It's too late to change how 2015 went, so take some time to evaluate what you could have done better, and go a little easy on yourself. You've still got a whole new year ahead of you, and there are plenty of little ways to make 2016 the best year yet. Since New Year's resolution failure is common, don't think of these ideas as a literal to-do list so much as a source of inspiration. It's really hard to change a bunch of things about your life at once, but if you focus on a few that speak to you and avoid common New Year's resolution mistakes people make when trying to accomplish their goals, you can definitely make progress.
Self-improvement is a long journey, but you can't get far without even knowing where you want to go in the first place, right? Even though making changes for the new year is hard, people obviously find something satisfying about the attempt, or this tradition would fall by the wayside really quickly. There's nothing magical about a new number on the calendar that will make you have more willpower or motivation than ever before, but humans look for meaning in stuff, and "turning over a new leaf" just feels good. So here are some ideas for winning 2016, and may it be your best year yet.
1. Say thanks
Gratitude is good for you, and not just on Thanksgiving. Be thankful for what you have right now, and give yourself the gift of a whole new mindset.
2. Clear your space
I made fun of Marie Kondo's bestseller The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up right up until I realized she was correct about everything. Clearing your space of clutter seems like it would be a drag, but it feels great once you get going. If you're a lifelong clutterbug like I was, it's worth a try at least once — you may surprise yourself.
3. Procrastinate better
Stopping procrastinating forever is hard. Procrastinating smarter is easy. Read about "structured procrastination," a powerful tool for re-thinking your priorities, and putting this nasty psychological tendency to good use.
4. Lengthen your attention span
The digital age and its fast attention switching are killing our attention spans. You can get it back quickly, though. Commit to just an hour of distraction-free reading or work per day (or week!), and watch your attention span stretch.
5. Get in the flow
More attention means more "flow," a satisfying mental state of focus. People who often experience flow at work or at play are happier than those who experience flow rarely. Find your flowy space, and occupy it frequently.
6. Read less news
Being informed is good, but maybe you're reading so much news that it's only getting you down. You're not obligated to do that, and you have permission to stop. The world is actually getting better in many ways.
7. Manage your digital clutter
While you're unsubscribing from those news sites, clean up your other notifications and inboxes too. "Alert fatigue" is real, and it may be keeping you from paying attention to the stuff that actually matters (both online and in the real world).
8. Spend right
Buying objects gives you a little happiness on an ongoing basis, but buying experiences gives you more intense happiness once (plus good memories). Impulse purchases are usually a bad bet, but you can avoid them. Spend your money wisely this year, and you'll get more bang for your bucks.
9. Reconnect with family
No one's getting any younger, so pick up the phone already! Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good — usually family happiness is possible to achieve in some way, shape, or form, and worth expending some effort for.
10. Make a friend
Loose social connections are great, but you need some real friends too. There are even online dating-type services to help you find friends.
11. Sleep better
Everyone's been discussing for years now that it's not cool and not healthy to skimp on quality sleep, so what are you waiting for?
12. Forgive someone
Don't carry that grudge for one more year — it's time to forgive that person, and forgiveness will likely make you happier too.
13. Practice mindfulness
It's easy to get caught up in life's hustle and bustle for days on end, but it's not great for your brain or body. Try some mindfulness instead.
14. But don't zen out too much
Too much meditating can alter memories and have other ill effects on psychological health, so you don't need to become some kind of guru! Moderation, grasshopper.
15. Make a plan
Planning is hard, but it's worth it. Break your plan into smaller chunks, and give them deadlines. Remember, kids: failing to plan is planning to fail.
16. Ditch a plan
On the other hand, you're allowed to change your mind about stuff! Don't spend the whole year with a plan you've already abandoned in your heart hanging over your head. It's OK if you no longer want to go back to school or change jobs or whatever.
17. Keep it a secret
When you have figured out your goals for the year, keep them to yourself. Unfortunately, telling people about what you plan to do makes you feel like you've already accomplished something, sapping your motivation. There will be plenty of time to celebrate when you actually hit your finish line.
18. Write it down
Memory is weak, paper is forever. Write down what you want to do, even daily or weekly, to make it real.
19. Measure progress
It's easy to misremember how well (or poorly) you did at changing something this year. Keep track of your progress in a way that makes sense (number of dates you went on, number of gym visits, etc).
20. But don't try too many tools
Though you do need a way to measure progress, don't fall into the to-do list, productivity app, and planner overload trap. Trying a new tool feels productive, but it usually isn't. Choose something and stick with it the whole year for consistency. Personally, I like any.do and the pomodoro technique. And I've tried everything... sigh.
Looking for more holiday cheer? Check out Bustle on YouTube.
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