Resolution making and keeping: Reviewing 2010 and looking toward 2011

As the year comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my 2010 quarterly resolutions. I am glad I broke my resolutions up into quarterly goals, instead of trying to address all of them the entire year. However, I didn’t love it so much to do it again in 2011.

To review, my quarterly resolutions were:

My favorite quarter was, surprisingly, the third set of resolutions: Finish it! The resolutions were very specific. I was able to schedule them on the calendar, and check them off when they were finished. And, at the end of the quarter, I could look at my life and point at my accomplishments — the dryer works! the electrical box is new! stuff I don’t use is out of the house!

The other quarters were less rewarding. Each had some highlights, but it’s difficult for me to evaluate if I have more energy at the end of this year than I did last year — especially since I have a very active toddler now. I’m exhausted every night when I climb into bed, but would I have been more exhausted had I not made the changes to my life in early 2010? There is no way for me to know.

Between now and the end of 2010, I’m going to focus on finding new ways to set resolutions for 2011. I’m committed to keeping resolutions, but I’m not committed to doing them quarterly.

How do you plan your yearly resolutions? How did you fare on accomplishing your 2010 resolutions? If Unclutterer could give you help with your 2011 resolutions, what would we do? What do you plan to do differently with your 2011 resolutions compared to 2010? I’m interested in reading all of your constructive insights into resolution making so that 2011 will be an amazing year for resolution keeping.

27 Comments for “Resolution making and keeping: Reviewing 2010 and looking toward 2011”

  1. posted by Allan Fried on

    Great post. I am often intrigued as to why most people don’t keep New Year’s Resolutions. I have found for me, that it needs to be more engaging rather than just a simple task. Competing in a triathlon is far more exciting and engaging than losing 20 pounds. Regardless of what it is, we need support until it becomes an ingrained habit. It cna be from friends, spouses, support groups, coaches, etc.

  2. posted by Meffer on

    Since you established quarterly goals, I’ve been excited about them because I liked the idea of breaking the year into smaller pieces and having a more intense focus for each one. Though you’re critique of the system is a smart one.

    What I’ve learned about setting goals in the last year or so is the importance of small, concrete steps – basic, I know, but it’s taken me a while to get from, as Allan Fried said, “lose 20 pounds” to “go to the gym three times a week”.

    So I wonder, maybe the solution is two or three big, 2011 Goals that are broken into four pieces that will take 3 months to complete?

  3. posted by Cathi S. on

    I’ve recently discovered that positive self-talk has greatly increased my energy! I am my own perfectionistic worst enemy. I’ve started telling myself “YAY!” when I do something, and, even when I DON’T do something that I think I “should” have done, I tell myself that MAYBE, just maybe, it’s O.K. that I didn’t do it. All this yay-ing doesn’t come naturally, but it’s working.

  4. posted by Maria Barker on

    I like your quarterly idea! For myself, I have 2 big overall goals that I plan to break down monthly. For instance, 1 of my goals is to have an uncluttered home by next Christmas. Each month will focus on something that will contribute toward that goal. January is my Finish it month, where I work on all the inside projects from 2010 that are just laying about waiting for me to plow through them and get them out of the way. I also have a 1 Word Theme that I am working on throughout the year, daily, as explained here and in the update The final thing I enjoy doing is not really a resolution, more like a list. I like to set out on paper some goals for the current year. For instance, I had a goal of paying off all our credit card debt in 2010. I did. I had the goal of training a certain horse to drive in 2010. I didn’t. But I don’t count them as resolutions because they are allowed to change. I just like doing it and it helps me decide what I would like to accomplish.

    If I did not do things like this, I fear I would do nothing but sit on the computer and follow great blogs, like this one.

  5. posted by nj progressive on

    I had several goals for 2010, but when my 77-year old mother became very ill this year, I had to set aside all my plans. I think the goals I set for 2011 may be more inner-focused (developing strategies for remaining calm and detached) and less project-oriented. That said, my husband and I still have to paint the living room and dining room this coming year, but we’ll be flexible and try to tackle that project in stages (walls in one room, then walls in the next room, then trim around doors and windows, then baseboards).

