Real-Life Resolutions

According to some estimates, about 40 percent of Americans set goals for the new year … about 8 percent achieve them.

"We hear this story every year, but isn't it time someone asked how those 8 percent are doing it right?" said Janice Russell, president of Minding Your Matters Organizing, a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, a Certified Organizer Coach and the author of Get Organized This Year!

"There is no 'trick' with those 8 percent. In truth, they are doing something differently to reach their goals."

1. Keep it simple.
"Be realistic in your goal," advises Russell. It's unrealistic to lose 50 pounds in one month. It's also unrealistic to organize your entire house by March 1. Instead, focus on just one part of that."

A goal might be:
Lose 10 pounds by March 1.
Organize the hall closet by Jan. 31.
Reduce smoking by half by June 1.

2. Make it tangible.

Two of the above goals are easy to measure. In other words, you know when you have achieved them. But if your goal isn't a specific number on the scale, what signal are you using to know you've arrived?

With organizing, that might be: "I will have reached my goal when I can find a specific document in my office," or "I will have reached my goal when the kitchen counters are clear and remain so at least three days per week."

It might also be: "I will have reached my goal when all the items in the hall closet belong there and have labeled containers."

3. Write it down, along with your reason.

"Knowing why you are doing something will help you keep going," Russell said. "Try hanging that statement somewhere you will see it each day."

4. Figure out how you will achieve your goal.

If you want to lose 10 pounds by March 1, that's a little more than one pound per week. So your goal has sub-goals: Work out at the gym three days per week. Or take a 30-minute walk each day during my lunch break.

To organize the hall closet in a month, you might spend an hour sorting and deleting items from the shelves. You could take time another day to sort and delete items on the floor.

5. Track your progress.

"Whether you are using an app or just crossing days off the calendar, it's a great motivator to see how many days you did the right thing. You might mess up one day, but then see that gap in your progress and realize you want to keep going," Russell said.

6. Don't give up.

"Many people start working on goals in the new year, but that doesn't mean it's the only time to try," Russell said. "If you have given up by the end of March, start fresh in the second quarter. There is a quote from C. Malesherbes: 'We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.' Know you can, even if you fail a few times, and you will eventually succeed."

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