I don’t really know anyone who actually sets New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s as a holiday has always seemed a little silly and arbitrary to me, and the idea of making a huge lifestyle change simply because of a date doesn’t seem to work for most people. The idea that you can and should make such huge changes this time of year is why so many people find themselves with a gym membership they never use, or a bunch of green juice in their fridge that goes bad before they drink it. I’ve seen friends and family members (and myself) make changes towards a healthier existence, but such changes are either completely gradual and organic, or in response to a personally-specific life event, rather than simply because the start of a new calendar year came around.
Nonetheless, I like the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. I like cold weather, cuddling, and thinking about major life goals while wrapping myself in a dozen blankets. I also understand our tendency to compartmentalize — to lump the entire events of one year together and determine it as anything from a good year to a total trash fire. But really, there’s no way that, at least from a personal standpoint, an entire year can be considered all good or all bad. That’s why I welcome the opportunity to reflect on what went well, and what I still need to work on.
I also think that the resolutions that work the best are the ones that are more minimal — that fit into our lives as they are already, with maybe just a slight improvement. Last year, I made the resolution that I would journal more often — something I’ve discussed previously — and I am so grateful for having started this habit.
At the beginning of 2016, I promised myself that I would write one sentence each day for the entire year. I wanted to start because I honestly just liked the idea of having more of a record of my life in writing, and I also wanted to make sure I was truly enjoying the way I was spending my time. I’ve never been interested in keeping a detailed log of every piece of minutiae in my life, but I make sure I write down one thing I did — and enjoyed — for each day of the year. I make it easier on myself by not making it any sort of nightly ritual, because that just wouldn’t work for me. Sometimes I remember to write my entry before bed, but sometimes I don’t, or I just don’t feel like it. But I make sure to go back and write down my entry for each day before I’ve forgotten exactly what I did, which usually translates into sitting down with my journal for about 20 or 30 minutes each week.
It’s a resolution I’ve been able to stick with because it didn’t drastically change my life in any way; the time I now spend journaling was probably just spent idly bopping around the internet before, and I still do plenty of that. And though it’s a habit that didn’t significantly alter the way I live my life, I’ve noticed so many small shifts that I could not be more grateful for.
Writing positives for each day has inadvertently turned my journal into a gratitude diary. I never went in with the expectation that I would write something I was necessarily grateful for each day, but looking back at the best parts of my day — which range from notable events like my first (and great) date with my now-boyfriend to simply eating some good baked pasta — reminds me of all the things in my life I am grateful for. In turn, I’m more mindful about the ways I spend my time. I learned that there are certain people I just don’t enjoy spending time with, and certain activities I just never enjoy doing (no matter how you slice it, I just won’t ever be a big concert-goer), because on the days that I saw those people or did those things, they were never the highlight. Making myself sit down once a week or so and journal about the prior few days forces me to reflect on them, and think honestly about the things that bring me joy.
The financial impact of this isn’t something I could necessarily track (especially because I only first started using Mint at the end of last year), but I will say I’m much farther along now than I was at this same time last year when it comes to my money goals. I can more easily recognize the impact of small, mindless purchases — ones with easy, more affordable alternatives, like opting for coffee at home instead of out — on my overall finances, and I’m more thoughtful about those small impulse purchases in the moment. Since it also helps me be more honest with myself about what my time (and money) is worth, I’m also better about saving for bigger purchases that are more important to me. I’ve been able to clearly define my money goals for 2017, and have a good sense of how I’m going to reach them.
Being a more avid journaler has also allowed me to start using a planner — more specifically a Bullet Journal — this year, which I know doesn’t work for everyone, but it has tremendously helped me become more productive and organized (even if I am still plagued by too-ambitious to-do lists). I wasn’t planning to start a mindfulness project, but that’s what I’ve ended up with. Journaling has allowed me to be more mindful of all the decisions I make, making me feel more in control both personally and financially. I’m excited that this habit sees to be a new facet of my life, rather than simply the fulfillment of a resolution from last year.
If you have a habit that’s improved your productivity or finances, or even a resolution you’ve kept from January 2016, I would love to hear about it!
Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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