I stuck to my 2021 resolutions. Here\’s how I did it

When my editor at Fast Company asked me if I had made 2021 resolutions and kept them, it caused me to do some reflection. As I looked back over the last eleven months and a bit, I felt enormously satisfied with the ways I invested my time, including swimming in my first official 5K race and volunteering as a counselor at a camp for foster kids. And I also felt really good about the progress I’d made on my resolutions. (Sometimes you’re just so focused on moving things forward that you need to pause, survey the landscape and realize how far you’ve come.)

I replied, “Sure! I’m happy to share how I kept my resolutions in 2021.”

But if you’re like the majority of Americans who don’t tend to make or keep resolutions, first of all, no judgement. I have an unfair advantage because in my work as a time management coach, I spend every workday thinking about how to help people be effective with their time. Being productive is my jam. Secondly, you’re on the brink of a new year so there is always the opportunity for a fresh beginning.

Here’s how I kept my new year’s resolutions and you can too.

Set my intention

Since 2020 was such a tumultuous year, I knew that I needed to have a positive mental outlook to move through 2021 in a forward-thinking fashion. I usually have a theme word for each year. But in 2021 I had a collection of words for an extra dose of goodness: Defiant Hope, Unfiltered Joy, Perfect Peace.

At the beginning of each day, I wrote those words at the top of my daily plan as a reminder to push back against any sort of negativity. None of us can control everything going on in the world, but we all have a choice to take positive action each day and to decide how we direct our thoughts.

Establish resolutions

Then with my resolutions, I picked a few large items that were important to me and required intentional thought and effort to get done. Those were:

  • Health: Decide on and do the appropriate treatment for gum issues
  • Volunteering: Complete my licensing to become a foster parent
  • Business: Do a refresh of my website to update images and text
  • Money: Take time to do financial planning and decide about investment strategy

At the start of the year, I knew these items would be my focus. Along the way, I did add in other projects like buying a car and volunteering on a friend’s campaign for city council. But I still attempted to make these four resolutions primary since January.

Focus on each month

The next step in my process was to break down my resolutions into tasks that I could complete each month. Although I do my weekly planning in Google Calendar, I find that monthly planning works better for me when I use a paper planner because it causes me to take my resolutions more seriously. In previous years, I’ve sometimes done monthly planning electronically. And on the computer, it’s easier to move long-term projects from week to week without realizing a whole month has gone by without progress. When you have to re-write everything, there’s more of a sting to it.

In 2021, I chose to use a Ponderlily planner. Why it worked well for me is that at the start of each month, there’s a page to write down your goals in different categories like “Wellness” or “Finances,” a ribbon to mark your place, and lots of pages in the back for notes and thoughts. I also found the book very beautiful, which helped me to want to interact with it.

I paced my progress on my resolutions based on how much I had going on each month. During my monthly planning, I also tried to break my resolutions into smaller parts.

For example, January is the busiest month of the year for me because of people making time management resolutions. So in terms of my own resolutions in January, my emphasis was on finishing my foster care licensing and doing retirement planning for 2021. I listed those in my planner and also wrote out the smaller steps underneath those goals. A few months later in March, the early year rush started to slow so I increased how much progress I could make on my resolutions during my monthly planning. That month I made the goal to have consultations set up with potential healthcare providers, to set up a meeting with a financial planner, and to look into people to help with my website edits.

At the start of each new month, I evaluated my progress from the past 30 days and decided on next steps. One thing I feel really helped with sticking to my resolutions was not expecting to complete too much at any one time. For example, after setting up my health consultations in March, I decided my April goal would be to make a decision on my direction, and in May, to have my appointments booked.

Translate to each week

On Monday mornings, I do my weekly planning. As part of that process in 2021, I took a look at the open times in my schedule and looked over my monthly goals to see what to move forward that week. Once I selected those items, I put them in my calendar such as spending time on a Saturday afternoon looking at options for gum treatment or on a Thursday night looking to see if there were any new options for my retirement account.

Clearly defining what I would do and when helped me to make my resolutions a priority.

Get each goal done

Then day-by-day, I did what I had planned in my calendar. Occasionally I chose to divert my attention from the planned progress on resolutions. But the majority of the time, I did follow through, and I’ve made big strides on what I resolved to do: I completed my foster care licensing. I successfully did my gum treatment and have been doing all of my follow up care. I got clear on what support I needed from financial professionals, took a personal finance course, and worked on some new strategies to best manage my assets. On the website front, I’m still in process. I did make progress but ended up taking multiple trainings this summer where I invested a lot of time and energy in items that will become components of my website. They’re not done quite yet, but I do have the intention to complete them by the end of 2021.

So all-in-all, I feel really good about where I’m at with my resolutions. My process isn’t complicated, but it is intentional. And it allowed me to end the year with a sense of deep satisfaction with how I invested my time. I hope these tips can help you to experience much success with your resolutions in 2022.