Improving your odds at keeping New Year’s resolutions

Sue Shellenbarger, the work and family columnist for the Wall Street Journal, yesterday wrote “Steps to New Year’s Resolution Success” detailing the science behind keeping resolutions. Great advice begins right at the beginning of the article:

When setting a resolution, simply deciding to change your behavior may work for a while. But when the cognitive parts of the brain responsible for decision-making become stressed by other life events, that resolve is likely to succumb to an emotional desire for instant gratification, says Baba Shiv, a Stanford University marketing professor who specializes in neuroeconomics, the study of the biological bases for making economic decisions.

Keeping a resolution requires a detailed plan, with emotional rewards when milestones are reached—and even a strategy when there’s a setback. And don’t wait for Jan. 1, experts say: Start planning now to increase your chances for success.

The full article is worth reading if you’re interested in making uncluttering or organizing resolutions for 2011. I’m already planning out my resolutions for next year and will share details next week. I’ll definitely be putting into practice some of Shellenbarger’s suggestions.

Also in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was a great article on organizing craft and present wrapping supplies featuring suggestions from Los Angeles-based professional organizer John Trosko: “More Homes Make Room for Wrapping.”

8 Comments for “Improving your odds at keeping New Year’s resolutions”

  1. posted by priest's wife on

    This will be my “use it or Lose it” year- homeschooling with 4 kids and all that entails really lends itself to clutter

    BUT if we don’t use it and find a place for it- OUT IT GOES- no minimalism here, just livability and a sane mom

  2. posted by Mandy on

    I find that seeing other people’s resolutions helps to keep me motivated. Lets me know that I’m not alone. 🙂

    A new site just launched where you can see other people’s resolutiosn. It’s pretty neat:

    As for my resolution? I want to try to keep my promises, share more, and of course, play nice with others 🙂

  3. posted by Sometimez on

    Regarding organizing craft and present wrapping supplies, per the WSJ – It’s nice to see attractively wrapped gifts, but wrappings are such ephemeral things. Having a designated work surface and appropriate storage for one’s activities has utilitarian appeal. Spending $35,000 on a cherry-paneled wrapping room, no matter how handsome, leaves me shaking my head and wondering how many meals for the hungry or shelter for the homeless that could buy. Unclutterer reader notes about simplifying wrapping supplies have been inspirational.

  4. posted by John Trosko on

    Thank you so much for the mention of my WSJ article! Very exciting. What’s more exciting is all the hate mail the piece is generating about people spending what seems like “more” money than they should on things. After all, who determines what is right and wrong? Depends on where you fall on the economic scale.

    I’ve been intimately involved in that piece and I can tell you that while the costs of a gift wrapping room seem like a mis-use of funds, these people are very charitable. Some have raised millions for charities. It’s their giving spirit that helps, motivates and inspires a great many people– like me. Not to mention the shop keepers whom they buy from. I am sure they appreciate the opportunity to stay in business. So please, everyone wins.

    John aka OrganizingLA

  5. posted by Marie Holzer on

    Thank you for this post! That’s a great article at the Wall Street Journal worth the full read.

    I plan out my annual goals in quarters starting in September (Jewish New Year, I like starting things on that spiritual level) but the Gregorian calendar lends itself perfectly for my second quarter review and evaluation. Plus that three month mark is always the hardest for me to continue motivating myself, yet here everyone is talking about and making their New Year’s resolutions!

    Loved your resolutions posts from last year too. I review them at every quarterly evaluation of my own goals.

  6. posted by Carlee on

    I find goal setting to be such a difficult task. I am not sure why. It seems to me sometimes that life should just haappen…but I recognize the importance of setting and achieving goals in order to move forward. This is certainly something I need to address in my own life this year.

  7. posted by anne_d on

    Forgive my cynicism, but I could think of a lot better things to do with an empty room (not to mention all that money) than create a fancy gift-wrapping space. A proper library, or an office and hobby workspace for my husband, or a larger studio for me (my current space is about 8’x10′ with no room for messy crafts) would be nice, just for starters.

    Besides, in my experience, it doesn’t matter how pretty the wrapping is; the recipient just rips the paper off and goes on to the next gift anyway. This year I’m using gift bags, some of them reusable tote/grocery bags, and tissue paper, some of it recycled from previous giving.

  8. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    As I look toward the new year, I am going to institute new habits rather than resolutions. I believe that new habits, strongly ingrained, can help me end up where I want to be! I am going to go check out the article though!

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