Here's a Trick to Make Your New Year's Resolution Come True

December 16th 2016

Every year comes the inevitable surge of promises to uphold New Year's resolutions, to make this year different than the last — "for real" this time.

If you're serious about making your New Year's resolutions more than just a Facebook declaration, here's a trick you can try.


Like the name sounds, a micro-habit is taking a regular, routine task (a habit) and breaking it down into smaller pieces (micro). By breaking down your resolutions in this way you can work "smarter, not harder," says Belle Beth Cooper, who wrote about her experience with micro-habits in a February 2016 piece republished by Fast Company. (It's also known as the Fogg Method or "Tiny Habits.")

How it works.

Cooper says she she learned French, became a morning person, and read five times as many books than previous years, all because she was able to successfully apply micro-habits to her goals. 

She suggests you start small. For example, to complete her goal of reading more books, she writes, "I started by reading just one page of a book every night before bed." Then, she increased one page a night to setting a timer for 15 minutes of reading. Then 30.

If your resolution is, for example the New Year's classic, "get in shape," you could start by doing one sit-up. Then increase that number. Then set aside a small chunk of time. Then increase the time.

No one is saying that one magical sit-up is all you need: The idea is that by starting small, you're less intimidated by the overall task and less likely to abandon it.

Cooper advises not to take on too many micro-habits at once; start by focusing on only one. "Only when that habit is so automatic I can do it every day easily do I start on a new habit," she recommends.

It also helps if you make it easy to complete your task. Going back to the exercise example, if that's your goal, then you could make sure you lay your workout clothes out every morning (or whenever) so when you're ready to workout, it's easier for you.

Why does this work?

According to Dann Albright of Make Use Of, it's called "behavioral momentum." Meaning once you make the first steps towards completing your goal in a repetitious manner, you're more likely to keep going.

"People want to be consistent," he writes. "Once we take an action toward a goal, we tend to try to continue toward that goal, even if we decide we no longer want to reach it."

Albright offers some suggestions for how to work micro-habits to increase productivity. Some ideas are "whenever you want to check your email, stand up to do a couple stretches" and "when you think 'one more episode,' walk to your bedroom door (with the goal being to get to bed at a more reasonable time)."

So this year, don't aim big — think micro.

[H/T Fast Company]

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