We’re 8 days into 2013. Are you still going to the gym? Still eating healthier? Still sticking to your budget? Have you taken the first step toward launching your business or writing your book?

As I was writing an article (which I’ll have for you later this week) about how I plan to “work less and do more” this year, I came to the thought of planning, goal-setting, and allowing/scheduling time to “create”.

One of my goals is to allow myself more time to let my mind wander. To write. To tangibly work on ideas. To think. Unhindered by email, social media, meetings, and other distractions. Rather than simply fitting it into my day here and there when I can, I want to make real time for creativity – even if it means I’m reading a book, listening to music, or sitting in silence and I don’t actually come up with anything.

This brings to light the biggest problem with making resolutions. Setting a resolution to “be more productive” is so damn vague. It’s like saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” but not really understanding what it’ll take to get there – which quickly leads to your randomly going to the gym a couple times a week and wandering around the grocery store trying to come up with some healthy things to buy. A couple weeks later you’ll be sleeping in, avoiding the gym, eating donuts for breakfast.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration – but the point is – creating new habits is hard – maintaining old ones is easy. The problem 100% of the time isn’t with the resolution, but with the execution.

Why do most resolutions fail? Because they’re lacking the two things they most need to succeed:

1. A plan of action.

Creating a an effective plan involves one (big) first step: Asking yourself why. 

Why do you want to write a book? Why do you want to lose 20 pounds? Why do you want to be more productive? It may not be an easy question to answer – but it’s one that you must – and one that you can’t lose sight of if you’re going to be successful.

When I decided to run a marathon early last year – I asked myself “why?” – the answer: Above all, I wanted to prove to myself that something I believed to be physically impossible – something I use to be in awe of when other people would talk about it – was achievable and possible for me. I wanted and needed a big, crazy goal to drive me to establish healthier habits – and yes, I wanted to lose weight and feel better and not hate shopping and all of that – but for me, I needed a big, audacious goal to get me from point A to point B. 1,000 miles of running last year, and here I am, with a new habit that’s become a part of my day-to-day. Through it all, I understood the “why” – and that’s what kept me going.

2. A (realistic) schedule.

Odds are when you put a meeting in your calendar, you show up. When something is important, you add it to your schedule and you get it done. This can – and should – and has to be - applied to any goal or resolution you’re setting for yourself.

Most resolutions fail because (real) time isn’t made to take them from idea to reality. If your goal is to write a book – schedule time (put it in your calendar) to write. If your goal is to run – schedule time (put it in your calendar) to run. If your goal is to eat healthier – schedule time (put it in your calendar) to go grocery shopping and to cook emails. It may seem silly to add something like “cook dinner” to your Google Calendar – but in this day of age of being constantly connected and driven by what’s on our to-do lists – use these tools to your advantage and treat the time you make for your resolutions like any other important part of your day.

Also, remember to set a REALISTIC schedule. Don’t schedule two hours seven days a week to write. Don’t block out three hours in the morning to hit the gym. It’s not realistic and there’s no way you’ll stick to it. Set manageable and attainable goals for yourself. Thing big, but start small and work your way up.

I won’t lie to you, friends, this isn’t easy. But is anything that’s really worth it ever that easy? By creating a plan of action, asking “why?”, and setting a realisitic schedule, you’ll be well on your way.

And remember, the problem is never with the resolution, but with the execution.

What goals do you have for yourself this year? How will you execute them?

About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. I also watch entirely too much Saved by the Bell, run marathons, and drink plenty of craft beer. Check out the work my company is doing at Proof Branding.