How to make New Year’s resolutions that actually work

2021 has been quite a year. Lockdowns, vaccines and new lockdowns. It undoubtedly hasn\’t improved our productivity compared to last year.

So often at New Year, we make resolutions for significant change (or even small change), fully meaning to do them (or at least part of them) … but then, as the year wears on, little changes in reality, and we find ourselves mysteriously back at square one this time next year…

It’s a bit like snakes and ladders.

So why is it so hard to actually keep our well-meant resolutions?

What stops us from taking those steps to better health, happiness and productivity … and, more importantly, keeping them going through the year?

I think the main issues for most of us are:

  • Doing the ‘right’ thing is harder than not doing it (otherwise we’d already be doing it, wouldn’t we?)
  • New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on largeish changes
  • It’s just too hard, with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to keep up with large changes consistently
  • So these changes start to wither and die gradually

My suggestion for this year:

Is to focus on small achievable steps on a daily and weekly basis, in the firm assurance that, if we do this consistently and well, the year will take care of itself.

The small is the key to the big,

And every single thing we do on a daily basis is a small step.

So, if we can change and improve a few small steps on a daily and weekly basis, we will start to REALLY nail it!

Here are some small suggestions that I hope you find helpful.

1. No Multitasking — It Doesn\’t Work

They always say that men can\’t multitask, and that\’s true. But so can\’t women. As we try to do multiple tasks simultaneously, we surrender productivity.

Our brains are designed to be perfect at things — but only when we are entirely focused on that one thing. There has been a lot of research on multitasking, and all the conclusions are pretty much the same: it hinders your results.

Focus on one thing at a time: avoid distractions by turning machines off, telling people you’re in a meeting and sticking to your own timescales.

This is EASY to do and is only a SMALL step.

2. Split large jobs into small steps

Have you ever been faced with a large project that just seems too large to cope with – so you end up putting it off until it becomes urgent, and then you have a crisis on your hands?

Of course: it’s normal!

One of the things you can try working on in 2022 is slicing up big tasks into multiple smaller ones: step by step.

Write the project down on its own piece of paper – (on real paper is easier than electronically) – then start by writing out the first 2 or 3 steps – then keep repeating as you carry on.

Completing smaller tasks is more accessible, and you feel much more fulfilled after finishing each step.

So you end up turning that massive looming unachievable project into a series of small achievements that boost and encourage you.

This is EASY to do and is only a SMALL step.

3. Wake up a little bit earlier

OK: I know this isn’t going to be popular, but please read first before you decide to ignore this!

Normally when you wake up, you start out with a rush: a rush to get ready and out to work on time.

What if you purposefully woke up 10 minutes earlier and were self-disciplined enough to spend that time

  • going for a short walk,
  • or doing some stretching exercises,
  • or focusing and meditating:

10 minutes of pure joy and vitality to start the day …

Just for you and no one else!

How amazingly different would the rest of your day be?

And, yes, of course it’ll be hard to do this the first few times: but, if you’re self-disciplined enough to actually do this, after a short while it’ll be something you look forward to each day.

And you may even wonder how you ever got though the day before without doing it!

And one last thing: if you wake up 10 minutes earlier, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier – we live in a chronically sleep-deprived age: getting enough sleep is a vitally important health and effectiveness habit.

This is a BIT HARDER to do and is still only a SMALL step.

4. Plan your day the night before

Creating helpful planning is everything when you want to be more productive — as Churchill said: ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’.

When I don\’t have a plan I think about the things I need to do all the time — it stresses me out, wastes time, destroys perspective and costs productivity.

Make a list of what you’ll be doing tomorrow, the night before:

Doing it the night before has 3 huge advantages:

  1. Your mind is already aware of what’s on your agenda
  2. Put it all on paper and you won’t get a disturbed night and you’ll wake up refreshed and positive
  3. While you’re asleep your mind will be sub consciously considering the issues

What does this list look like?

Here are the key steps:

  1. What do I WANT to get done tomorrow – what’s important to ME?
  2. What’s on my ‘to do list’ left over from yesterday that I’m still happy to be on the list.
  3. What’s my agenda: when will I do what I’m planning: when will I have ‘waiting’ time to use more productively?

