Make a New Set of Resolutions Now

There’s nothing special about January 1

Illustration: Justin Cassano

If you wrote down New Year’s resolutions in January, you might well dread coming across the scrawled list now. We’re almost midway through the year, and for many of us, the last few months have been more about getting by than crushing it.

The truth is, even in normal times, few people stick with their intentions for long. Research from the exercise-tracking app Strava analyzing logged exercise activities found that January 19 is the day people are most likely to quit their resolutions — meaning, under normal circumstances many New Year’s resolutions don’t make it to three weeks.

And these are not normal times. That resolution to hit the gym on the way to the office is tough to pull off if your gym has been closed for months and your office is your bedroom. Writing 500 words a day is harder when you’re also homeschooling your children and working.

It can be tempting to let yourself off the hook until next January, but here’s the thing: You can create a fresh start at any point in the calendar: your birthday, the summer solstice, Tuesday. So why not make a new set of resolutions now? It’s a small thing you can have some control over, and if you stick with them, you might have something to celebrate by January rather than aspire to.

Habits are very dependent on our day-to-day routines, and the current upheaval is making that even more clear. Just think about how the pandemic might have nudged your routines and adjacent resolutions: A goal of swimming laps three times a week at your local pool has probably been abandoned while an aim to cook more at home may have proven not only doable but necessary. The person who made the cooking resolution didn’t magically become more disciplined. Their life circumstances simply changed to support their resolution.

About two months into this “new normal,” we’re getting a sense of new daily routines and what is possible within them. Many of us are also reassessing our priorities and letting go of values and aspirations that no longer feel true to ourselves. That’s the key insight for making new resolutions — and making them stick.

So take a moment to look at the underlying desires behind your resolutions. Ask yourself whether they are still priorities. If your goal was to get more exercise, it’s probably still a wise goal for many reasons — the health benefits of physical fitness, of course, plus the mental health benefits in this stressful time. But maybe that “exercise” looks different this time around: Instead of laps at the pool, maybe now the goal is four 45-minute brisk walks per week or a barre video at lunch.

As you make your new resolutions, make sure your life is set up to support these goals. You won’t magically find more time. But maybe you and your partner can agree to trade off morning homeschooling so you can take a remote guitar class, or you can share a pledge with a colleague to do lunchtime exercise. Creating space and accountability increases the chances that your new goals will happen.

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.

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