How to stay focused on your New Year’s resolutions

Exercise more. Cut out chocolate. Learn a new language. We’ve all made promises to ourselves before 1 January – with some more successful than others. Here are five easy tips for making resolutions you can keep, so you can make 2014 your best year yet.

1. Plan ahead

If you’re serious about making some changes in your life, don’t wait until 11pm on New Year’s Eve to start thinking about it. By planning ahead, you’ll be more likely to choose resolutions that are not only achievable, but that will have a noticeable positive impact on your life. With a little forethought, you can set yourself up for success and avoid any obstacles that could cause you to fail.

2. Think about your life balance

Many people make the mistake of choosing the same resolution every year, and getting disheartened when they don’t succeed. If this sounds like you, give yourself a break this year, and focus on a different aspect of your life. For example, if your goals are usually about diet and exercise, this year pick a financial goal, like saving for a house deposit or getting your insurance sorted.

Or choose a social activity that will encourage you to make new friends, like taking an art class or learning to salsa. For some people, the most rewarding resolutions are ones that have a community focus, like volunteering at a nursing home.

3. Set SMART goals

When choosing a resolution, make sure that it’s SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. By clearly defining what you want to achieve, you’ll have a much greater chance of success. And when the goal is clear, it’s also much easier to overcome any setbacks along the way.

4. Stay motivated

One way to keep up your motivation is to create milestones for yourself throughout the year. For example, if your resolution is to lose 10 kilos in 2014, set yourself a target of losing a kilo each month. By seeing the number on your scales go down slightly at your monthly weigh-in, you’ll feel a sense of achievement and you’ll be more determined to keep up the good work. Similarly, if your goal is to save, set a regular (and achievable) target and enjoy watching your money grow.

5. Reward yourself

When you choose your resolutions, also think of ways to treat yourself when you complete them. With something to look forward to at the end, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

For example, if your goal is to quit smoking, at the end of the year, you might treat yourself to a holiday with the money you’ve saved. And you don’t have to wait for the end of the year – if you stay on track, you could give yourself a monthly treat, like a new outfit or dinner at your favourite restaurant.

So whatever your New Year resolutions are for 2014, be sure to stay focused on your goals. You might surprise yourself about what you can achieve. And if you succeed in your resolutions this time around, who knows what you’ll be able to achieve in 2015?