Fail to plan and plan to fail: why you need to stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Wednesday, January 13, 2016 - 17:17

So it’s week two of 2016, you’ve already skipped your morning run twice and you caved in and drank a few too many glasses of wine on Saturday night. While it might feel like the wheels are wobbling already, it isn’t yet time to give up on all of your goals for the year.

The New Year is when nearly everyone starts to set new goals for themselves, both professionally and personally. For busy managers, this is the ideal time to consider how to put these into action over the coming weeks.

While setting resolutions is popular, it's also a process many people go through without ever actually achieving their goals. In fact, 88 per cent of new year resolutions go unfilled every year, according to research from the University of Bristol.

However, setting goals at this time of year is incredibly important, which is why you need to be setting objectives that are both achievable and will push you to achieve more in 2016.

Why set goals at this time of year?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they set new year's resolutions is that they don't set them in the right way. For many, it's tempting to procrastinate and leave goal setting until later in 2016.

While this approach can be tempting, it overlooks one of the key benefits of setting goals at this time: a clear timeframe. Consider the SMART methodology for setting goals - setting a time limit is the 'T' of the framework.

With New Year's resolutions, you have a clear timeframe for achieving your goal: 12 months. This is enough time to set a concrete goal which you can start on this month and carry through the rest of the year.

What are the different personal development goals people are setting in the new year?

There are many different goals that people will set in January, across both their personal and professional lives. However, there are also some important common goals that will cross over the two. These include:


Perhaps the most common New Years resolution, getting fitter and healthier is one of the most central goals for many of us in the new year. However, this shouldn't just be seen as a personal goal, it's also one that can have an important impact on your professional life.

This was underscored by research published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management which considered how fitness can assist busy professionals. The study compared exercise and non-exercise days, finding the former have a positive correlation with higher performance. 

Importantly though, the boost to performance comes from having an improved mood at work, which helped people to achieve more. As well as increasing productivity, the research found workers were more tolerant and resilient.


While businesses budget around the financial year, most individuals tend to earmark January as the ideal time to tighten their belt and start saving their money. The silly season of Christmas gifts, dinners and parties is now a distant memory and all you have to show for it is a terrifying credit card balance sheet and pants that feel a little tighter around the middle.

With less social occasions and trips away on the calendar until Easter, you’ve got a few weeks of space to stick to a strict new regime of saving. This is tough initially as spending money is habit forming – the rush you get from new toys is addictive so it will take time to wean yourself off all that mindless spending.

It can be easy to forget about a savings plan after a few indiscretions so the key is to set yourself a realistic long terms savings goal for the year. Don’t have your budgets revolve around living like a monk, set yourself some slack for spending on the things that make you happy and you’ll be much more likely to stick to your financial plan.

Professional development

Adopting new skills is one of the most important areas where you can achieve both a personal and professional goal. Education is all about investing in yourself and your skills, as is pursuing a qualification that will help you to meet your professional development goals.

Short courses, in particular, are a useful option for those considering how they can fit a professional training course around their existing commitments. This can make it far easier to undertake a study option without making major changes to your current lifestyle.

Translating goals into action

Setting professional development goals is only one side of the coin for workers. Equally important is what happens after January when these goals are turned into actions.

Some of them, like enrolling in a course, will be easy. Trickier will be areas like exercise will require constant commitment and practice in order to become a standard part of your day. Achieving these long-term goals requires careful planning and may mean you have to structure your calendar in a way that carves out time to achieve your goals.

Finding this balance between setting professional development goals and then building a plan to see them through can be a difficult balance, but now is the ideal time to try and plot this path.