11 Realistic Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve broken many New Year’s resolutions over the years. New Year’s resolutions are easy to set, but so hard to keep!

Instead of setting resolutions though, I’ve found several realistic alternatives to New Year’s resolutions to help me keep up with and accomplish my goals through the year.


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1. Choose a Word or Phrase of the Year

You can do this as an individual and/or as a family. Choose a word or phrase to focus on all throughout the year. You could even choose a word for each month if that works better for you.

Read more about choosing a word of the year in this post How to Choose Your Word of the Year.

2. Write a Letter to Your Future Self

You can open your letter on New Year’s Eve of the next year, or at another time you’ve selected. For example- after you’ve accomplished a certain goal. Write multiple letters for different reasons if you want.

In your letter, you might congratulate yourself for completing a goal, and describe how you felt. Or write down what you want to accomplish through the year, and how you’d like your year to go, and find out if your predictions were correct.

Woman holding cup of coffee with paper and envelope on desk.

You might feel funny doing it, but writing down your goals and envisioning how you’ll feel once you accomplish them will put you in a positive mindset, and give you more motivation to work towards them!

You’ll be more likely to write down realistic goals too, because otherwise you’ll feel a little saddened on New Year’s if you wrote down something totally unrealistic that you didn’t accomplish!

3. Create a Mission Statement

Family or personal mission statements can make you more focused in your life. Each time you expend time, energy, or money towards something, you can ask yourself how it fits into your mission statement.

4. Create a Bucket List

If checking off boxes gives you a great rush, then create a bucket list for the year. Bucket lists can also be by month, season, or however you want to want to use them.


Related Post: 75 Summer Family Fun Ideas [FREE PRINTABLE!]


5. Do 30, 60, or 90 Day Challenges

30 day challenges are short enough that you can keep your focus and motivation high, and see relatively quick, realistic results. You can often complete these with a group of people online, so there’s a good sense of community support too.

Here’s a long list of 30 day challenges to give you some ideas to start with.

Try a different 30 day challenge each month, or look for a 60, 90 or even a 365 day challenge to switch things up!

6. Set a Goal for Each Month

Using the month to complete a short-term goal can keep you focused, and relieve the overwhelm that comes with trying to accomplish a huge list of goals.


7. Track Your Habits

Would you like to change your habits, or keep better track of your current habits, to for example see if you really drink as much water as you say you do?

There are a lot of resources out there to help you with this. Both electronic or on paper.

Use apps to help you like Habitica if you like games, or HabitShare if you’d like a social aspect to habit tracking. Here’s a list of other electronic habit trackers you might like.

On paper, you could use a bullet journal, regular notebook, planner, or paper calendar to keep track of your habits.

8. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

One reason I think a lot of goals are broken is that there’s not an immediate negative thing that seriously impacts us.

For example, if I don’t exercise and meet my weight loss goal, I can just say I’ll try harder next year. But if I could lose money if I didn’t meet my goals, that’s another story!

There are several sites out there that allow you to “bet” against yourself and get paid for achieving your goals, or lose money for not staying on track.

Beeminder and stickK work for any type of goals, while others are focused on weight loss or other health-related goals. Check out this article for info about how to get paid to lose weight.

Blue clocks on a light blue background.

9. Take Stock of Your Time

Does the day go by and you wonder where your time went and why you didn’t get anything done? What do you spend your time on? Are you being as productive as you’d like?

Choose a couple of days (ideally a week) to track what you do every 30 minutes and write it down. Use your phone’s calendar, write it down, or look for a time tracking app online.

After you record all of the information, categorize it into areas and look at what you’re spending your time on. Is it what you thought you were spending time on? What areas do you want to make changes in?

10. Create a Vision Board

A vision board is something that helps you envision what you want your future to look like.

Make a collage with whatever represents your goals- pictures, words, inspirational phrases, or other things that encourage or motivate you. It can be on a poster board, bulletin board, in a journal, or wherever is most convenient for you to see it everyday.

There are some really cool boards and board decor out there, check these out!


Read more about creating your own vision board in this post from Jack Canfield.

11. Do a Refresh of An Area of Your Life

Need a fresh start in an area of your life? Or want to do a reboot or reinvent your whole life? You don’t have to wait for the new year to do it. Pick a day and go!

Break down larger goals into small with easy, short-term goals. Once you have success with those, you’ll be more motivated to keep going with your changes.

