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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Why I Don’t Make Any New Year Resolutions (And Neither Should You)

Why I Don’t Make Any New Year Resolutions (And Neither Should You) post image

End of the year is the time for many of us to make some resolutions for incoming 12 months. Not for me though. A few reasons why I don’t make new year resolutions.

  • People don’t follow their new year resolutions. They just don’t. There’s something about them which makes us hopeless wishful thinkers and we set up goals we won’t achieve.
  • Most of new year resolutions are nothing creative. Not even close. We try to lose weight or eat healthier over year and well, there’s no change. I rarely hear about something really interesting set as new year resolution.
  • Why 12-month period should be fixed? Well, I might have set some goals for a quarter. Or for 5 years. In the former case I can achieve the goal on December and I will still feel like a failure. In the latter, no matter how hard I try I won’t get it by the end of the next year.
  • What’s so special about New Year anyway? Is it some magic date which raises odds of successfully achieving a goal we set then? Didn’t think so. Anyway, most of “eat healthier” success stories happen not because they were launched at the end of the year but because a doctor told us to change the diet.
  • It’s just a habit and a bad one. We make new year resolutions because everyone does. We fail to fulfill them because (surprise, surprise) everyone does. It’s like a game no one really cares about as far as it’s started. “What are your new year resolutions? Drink less alcohol? Nice. Here are mine. Now forget about them and go get some beer.

So no, I don’t make any new year resolutions and my advice is neither should you. What should you do then? Well, you make consider Alistair’s method which is fun. Or you may forget about this whole New Year thing and make resolutions whenever you feel like it.

It doesn’t matter if today is Dec 31 or May 17 or Sep 6. There are days in our lives which are for some reason meaningful and we feel an urge to change something about us. This is the best time to make some brief planning and set some resolutions for… well, for long enough to be able to achieve them and short enough to make them a challenge.

My last two resolutions were made at the beginning of December because this was a good time for me to make them. One is short-term – deadline is set by the half of January. Another is long-term – somewhere during fall 2010 I should know whether I’m doing fine. Neither one would suit January-to-December time span.

I didn’t even make them public because there’s one more thing about new year resolutions: no one really cares about yours except you alone. We’re so focused on ourselves we often forget about that simple fact. We aren’t rock stars or something to have hundreds of fans who just can’t wait to hear about our plans.

So don’t force yourself to make any resolution by the end of the year. But don’t wait with any to Dec 31 either. Make them whenever they’re meaningful and you’re motivated to follow them.

in: personal development

3 comments… add one

  • Piotr Leszczyński December 31, 2009, 5:55 am
  • Dr. John A. Estrella December 31, 2009, 9:18 am

    I prefer to call them as goals instead of New Year’s resolutions. My goals are divided into personal, professional, financial and family categories. I am not sure if there is really a difference in terms of terminology. But, by writing them down, I can compare my goals against the actual results. Although I don’t necessarily set hard dates, there is an implied deadline of year end. Every quarter or so, I check off the ones that I accomplished, delete some, add some, and I sometimes carry over the rest for the following year.

    What I find interesting is if I look at my goals on a yearly basis, it is usually a big fat failure because I only achieve anywhere from 0% to 33%. However, if I look back at my goals over the years, as of today, it is as high as 88% for my 2006 goals.

    Goals achieved at the end of each year

    2003 6/24 = 25%
    2004 7/19 = 37%
    2005 6/21 = 29%
    2006 5/17 = 29%
    2007 7/21 = 33%
    2008 0/17 = 0%
    2009 0/13 = 0%

    Original goals achieved as of today

    2003 18/24 = 75%
    2004 16/19 = 84%
    2005 16/21 = 76%
    2006 15/17 = 88%
    2007 10/21 = 48%
    2008 5/17 = 29%
    2009 0/13 = 0%

    If I did not set these “New Year Resolutions”, I’ll have no way of measuring my progress and improving my success rate. As a side note, some of my goals were huge undertakings such as earning a PhD, publishing three books, passing several industry certification exams, learning to scuba dive with my sons, going skydiving, visiting several countries, improving my house and so on. So, I think it is important that we set our yearly goals so that we can measure our progress and improve our success rate.

    Based on the data above, I now know to divide my goals into manageable tasks (similar to a WBS) that can be accomplished within a year. Otherwise, my annual results will always be disappointing and discouraging. So, instead of saying “learn to speak French” (which can take several years), I’ll put down “enroll in a French course”, “run six 5K races” vs. “lose weight”, and “pay off one credit card” vs. “eliminate debt”. I also learned that it is acceptable to substitute one result/achievement over another goal (e.g., getting appointed vs. elected for a leadership position); to expire a goal because it is no longer interesting or relevant to my current situation; and to not fret if I don’t accomplish a goal at end of the year.

    Five years from now, if you look back, as I have done here, you will realize that you have accomplished your most important dreams. And if you don’t dream, you’ll cease to live.

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 3, 2010, 7:47 am

    John,

    I don’t advise to stop planning goals or have no dreams. What doesn’t make much sense for me is setting them at the end of the year. I don’t want to wait with my dream to New Year Eve.

    What you write about your goals is very interesting. This basically mean you underestimate time and/or effort needed to achieve your goals.

    Anyway – making a kind of WBS for every resolution ant tracking them on a regular basis definitely raise chances to be successful, but you’re the first person I know who tracks it so carefully.

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