And then, MOST IMPORTANTLY, categorise each task into 3 categories:

  • A: Important and Urgent: these need to be prioritised and scheduled.
  • B: Important but not Urgent (yet): these need to be planned.
  • C: Not Important, but Urgent: put them on the list and fit them in if you want to (to help others out) or tell the other people that you’re not doing them, and why.

This is EASY to do and is only a SMALL step.

5. Taking Breaks To Energize

Once you’re busy for a long time, you might feel empty from the inside. That’s your signal to take a break; you need to regain your energy.

When I work straight for 4–6 hours without breaks, I’m so tired afterwards that I struggle to be productive.

So take an effective break, go for a walk, have a drink, a (healthy) snack — anything to get your mind off your work.

And do this multiple times a day, especially when you’re working from home. Work out a break schedule for yourself and keep yourself to it — it’s essential for your productivity and health.

This is a BIT HARDER to do and is only a series of SMALL steps.

6. Don’t Take Every Job

People who take every single job offer they get can be overworked and stressed: this helps no one.

When you want to be effective, it’s important to remember that when you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re also saying ‘no’ to a million other possible things you could be doing with that time.

Keep asking yourself which projects are beneficial to you and your roles (in and out of work) and won’t bring down your overall effectiveness.

OK, so you want more money: but it’s much better to slow down a little, do what you do excellently, and therefore make yourself more valuable: then more money will flow!

The other issue people say is ‘How can I say no – especially to a customer or a boss?’.

My suggestion: work on this step by step: find words and ways: for example, you could say something like:

  • ‘Yes, I’d be happy to do that for you, but I need to finish these things first: I’ll be able to look at that next Tuesday: does that work for you, or would you need to ask someone else to help you?’
  • ‘Yes, I’d be happy to do that for you, but firstly, before I spend lots of time on it, can you help me by explaining what results you need and how this fits in with our goals and agreements?’

Where there’s a will there’s a way!

This is a BIT HARDER to do and is only a series of SMALL steps.

7. A Weekly Compass Plan

It’s the great problem of personal improvement: we often KNOW what we need to be doing, but we so often fail to do it.

You can make up your mind for yourself on what small steps will work best for you, and what ones to take first, but, if you ask my advice, I’d tell you that ONE SMALL STEP will help you more than any other.

A ‘weekly plan’.

My goodness that sounds boring!

Why is a weekly plan such a good idea: after all, I’ve got through my life Ok so far without one?

Well, here’s the answer to those questions:

  • If you’re 100% happy with your current situation, happiness and finances and see no room for improvement, I agree with you: there’s no need to bother.
  • But if you genuinely WANT to make some improvements in various areas of your life and you’re finding it really hard to make progress (as discussed above), then a weekly plan may very well help you.

A weekly plan gives you 10 minutes every week to do 3 key things that, when done, influence EVERYTHING ELSE in the week.

  1. Stopping and considering what roles are most important to you
  2. Thinking of and committing to ONE small step in each of these roles (which you wouldn’t do if you hadn’t slowed down to do this)
  3. Scheduling in each commitment into your time plan for the following week (so it gets done)

Research has shown that this ONE small activity can have more influence on your effectiveness and success than any other. It’s 10 minutes that positively influences the other 10,000 minutes in your week.


If you want more information on the weekly plan, please go to Slow Selling Resources where you’ll see full instructions and forms to use for this.

This is a BIT HARDER to do and is only a SMALL step.


Remember: we all know ways we can act more effectively, that’s NOT the problem.

The problem is actually acting in those ways.

And continuing to do so each week!

Success is ‘A series of small effective steps executed consistently every day’

This is a great example of the 3rd principle of Slow Selling – ‘Go the extra inch’ – working on a daily basis to help you survive and succeed.

And Failure?

‘A series of small failures of discipline executed every day’

Success or failure happen in small steps.

Every day.

A very happy New Year to you.

Keep in touch with us and tell all your friends about ‘Slow Selling’

Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and managers in independent businesses.

Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers of start-ups and small businesses who have limited time and resources, and want to grow their business … without sacrificing principles or profits.

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