Ryan Shea


The New Month Resolution

Drop the New Year’s Resolution. That’s right, drop it and start doing resolutions every month.

It’ll result in not only a higher number of improvements to your life but also higher adherence rates and thus a higher overall impact.

Why Monthly?

New Year’s Resolutions come around only once a year, by definition. In theory, a new year is a great period of time upon which you can reflect as well as a great period of time to plan for.

In practice, though, making commitments and holding yourself to them for an entire year is essentially setting yourself up for failure. And at the end of it all, you have an entire year to look back on and only get the chance to reflect once. In practice, reflection and resolution ends up becoming a practice for December 31st and January 1st and not much more.

Think about it — how many days in 2016 did you think about your 2016 resolution? Probably very few. Google Trends suggests that it’s ridiculously low for the vast majority of people:

Google searches for “new years resolution” spike between the last week of December and the first week of January.

If you make a resolution for an entire year, you should set yourself up to stick to it for the entire year and remind yourself every week or at least every month to check in on your progress and make sure you’re on track. If this doesn’t end up working out, then there’s clearly a problem.

Yearly vs. Monthly

New Year’s Resolutions involve 1 cycle every year. In contrast, New Month Resolutions have much quicker, frequent cycles — 1 every month.

New Year’s Resolutions are characterized by:

  • Extremely infrequent observation and resolution
  • Long implementation periods with monumental goals that are insanely hard to satisfy
  • Reflection over a long time period with minimal information collecting

New Month Resolutions are characterized by:

  • Frequent periods of observation and resolution
  • Short, manageable implementation periods with short-term goals that are realistic to satisfy
  • Reflection over a short time period with information still fresh

My New Month Resolutions in 2016

In 2016, I started doing New Month Resolutions. I decided to run one experiment to change my behavior each month and see if I’d stick with it afterwards. Here’s what I did:

  • July: Daily reading
  • August: No TV or movies
  • September: No dairy
  • October: No gluten
  • November: Daily meditation
  • December: No news or social media feeds

As you can see, a few of the months were elimination months and a few were daily behavior months.

The elimination months were interesting because I learned that I came away less dependent on the thing I eliminated. I now watch less TV and movies, I eat less bread and gluten, and I still block the news and my social media feeds. The only thing I reinstated was dairy because I chose to continue to consume it.

The daily behavior months were interesting because they gave me an on-ramp to maintaining certain behaviors. I still meditate daily and while I don’t read daily, I read at a frequency close to that.

My New Month Resolutions for 2017

Now that I’ve tried 6 month-long experiments in 2016, it’s time to start my experiments for 2017. My meta-goal is to do 12 more New Month Resolutions.

Here are some of my ideas for 2017 and I’ll keep adding more as I think of them:

  • A month of writing in a journal every day
  • A month of time budgeting using the “100 blocks” method
  • A month of more careful budgeting of spending
  • A month of visiting my parents every week
  • A month of no alcohol

Your Resolutions in 2017

I gave you my New Month Resolutions for 2017. Now I’d like to hear yours, as well as whether you think the monthly resolution approach is a good one. Feel free to share your thoughts on Twitter or in a response below.

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