Now that 2018 is officially here, many of us are coming to grips with a familiar, frustrating truth: there’s a big difference between making a new year’s resolution and keeping one. The good news is that we’re not alone. It’s estimated that approximately 40% of Americans make resolutions when the new year rolls around, but only 8% of them are successful in keeping them. Making a resolution only takes a moment of inspiration, keeping it calls for consistent dedication.

With the abundance of self-help books, podcasts, and seminars at our disposal, it’s easy to get tossed around on the latest and greatest informational waves. Too often, we jump from one fad to the next, spending substantial energy without moving closer to our end goal. It’s tempting to confuse activity with productivity. That makes it even more important to know the difference between the two. If you want to join the 8% of people who successfully stick to their resolution, you have to work smarter – not harder.

Simplify for Success

By limiting the variables in your resolution’s success equation, you can employ principles similar to those that make life hacks so popular. And while mental tricks and efficiency shortcuts aren’t substitutes for perseverance, they can help you avoid overthinking a problem or wasting time on unproductive practices.

As you work towards your 2018 resolutions, focusing on the following three aspects of each goal can help simplify your planning and streamline your pursuit.

Psychological

When the American Psychological Association weighs in on new year’s resolutions, it’s a good idea to hear them out. In an article on their website, the APA recommends a sensible approach that involves breaking large goals into smaller, attainable action steps. Following this recommendation increases the opportunities to tally some quick wins, and the psychological benefits of early success are invaluable to long-term achievement. 

Example: If you want to build up an emergency fund of $1000, aim for saving $20 a week. It’s not as overwhelming, and over the course of the year, you get 52 chances to celebrate! 

Physical 

Even if your resolution isn’t physical in nature (i.e. – lose weight, get in shape, run a marathon, etc.), it may be a good idea to incorporate some physical activity anyway. On the Harvard Health Blog, Heidi Goldman shares that exercise can help wire the brain in a way that protects memory and critical thinking skills. Considering the fact that “I forgot” and “I just can’t figure it out” are common excuses for breaking a resolution, improved clarity and brain function sounds pretty helpful.

Example: You resolve that 2018 is the year you finally learn to speak Italian. A 30-minute walk each day offers an excellent opportunity to practice your new vocabulary, and the cardiovascular exercise encourages the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, which can improve your brain’s ability to learn and retain new information.

Personal

In a previous post, we discussed the need for accountability. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Recruiting someone to hold you accountable makes the resolution a little more personal because it involves a risk of social capital. The key is finding someone who knows you well enough to challenge you but cares for you enough to encourage you as well.

Example: Let’s say you resolve to pay off credit card debt this year and you ask your best friend to hold you accountable. When you pull out a credit card to pay for dinner, your friend can offer a good-natured reminder that putting your meal on credit isn’t helping you reach your goal—the kind of reminder you’d easily brush off if it came from a stranger.

Just because the concept of keeping a new year’s resolution is simple doesn’t mean the process is easy. But if something mattered enough to inspire a resolution in the first place, it’s important enough work towards throughout the year. If you stick with it, you’ll probably find that the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a goal is often more rewarding than reaching the goal itself.

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