Making your resolutions a reality

On either the last day of the old year or the first day of the new year, many of us created lists of resolutions. If you’re like me, getting organized appeared in some fashion on this list. For example my specific resolution back in 2008 was to get my laundry mess under control.

Generating the resolution and committing it to paper or a hard drive is a terrific way to start the process. Unfortunately, though, the resolution won’t become a reality unless more work is done. (Wouldn’t it be great if just writing it down was really all it took?!)

If you don’t set a course of action and stick to it, then your resolution will be nothing more than words on paper. I want to walk through my process attack, which is loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, to help you see how lofty goals can easily become experienced reality.

  1. Commit your resolution to writing. It doesn’t matter if you write your resolution on an index card, in a Moleskine notebook, or in an virtual Evernote notebook. Formulating your idea into concrete words helps you define your purpose and gets you started on your path to change.
  2. Reflect on your resolution and identify your motivation for change and where you see yourself once the resolution is complete. If you can’t see where you’re headed or why you want to get there, your resolution is pretty much destined for failure. There is no need to establish any other form of reward system, because you’ll see yourself succeeding! In my case, I need to imagine the calm I will have from not having piles of laundry cluttering up the floor of my laundry room.
  3. Brainstorm methods for completing your resolution. Even if the ideas seem ridiculous, write them down anyway. What are all of the ways that you could possibly reach your goal? What steps could you take? What is currently standing in your way? What resources could you obtain to help you get what you want? Empty all of your thoughts on the matter onto a piece of paper.
  4. Evaluate your brainstormed ideas and create what Allen calls “keys” to organization. “Identify the significant pieces. Sort by (one or more): components, sequences, priorities. Detail to the required degree.” This is the stage where you create your plan.
  5. Once your plan is set, make decisions as to the exact steps you will follow to achieve your goal. Without these concrete steps, you won’t know how to move forward. For my laundry resolution, my exact steps involve a lot of removing current barriers to success. (Buy light bulbs on Saturday morning at the grocery store to replace burned out bulbs in the laundry room.) If you’ve never written an exact step, or what Allen names “next actions,” you may want to read the entry on this topic on Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders GTDwiki here.
  6. Start!

Good luck to everyone with their organization resolutions! Feel welcome to tell us about your process for success in the comments section to this post.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

7 Comments for “Making your resolutions a reality”

  1. posted by LivSimpl on

    Wonderful list. I especially appreciated #5 – removing barriers to success. That’s a great insight I’ll have to keep in mind.

    I might add listing not only what you have to do, but *when *it can be done. My list of to-do’s is plenty long – I need to figure out when to work them into my schedule. (Plug: I wrote an article about this entitled “Three Simple Things You Can Do To Squeeze More Out of Your Day”. Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested:

  2. posted by Tameson O'Brien on

    too many steps – just do it

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Tameson — If you’ve ever played football, basketball, or soccer, you’ll know that “Just Do It” is catchy, but not realistic. The best teams don’t just walk out onto a field without a game plan or having practiced. Time, conditioning, strength training, sweat, and hours of reviewing game footage are just some of the many things done before a team even takes to the field to “just do it.”

    I like your get-up-and-go spirit, but to make change permanent most people need to be more invested than just starting something without proper preparation.

  4. posted by Andamom on

    Each year, I create a list of goals. Realistically, this list was just slighty modified year after year. When I starting blogging (openly), I opted to write down my goals. At the end of 2007, I created a list of my accomplishments ( It helps me to revisit my goals and what I completed to see where I stand. While I have been busy since the new year, there are a few additions that I need to add now so that I can continue to grow and track where I am headed.

  5. posted by DanGTD on

    For implementing GTD you can use

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.

  6. posted by Dan on

    As with the last update, now Gtdagenda has full Someday/Maybe functionality, you can easily move your tasks and projects between “Active”, “Someday/Maybe” and “Archive”. This will clear your mind, and will boost your productivity.

  7. posted by My Get Things Done List » Blog Archive » GTD Digest 2008-01-13 [Stuff for Getting Things Done] on

    […] Making your resolutions a reality By Erin Doland I want to walk through my process attack, which is loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method, to help you see how lofty goals can easily become experienced reality. 1. Commit your resolution to writing. … […]

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