The Case Against New Years Resolutions & What You Should Do Instead

Have you ever wondered what makes someone really successful? What separates the top performers from everyone else? Is it talent? Education? Breeding? Luck?

They all help, but the one trait that the most successful people possess, scientists say, is the ability to control their actions and impulses.

self control

Call it what you want: endurance, grit, willpower, perseverance or persistence, top performers consistently show up to do the work, and find a way to persist even when they’re tired, bored, overwhelmed, or unmotivated. It’s this ability to do what they need to do (and resist the things they shouldn’t) that makes the difference.

I bring this up because it’s New Years Day. It’s a day of fresh starts, clean slates and optimistic resolve.

new years 2015

But resolutions are hard. They require that we become doers. Not just one time doers, but over and over again doers which is easy at first, but when the excitement wears off and we encounter the inevitable bad day, it becomes a struggle to stay committed. It’s why so many New Years resolutions fail.

Instead of Making Resolutions, Try a 30 Day Challenge

In case you haven’t noticed, I like 30 day challenges. The idea is simple: do (or don’t do) one thing every single day for 30 days. It’s a short enough time period to make the challenge realistic, but long enough that the action can turn into a habit. Here are the guidelines:

Rule #1: Commit to the process, and, depending on the nature of your challenge, be prepared for moments of boredom, pain and struggle.

Rule #2: Don’t make excuses. Ever.

Rule #3: Enjoy the results.


The cool thing is that the positive changes we make often have a ripple effect into other areas of our lives. There’s a study where a couple of Australian scientists asked groups of people to exercise self control in a variety of different (and controlled) way such as exercise, money management, and studying. In the end, they all not only improved in their own programs, but they also got better at doing things such as ignoring distractions, procrastinating less, eating healthier and drinking less alcohol.

So that’s my argument for not making New Years resolutions. Absolutely set goals for the things you want to accomplish this year, but please, focus on one thing at a time. You’ll be that much more likely to succeed.

And if you’re now inspired to take on a 30 day challenge of your own, consider some of the below:

easy 30 day challenge ideasmedium 30 day challenge ideashard 30 day challenge ideas

A Big Year Ahead

I’ve thought long and hard about what challenges to take on this year, and I’ve spoken with a number of people about my blog, what they think and what they’d like to see. I’ve heard a similar version of the same thing: Go bigger. Go all out. Raise your game. You can do it.

They’re right.

Looking back, I could have hunkered down during write a novel month and shared a chapter of my book instead of complaining about how terrible it was. And I could have practiced guitar until my fingers bled or taken a few lessons mid-month and shared more of my progress, but I chose to throw my hands up in frustration. Not to say that I didn’t work hard because I did and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. But I did hold back.

I can only move on with a little more wisdom, resolve and the frightening realization that I have a lot of work to do.

a lot of work

I need to learn how to be really, really good at doing stuff… and equally good at not wasting time.  Hence my word of the year: action, and by action I mean massive, meaningful, productive, efficient action.


The January Challenge

Which brings me to my challenge for the month. Over the course of the next 30 days, I’ll be doing this:

New Years Resolution

I’ve decided that I want simple. I want organized. I want less stuff, less clutter, fewer decisions to make and errands to run. I want less time wasted, so that I can have more time in action mode doing things that I care about like spending time with my family, working on this blog and my side projects, experimenting, tinkering, and having fun.

I can’t get things done if I’m surrounded by chaos (cue the chuckles from my family), if I’m feeling lethargic (still battling this) and if I’m overwhelmed by my to do list. This is my way of laying the foundation for the year, of taking control of everything in my life, so that I’m set up to have the energy, mindset and systems in place to get big things done.

Here’s the plan:

Week 1: Detox, purge and simplify

  • Body detox: No gluten, dairy, sugar, legumes, eggs, grains and alcohol and instead, lots of water, veggies, healthy fats, protein and some fruit. It’s similar to what I did last May, and a slightly stricter version of my current diet.
  • Mind detox: 10 minutes a day of meditation, a tamer version of what I did last July.
  • Home purge: Get rid of or donate 30-40% of all of my old clothes, toys and general clutter. I have A LOT of clutter…which I mostly pretend does not exist.
  • Digital Purge & Detox: Delete old photos, files and apps, and limit checking of social media to once per day.

Week 2: Organize and streamline

  • Digital security: reset passwords, review backups and install stricter security measures on all devices.
  • Organize and back up photos, videos and digital media.
  • Review finances: From assets and debts to spending habits and retirement plans, I’m long overdue for a financial checkin.
  • Home organization: Break out the storage bins and labeler and find a home for “the stuff” that remains. Anyone is welcome to help me out.
  • Automation: Identify recurring tasks/activities that can either be automated or need to be attended to on a regular basis (ex: meal planning, subscription services, doggie medication, photo backups etc.)

Week 3: Rebuild & Refine

  • Fix what’s broken: Assess, repair and replace anything that’s broken or expired, like lightbulbs, knobs, stains on my furniture, broken floor panels, socks, water filters etc.
  • Emergency planning: Review our disaster preparedness plan (we live in Earthquake central and I’m paranoid).
  • Beautification: Reward myself with a few environment enhancing buys.

Week 4: Refine

This will be my week to review the systems I put in place and tie up anything overlooked or unfinished, because there’s bound to be something. I’ll also take the time to reassess my routines, time management and productivity tools.

Thanks Again!

Well you’ve made it to the end of this mammoth post. I’ll close by saying thank you for being here, for reading, and for all of your encouraging words. I’ve got lots of good stuff in store this month, including a great giveaway that’s in line with the organization and productivity theme. If you haven’t already, do sign up for the Hackerella newsletter and like the Facebook page (because in the spirit of taking action, I gotta ask!).

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