfill this list, and I’d hate for it to run out before the year ends.

How about you? Do you have your own way of improving your process of making New Year’s resolutions? Try making your list up now or in the coming days, and see how many things you can cross off of it 365 days from now.

Cheers, and may 2019 be the year you want it to be!