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Setting New Year's Resolutions Which Actually Work

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Sound advice from Toby, one of our top tutors and our Chief Assessor.

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Here we are then, January 2019. The old year is spent and the new one unfurls invitingly before us. Tradition dictates that this is a time for reflection; January (named after Janus) is a two-faced month, looking both forwards and backwards simultaneously. And of course the done thing is to make New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year we promise ourselves that this time the earth works its way around the sun we will be kinder to our friends and families, we will eat healthier diets, we will be more careful with money, make better decisions, get up earlier, study harder and realise our greatest dreams. Soon January rolls into February, then March opens the door to Spring, and before you know it it's December, and nothing has changed. Somehow all those good intentions have come to nothing, and its time to resolve to make everything better all over again.

So how do you make resolutions that you can actually keep to? Whether it’s the beginning of a new year, or just time to turn a few things around, here are some ideas to help you make a real difference to your day to day life:

1. Set realistic goals

A common reason that people give up on resolutions is they get overwhelmed by the size of the change they want to make. Say you decide that this year you want to learn French. It’s no good to tell yourself "I am going to speak a new language fluently by the end of the year!". Much better to say "I will do twenty minutes of French practice, five days a week". You can always increase the aims after a month or two if you feel it’s too easy. After all, it is much better to successfully make a small change to your life than fail to make a big one. So start small, and build from there.

2. Have measurable outcomes

If you decide that 2019 is the year in which you are going to be kinder to everyone, good for you! But you might find that the vagueness of your resolution makes it harder to achieve. After all, what is the measure of kindness? Who is kinder, the woman who spends one hour looking after her aged mother, or the man who volunteers at the soup kitchen for the same amount of time? You’re much more likely to see a noticeable difference if your resolution involves a specific change you are going to make in your behaviour. For instance: "this year I am going donate this much money per month to charity".

The same rule applies to study habits. A student might resolve to do much better in their homework. An admirable aim, but a bit directionless. Why not resolve instead to do one piece of homework first thing after the end of the school day, when your mind is still fresh, before indulging in television or other leisure activity? If this goes well, you might increase to two pieces.

3. Keep a record of progress

A journal or diary that records which days you successfully fulfil your resolved aims is a great way of keeping yourself on the straight and narrow. Perhaps you’ll enjoy writing about the changes you're making to your life. Progress in learning a new skill or effecting a life style change can be frustratingly slow — so slow you might not think you're making any progress at all. But you are. A journal will prove it. Imagine you’re trying to learn a musical interest. Look at what you wrote about how hard it was to play a scale on day 1 compared with the challenges of day 20, and you’ll see just how far you’ve come in that time.

4. Reward yourself for consistently fulfilling your resolutions

Hopefully your resolutions will be about things that you really want to change, and so you’ll have a strong motivation to keep going with them for their own sakes. That said, a little extra motivational carrot never hurt anyone. Think of what you might do to reward yourself. It could be a gift you buy yourself, or an activity you’d like to do. But be strict: only give yourself the reward if you truly stick to your resolution.

Follow these four simple rules, and you’re bound to succeed. To students and tutors both, I wish you all a Happy New Year, filled with successes of all kinds!

Blog Post Crafted by Toby

Toby is one of our top English and Maths tutors, as well as our Chief Assessor, and he also works on our Admin Team. His proudest moment was when he tied Christopher Lee’s (AKA Saruman’s) bow-tie!

Toby is in charge of recruitment of new tutors. He conducts interviews with prospective tutors and assesses their lessons to get a feel for whether they have the teaching style we're looking for. As a member of our Admin Team, Toby advises applicants on the application process and books them in for interviews. He liaises with clients about their tuition enquiries and discusses potential jobs with tutors.


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