Create Your Own

Or pick and choose aspects of these ideas to create your own realistic alternative to setting New Year’s resolutions. Don’t make it too difficult on yourself though. The more complicated you make it, the more you work against your own success. Start small and work up to bigger goals/achievements.

A Bonus Tip for Making Goals

If you decide to set goals for yourself, goals like “get healthy” or “save money” are good, but too vague and not likely to last long when there’s not a way to measure your progress or achievement. To give yourself the best chance of completing your goals, remember to make S.M.A.R.T. goals:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

This is used a lot in business and an easy way to help you create realistic goals that are the best for you.

Happy New Year! I wish you all the best in achieving what you want in the new year!

Do you make New Year’s resolutions, or how do you approach productivity and goal-setting in the new year?

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25 Comments

  1. January 13, 2020 / 9:35 am

    I love #1. My word is always gratitude lol I think most things can be accomplished when you are grateful for even the bad things in your life.

  2. January 13, 2020 / 12:51 pm

    Great ideas you shared! I’d never heard of betting against yourself, but that would definitely light a fire under me!

  3. Sydney Delong
    January 13, 2020 / 2:17 pm

    Great list! I will have to put some of these into practice!

  4. January 13, 2020 / 2:24 pm

    These are all great things to do. I love the idea of making a short term bucket list instead of just having a lifetime one. I plan on doing that this year.

  5. Malia
    January 13, 2020 / 2:45 pm

    Hooray for SMART goals! Yes, I’m attempting my biggest goal to date this year. We’ll see if I accomplish it. 13 days in and I’m going strong 😉 Having an accountability partner should help.

  6. January 13, 2020 / 4:15 pm

    Great advice! Finding ways to fit my own individual needs us always helpful! I live vision boards.. they keep me focused!

  7. January 13, 2020 / 5:16 pm

    Love your tips……My fav is doing a refresh, its not so daunting as a whole makeover.

  8. Angela
    January 13, 2020 / 6:22 pm

    I am working on my vision board

  9. January 14, 2020 / 1:31 am

    Thanks for sharing a good collection of ideas that I can look into to help achieve my goals.

  10. January 14, 2020 / 4:14 am

    Having goals instead, of resolutions is key for me.

  11. Cindy
    January 14, 2020 / 6:30 am

    I love these ideas. I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions years ago but these are some great ideas to try out.

  12. January 14, 2020 / 11:51 am

    These are such awesome ideas. Thank you so much. These will help me out this year. The planners you have listed look great too. Maybe I’ll treat myself to one!

  13. Lisa
    January 14, 2020 / 2:57 pm

    Great ideas! I am motivated to keep my goals!

  14. January 14, 2020 / 7:01 pm

    I DO love to check off boxes, so the bucket list idea seems good, but then I sometimes get lost in other checklist ideas. So I am excited to try the 30-day challenge idea. Will let you know!

  15. Tricia Snow
    January 14, 2020 / 9:11 pm

    These are great ideas! I love the alternatives!

  16. January 14, 2020 / 10:07 pm

    I love this idea of alternatives to New Years resolutions. I’ve actually done a few!

  17. Charlene
    January 15, 2020 / 8:25 am

    I hate the typical New Years Resolution. This is a great alternative! So smart.

  18. January 15, 2020 / 12:18 pm

    GREAT ideas! I’ve got my word (COMMIT) and my goals all set and am doing great so far.

  19. January 15, 2020 / 1:00 pm

    I love the idea of breaking goals down into 30, 60, 90 days. That makes them feel more obtainable. Thank you for sharing!

  20. tara
    January 15, 2020 / 1:12 pm

    I like your ideas here! I like the idea of creating a word for the year, and small challenges to help you get to your goal thanks for sharing

  21. January 16, 2020 / 9:49 pm

    What a great list!! I love the idea of picking a word for the year. I may have to try this. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Jane
    January 17, 2020 / 10:49 am

    I don’t believe in NY resolution but rather I do my own SMART goals. Listing down my bucketlist and goals for the year really helps. I love your ideas and tips.

  23. January 18, 2020 / 5:40 pm

    These are great ideas! Thanks for sharing. I am not fond of the traditional New Years resolutions.

  24. January 19, 2020 / 7:14 pm

    Ooooh – some of these are GREAT ideas! I’ve done the bucket list and monthly challenges, but never thought of them as something to do as a New Year’s project.

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