It's that time of year again - where you crawl out of bed at an unearthly hour, dreading what's coming. You brush your teeth, bleary-eyed, wondering how it can possibly be this dark. You close the front door behind you, the train packed like a sardine tin full of the suited and the briefcased ahead of you.
Yes that's right - its your first day back at work after the Christmas holidays. Its cold, dark, and the lights of Christmas have been extinguished, it's a really long time to your next holiday, and you over-indulged during the holiday season to the point where your work trousers feel considerably tighter than they did a month ago.
Is it any wonder that most of us, faced with this, don't stick to our well-intentioned resolutions? Do you wish you could make some real changes this year instead of giving up by the end of January? I've seen lots of people this year announce their intentions not to have any resolutions at all - I guess if you make no goals, you can't fail, right?
I'm a big fan of the New Year's resolution. Every year I make a load and I generally stick to them. The trick is to pick a realistic number of achievable goals, make a plan, keep checking it and revise if necessary, then to review it at the end of the year. If you plan to do something you're far more likely to achieve it. Psychologists call this the Theory of Planned Behaviour - we are much more likely to stick to goals and resolutions if we plan to stick to them.
Ready to give it a try? Here are my tried and tested steps to resolution success:
1. Reminisce. I like to start by reviewing the past year - both highs and lows. Don't be too negative though: feelings of shame and guilt aren't a great motivator for long-term achievement. What did you do that you're proud of? If this year goes exactly as planned (don't worry, it won't) how will your life look next year? What are you dissatisfied with right now? Perhaps its your career, your weight, your health, or your finances.
2. Categorise. I prefer to separate mine into four categories - Health and Wellbeing, Personal, Career and Development, and Financial. I also determine whether they are goals or resolutions - a resolution might be to read a book every time I find myself playing Candy Crush, and a goal would be to save £2000 by the end of the year. Health and Wellbeing could include fitness goals - a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to be able to run for an hour on a treadmill without stopping. I'm short, stocky and definitely not built for running, and I couldn't run for more than three minutes in January, but by that September I was up to 53 minutes. Personal might be to learn to meditate, or travel to a new country. Career and development is fairly self-explanatory - perhaps you're unhappy with your job, or maybe you want to learn a new language. Financial goals are perhaps the most useful, whether it's to start reducing your credit card debt, or to save £40 a month. I like to come up with one or two under each category but you might want to focus on one more than another.
3. Plan. Write each resolution or goal down under its category and stick it somewhere you'll see every day. I'd recommend you choose a realistic number - having 120 major goals will probably just leave you disappointed. Under each goal make a plan - so if your goal is to get fit this year, how will you do it? Make a checklist. Make sure its realistic, and easy to track. Give yourself a deadline.
4. Share. Talk to someone else about your plans. Probably an encouraging friend rather than the bus driver - could be inconvenient. Telling someone you made the plan means you're more likely to stick to it.
5. Check. Review each goal every month or so. How is it going? Are you going to hit your deadline? Do you need to revise the plan? If it isn't on track, consider whether this is something you really want, or something you planned to do because you thought you should. Are you really looking forward to achieving it?
6. Review. At the end of the year, it can be really satisfying to look back at what you planned, how it went and what your achievements were. Even if you achieved only one goal, or part of some of your resolutions, be honest but positive about this. Typically I achieve 75% of my goals for the year - remember if you don't plan to achieve anything, chances are you won't.
Some of my plans for the year are to finally pass my driving test, to stick to the 5:2 diet and to join a choir. What are yours - and what are you tips to sticking to them?