  6. posted by Susan in FL on

    I no longer make resolutions. This seems to be working well for me. Things still get done, the earth keeps turning and I never have to feel guilty around the holidays because I haven’t kept some stupid promise I made to myself almost a year previouly.

  7. posted by E on

    Meffer, I too, was thinking that it might be a good idea to have one goal and break it up quarterly.

    And, Maria, I have also been thinking in terms of a one-word theme, but I haven’t decided yet what that would be or if it would even work for my personality. The closest I’ve come is thinking that my resolution should be, “Live according to my ideals” – that sounds obvious, but there are many times each year when I succumb to convenience, peer pressure, fear, etc. and I am less than who I want to be.

    I also wanted to say that, Susan, it’s cool if you don’t like resolutions, but your comment sounded a bit like an attack on those who love them! The promises I make to myself each year aren’t stupid – and even if I fail (or half-fail: many years “exercise daily” becomes “exercise weekly” – but that’s still better than nothing at all) at the resolutions, I think the intention is still beneficial. In fact, sometimes failing at a resolution teaches us that we picked a goal we weren’t ready for – either that it isn’t as important to us as we thought, or there is some intermediate goal that has to be achieved first.

  8. posted by Ryan Waggoner on

    I do monthly, quarterly, and annual goals, but something I’ve started doing is a 30-day ramp up period, especially at the end of the year. So if I have a goal for something that I want to do starting Jan 1st (working out Mon-Fri), I’ll actually start Dec 1 and try to get into the groove. Then when I hit Jan 1, I’ve got momentum and hopefully some of the hiccups are already behind me.

  9. posted by Dawn on

    “stupid promise” – wow – seriously? – full of cheer, are we? ๐Ÿ™‚

    My husband, son and I enjoy making our yearly Goals List and reviewing the past year’s goals list. We look over our list from the previous year on New Year’s Eve and truly enjoy chatting about the things we accomplished and completed, as well discussing why we didn’t complete some of the tasks or projects.

    Then, as a family, we talk about what projects, plans, goals, etc. are important for the coming year and prepare our Goals List. Several times throughout the year we will look over the list to see if something has been completed (yeah for checkmarks!) or if some of the items need to be reprioritized.

    The list is clearly posted in our master bedroom closet so we can easily glance at it.

    It’s a fun family experience – and we enjoy cheering each other on!

    I still cannot believe 2010 is almost over – that’s crazy talk! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. posted by Beth on

    I too think it’s OK not to make resolutions. And in a way, it is freeing to not have that obligation. It’s one more way to unclutter your life if a resolution is something you don’t need or use. For me I need to have real deadlines and have found resolutions to be way to ambiguous to work for me. I also have toddlers (twins!) and adding one more thing to the pile is pure foolishness because I know it won’t happen!

  11. posted by Aslaug on

    I like that you are thinking about the coming year even though the holidays are approaching – I kind of do that do. Even though it technically doesn’t have any meaning, a new year (much like the beginning of a new school year) seems to signal a chance to start fresh, do better than last year and so on.

    You asked what you could do to help us – well I would love a series (preferable before Jan 1st) on how to set realistic resolutions (or goals if you will), keep track of them and stick to them. Also, my main problem seems to be planning on too much – every year I sort of want to overhaul my life (even though, really there’s not much wrong with it).

    For example: I want to lose weight, sleep more, stress less, manage my illness better, exercise more, eat healthier, manage money more effectively (actually increase the amount in the bank even though there’s a really really bad recession in my country), have a better relationship, be a better teacher, explore working from home and I’m sure I could go on. Obviously trying to do all these at once is going to doom me to fail (as it has in previous years) but I haven’t figured it out quite yet.

    @Susan: sometimes I wonder if I should just live and let live and stop setting unrealistic (apparently) goals for myself that I then feel bad about not reaching. Also, I tend to counterproductively sit on the couch and eat candy as soon as I feel my goals slipping through my fingers.

    So, Erin, I’m sure I’m not the only one with these issues and any posts about setting and keeping multiple goals and/or prioritizing goals (I do like the quarterly goal approach) would be a boon.

  12. posted by ecuadoriana on

    I think people, like Susan in FL, view the word “resolution” as too final, or threatening, and too up for public scrutiny. There is that whole societal pressure behind it: “Did you make your New Year Resolutions yet?” is a question I am asked far too often- and it’s usually asked by people who didn’t seem to do much the previous year except keep up with TV shows & celebrity gossip!

