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Soooo, those New Year’s resolutions… How are you getting on? Did you set any? You may be thinking, “Why is Sam writing about New Year’s resolutions, It’s the middle of the year?!”. Well, I thought this would be a poignant time to bring it up and talk about how to make your resolutions stick. As time always does, it is flying by and we are pretty much 180 days into 2018. That’s a whole 6 months. If you are on track with yours, good on ya and keep it up! If not, chances are you have fallen foul to one of the following…

Common Reasons Why Resolutions Don’t Stick

  • You forget about them (or at least until you saw my hook line)
  • You lose motivation
  • You don’t see results
  • You have a situational change
  • You have a personal change
  • Etc
  • Etc
  • Blah
  • Blah
  • And a sh*t load of other reasons on google (Look at the months these articles are mostly written in. You see I am a pioneer by rocking out this topic in June/July).
Anyway, I’m not here to dwell on or remind you of failure. Let’s reframe that failure as free data that can be used to make the next decision and give the next action a higher potential success rate. Because now you know what doesn’t work. Ok, so, what does help your resolutions stick? Read on.

How To Make Your Resolutions Stick: The Alternative Approach

I mentioned this briefly in my article on self-credit, but consider using a shorter time span/frame and bring the finish line closer.   I guess you could look at it as decreasing the distance to the mid-term or medium term goals. Here’s why I think this approach works:
  • It makes it feel more achievable. And also easier as it’s less of a mission
  • It helps us keep focus. Because we all know that focus is hard at the best of times and doing it over a year? You’re having a laugh.
  • We (and a whole load of other variables) change over 365 days so our goals and motivations may also change.
It’s great to have a vision or a 1,5,10 year plan but be flexible along that journey. Always check your values and check your goals are still aligned with them. Where you wanted to be 2 years ago could be quite different from where you want to be 2 years from now. Sometimes when we lose track of this and go into autopilot we drift or work toward a goal and then after a while, we pop our head up and think “How the hell did I get here?” Or deeper still, “What am I doing here?”. What I’m trying to say here is things change and people change so sometimes using a full 365 days for a target can not only seem too far off in the distance but also it’s a longer time frame for things to change within it. So what’s the solution? Something I have been trying lately is working in 90-day (3 month) sprint periods or specifically for me, financial quarters. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a sprint, more of a gentle jog, like a 10k. Not a marathon, not a 100m dash, it’s that middle ground. A sustainable pace. It’s not too long like a year but it’s also not too short like a week. And you don’t have to wait until the hype next January to set the goals again if you fail, just start up another 90 days from today. You are the boss. To get the best sustainable results, it is better to be reviewing your current position and planning ahead each month, 90 days not just every January 1st. I think at this point it is worth noting the difference between a resolution and a goal. Simply put, a resolution is a desired change in behaviour or lifestyle (which is quite vague a lot of the time) and a goal is a means to get there (this is where you get specific). It is usually best to make short-term and easy goals that help maintain the overall resolution. This isn’t necessarily about changing the size of your goal to something smaller, rather managing it and the progress over a shorter time frame. By combining multiple time periods you can still get to the larger goal but this way you can keep on track and also ensure you are wanting to stay on that track.

Tips for Shorter Goal Setting & How to Make Your Resolutions Stick

As I’m that kinda guy, here are some further tips to help you when setting your “shorter” goals.

Set The Time Period

Can be 90 days / a financial quarter or even 30 days/month. Experiment and see what works for you.

OKR For The Period

I have adopted the Google OKR approach – Objectives and Key Results. I won’t go into the details here but the idea is to set out what the objective for the period is, then work out the metrics that require tracking that count toward the objective.

Weekly Review

This is also part of the OKR approach but can still be used without it. The review is a vital part of keeping the focus on the target so add the review to your calendar so you don’t forget. You can review your metrics or key results (if you use the OKR approach) or you can simply ask yourself 3 questions:
  1. Am I on schedule?
  2. Did I lose focus?
  3. What could I improve?

Keep The Focus Simple / KISS

Don’t try and take on more than 3 things max at a time. Ideally, stick to one. Which is the most important one you’d like to get sorted? What is the one thing/process goal that will get you toward your shorter goal? Focus on that and remove any other distractions (some tips on this can be found in my article on Deep Work).

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals

The classic guideline. Keep the goal or objective Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Time based (This is the section this article is focused on), Exciting and Relevant.

Keep The Goals Visible

The more visible the goal, the more you will be reminded of it and keep focus over the period. Use post-it notes or cue cards in prominent places such as a mirror or desk. Set calendar reminders or even use mobile apps for habit building to keep the goal visible.


The E of SMARTER (see above). I have realised how important this is when it comes to goal setting and whether people actually achieve it. One of the common things I see with some clients and people I meet is they don’t know why they can’t achieve what they are after. Maybe it’s as simple as you didn’t really want it? You need to be excited and inspired by your goals.

Specificity Of Time, Not Just Day

The S of SMARTER. This is more to do with the tasks within the shorter goals but it is worth mentioning here as this is a big one that I have realized lately. Set the actual time of day as part of the deadline, not just the day. By saying I will finish it on Wednesday is just too vague as Wednesday is a whopping 24 hours so that’s a deep/wide finishing line. Be specific. I did some work with Nigel Azzopardi and he used to pin me down to specific times for my goals and initially I found it a bit over the top but then once I started working toward those tasks I had more clarity on when they needed to get done by. This also then gave me potentially more hours to crack on to another task.

Be Flexible With The Start Point

It doesn’t have to be at the start of the month or the financial quarter. You can have your start point for the 30-90 days whenever you want. Tie it in around holidays or significant events. But don’t wait to get started. It’s all about taking action. You can have all the intentions in the world but if you aren’t actually going to do anything about it, the intentions are futile.

Period Review

Evaluate how you did at the end of the period. Remember to reframe any failure as free data. What might you do differently next time? Review your big vision, is this still what you are after or have things changed? Have you changed? Maybe even as a result of the previous shorter goal period? Review the big vision every end of the period to consider: Is this still where I want to head? What’s next?


Set another goal for the next period. By repeating these shorter time frames, you will find you build up the habit of staying focused and hopefully stay motivated along the way by experiencing regular successes. So.. What resolutions and goals would you like to set for the next 90 days? What measures might you put in place to give yourself the best chance of making your resolutions stick? If you’d like some support with making your resolutions stick or even working out what your resolutions might be then book a no obligation sample session to get you back on track.


About Me 

I help people get to where they want to be quicker than they would have done on their own.


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