How I’m sticking to my New Year’s resolution

Having been trained in demography, I often come across statistics I don’t believe. For instance, this Vox article states “60% of New Year’s resolutions fail.” Given how difficult it is to change human habits and behaviors, this estimate seems unrealistically low.

According to the article, this number comes from a study that followed individuals over time to see how many of them kept their resolutions. As the author of the Vox article writes, at six months, “only 40 percent of those who had made a New Year’s resolution were still sticking with the goal.” The modifier “only” seems out of place here. If 40% of people managed to make the changes they wanted, that’s huge. Stating a New Year’s resolution seems like a good bet for modifying behavior.

The 40% figure is based in scientific research, but as a researcher involved in the study notes in another article that appears on the Time website, study participants are likely more successful in keeping their resolutions than the general population because they have researchers calling them every couple weeks to check in. These calls remind the people being studied about the goals they set and being asked about their resolutions provides incentive to stick to them.

I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, but I can’t tell you what they were. I write them down in late December and forget about them at some point early in the year.

This year, I’ve got a general goal to be more effective with my time. To accomplish this, I wanted to develop a system that mimics the study. I needed to find a way to remind myself of my goal and create accountability over time. So I’ve designed a survey that I’ll take weekly. The survey asks what I accomplished in the prior week and what I would like to get done in the coming week. I’ll be reminded by email to take the survey.

The Vox article has some good tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions and one of them is to make goals attainable. My only resolution is to take the survey every week. And my hope is that making plans and reflecting on my progress from week to week will help me accomplish the more ambiguous goal of using my time more effectively.

Here’s hoping I stick to it!


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