    Anyway, I digress. I think the word “goal” has less pressure. I am sure that Susan in FL makes goals, and they don’t HAVE to be formed the first of the year! They can be formed each week, each day upon rising, each month, whatever suits that person’s needs & lifestyle. Mine are formulated around the Vernal (Spring) Equinox because for me that time represents the new beginning, but that is MY choice, others can choose any other day/time of the year that suits them to sit down & create personal goals, and reevaluate what didn’t go right with the previous goals.

    Almost everyone has/makes goals, even if they pooh pooh others who openly do so. If we had no goals at all we’d never get out of bed in the morning, make coffee, go to work, meet our friends for a drink afterward, meet a mate, go home & watch that TV show/do that crossword/read that book/try out that new electronic gadget, plan that vacation…. In other words: we all have dreams, make plans, change our goals, & reinvent them.

    So, no one is held to the flame to “make New Year’s resolutions” on Dec. 31st, or even in Dec., or even in the winter! No one even has to make them at all. But most people who want more out of life than worrying what Kate Gosslin is doing tend to make small bite size personal goals on an on going basis.

    Making Resolutions/Goals is not a waste of time. What would be a waste is looking back on ones’ life at the end & wishing that life could have been more loving, interesting, fun, and fulfilling.

  13. posted by Amy on

    Looking at your resolutions for last year, all of those things would be hard to close out in a quarter. I’d think you’d want to work on them all year long.

    How about picking a trait, a theme year or a mantra to work on all year long?

    Reminding yourself of what you’ve chosen will likely carry over into a lot of your smaller goals throughout the year.

    My goal for last year was simple: Discipline.

    Whenever I was feeling tired or overwhelmed, I’ve just repeated it to myself and it has given me a boost.

    This coming year, I think my new theme will be: Patience.

  14. posted by Karen on

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all the comments.

    I also have weekly, seasonal, and yearly goals. For the most part I tend to accomplish all of these without any problems, because they are things I want to do.

    I believe New Year’s Resolutions tend to carry a bit more baggage, though, because they are typically those things that we wish to change about ourselves, or a fault we feel we need to correct – i.e. losing weight, exercising more, etc. Many of those resolutions are failures because they are the things we feel we should be doing, or that others expect us to do, and not things we truly want to do ourselves.

    This year I’ve set the goal of improving my health; and like Ryan, I actually started a few weeks before Thanksgiving with a new eating regimen. I wanted to change my lifestyle and I was ready. Starting early has given me time to figure out my new food parameters and determine what kind of exercise I can fit in my day. And it’s working! I’m excited about my goal this year, and am not approaching it with a feeling of dread or guilt.

  15. posted by Allison on

    I find that for any goal or project, it’s best if it’s specific and measurable. Otherwise, it’s too hard to know how to work on it or when you have achieved it.

  16. posted by Kari on

    I tend to do any changes at either the start of summer or the start of fall term (I teach college, and these are the big times of change in my schedule). Summer allows me to integrate something new while I am not actively teaching (though administrative duties continue through the season). Fall term always feels like the start of the new year (because in a very real sense it is) allows me to integrate new changes into my “regular” work life (i.e. teaching and all the administrative and other work stuff I do). Works well for me and fits my view of the world more comfortably.

  17. posted by Lose That Girl on

    I don’t tend to make resolutions as the calendar flips from one year to another, but I do pick up on new things to try through out the year. I find that’s an easy way to go about it and for me, there’s less pressure. I’ve always felt tying it to a new year is asking for trouble.

  18. posted by Steve on

    I have set goals for the past 5 years with varying success. I have shifted my thinking to striving for goals that create a lifestyle change rather crossing a certain threshold. For example one of my past goal successes was to cut down lifestyle clutter by playing less poker and I would track my monthly hours. Another past goal success was to plan a family vacation, but that did not have a lasting impact on my life.

    This year I would like to run a marathon, but I am not tracking that as a goal. Instead I am tracking weekly miles and if I can get to 15-20 miles/week, I would be fit enough to attempt a marathon.

  19. posted by Kel on

    I break my goals into areas of life and try not to have more than 3 per section – eg.

    – create a monthly budget
    – review budget biweekly with DH
    – save 10% of our incomes

    – hit the gym 2x a week
    – take my vitamins
    – go to bed by 10pm

    And I always have a Personal goal – in times past it’s been “Say NO (to others)”, Say YES (to me)”, “Try” – try things that I don’t think will work out, try things I haven’t before, just try. Most of my regrets are from things I didn’t do, not things I did. This year will be: Leave It – leave work at work, leave home at home.

    Oh and I always start my goals in Sept/Oct – the fall just feels like a great time for change and it gives me time to plan out how I’m going to accomplish my goals.

    I don’t always reach/complete them but I’ve made more progress than I would’ve without them. And I love making lists ๐Ÿ˜€

  20. posted by Claire Tompkins on

    I really like the quarterly idea, spacing out the resolutions over the year. It can be tempting to plunge into all the resolutions in January, while I’m still inspired from making them. But that usually leads to overload and too much change and sometimes I drop them all!

  21. posted by EWF on

    Instead of resolutions, this year I set “priority areas.” One of my priority areas was to figure out how to set and reach goals effectively. I set a few specific goals, I met some, I ran in the other direction on a few. (This is my problem! I hate goals!) The fact that I met a few is helpful for me when I do this exercise for 2011. I think establishing priority areas, reviewing them daily, and expanding on them throughout the year was extremely helpful.

  22. posted by Phalynn on

    Erin,..can you share why you would not do quarterly? I think you have tempted some of us and would love to learn why you feel it would not work.

  23. posted by Dr. Pete on

    I’ve been thinking a lot about 2011 – as I look at my potential resolutions, I’m trying to figure out why, if I’m so “resolved,” I haven’t started them already. In a couple of cases, I just grabbed some things I’ve been putting off and did them in December. That felt great. Not much of December left, but I’m trying to take that attitude into the new year.

  24. posted by Rondina on

    I just moved into a vintage 1920s home that is less than half the size of my former home where I lived almost 30 years and raised three children. While I love the more intimate space and look forward to smaller bills, the move did a number on my life. While I’m still unpacking five weeks later (shelves can’t go up fast enough)and I’m running smack into the holidays. One thing that has helped me this past year as I went through the major downsize is reading this blog. Every morning I read my email and I’m reminded to “unclutter.” Thank you for the inspiration.

  25. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Phalynn — Good question. I think it didn’t work for a few reasons. 1. It was actually too long of a time period for me, 2. I tried to do too much each quarter, and 3. After the quarter was over, I stopped focusing on that quarter’s theme. I’ll write a bigger post on this, but I’m thinking I need to have 12 resolutions next year (one per month). And, they’re going to build throughout the year. So, by December, I’ll actually have 12 resolutions compared to just one in January.

  26. posted by Summer S on

    Your 12 resolutions, or one per month, reminds me of the format for Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. She had monthly goals, sort of quasi-resolutions if you will, all with the intent to bring more happiness to her world.

    And isn’t that what resolutions are for? We make them in an attempt to improve our situation, to bring more peace and happiness to our chaotic lives through improved health, better organization, closer relationships, etc. It’s not truly about finishing a painting project, but how does having a freshly painted room FEEL?

    These are not necessarily things that can be accomplished in a month, or even a year, but being MINDFUL of them, purposefully focusing on an attitude or habit for a month, or a quarter, at a time, can certainly be helpful to our overall well being, right?

    Enjoy the journey. Celebrate your accomplishments. And most importantly, be kind to yourselves and each other, whether you can check mark the “done” box or not.

  27. posted by Marie Soares on

    I never make resolutions because I never keep them and it seems more like a setup for failure. But, in 2009, I decided that the reason I break them is because the changes need to happen in my mind. So My resolution was to have a new mind. And boy did I get it. Starting from my mother getting very ill and needing me to take care of her. Having her with me 24/7 made me realize things about her that I never did before, and therefore things about myself. In here I saw my rationalization methods for many things including not exercising. Now I run and lift weights everyday. This in turn reduces my anxiety, allows me time for self-reflection, gives me a healthier brain, makes me want to eat right, etc. A snowball effect int he right direction.

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