The Key to Keeping New Year's Resolutions: Find a System That Works for You

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

Have you set your New Year's resolutions yet? In this segment from Industry Focus, Motley Fool analysts Dylan Lewis and Michael Douglass share some of their best tips for staying on top of resolutions and not losing steam as the year wears on.

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Listen in to find out how to make a resolution that will "pay" you, how to keep motivated all year, and the benefits of writing down your goals.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Jan. 13, 2017.

Dylan Lewis: So, you have a very specific framework for how you look at getting things done. You want to talk about that a little bit, Michael?

Michael Douglass: Sure. But before that, let me talk, broadly -- I think a lot of this comes down to what motivates you. People are motivated by different things. Sometimes it's that they really want support, they really want that feeling of accomplishment, some people think about things in terms of power, some people think about things in terms of money. For me, I'm very much motivated by the idea of having a resolution that pays me. I actually try to quantify what the resolution is worth in money terms, then, how many hours it's going to take me to do that, so I can pay myself by getting that resolution done. That's very motivating to me, because I like to think a lot about return on investment of time. Ultimately, we only have so much time. So I want to make sure that any time I'm spending not doing my job and doing things that make me happy, like talking to my wife and watching movies and reading and skiing and whatever, hanging out with Dylan, [laughs] is time that is profitable.

Lewis: And when you think about it that way, rather than looking at rebalancing your 401(k), or deciding to up your contribution limit, or doing more stock research, and saying, "This is nebulous, and I can't really figure out what I'm getting out of this," you can say, "This is roughly what I've decided this is worth per hour."

Douglass: Right. And it's like, "OK, cool, I spent three hours yesterday on this, I made $120 long term. I feel pretty good about that."

Lewis: And it's a nice way to take what is otherwise a long-term thing and make it a little bit more short term and get some of that instant gratification.

Douglass: Yeah. And this is one of the things that's really tough when you're thinking about longer-term stuff. One of mine is very long term, and two of them are reasonably short term. It's just that daily grind. You have so much energy and excitement in January because it's awful outside and you want to do something to turn it around and make this next year awesome. But it's really hard, in mid-March, to keep chugging through. So, it's important to also practice some self-love. You miss some, you don't get something done in a month that you'd planned to, that's OK. You just have to pick up the pieces and keep going.

Lewis: Yeah. I am a firm believer, huge advocate, of writing things down. We have the benefit of being able to post ours on Fool.com. That may not be a benefits if you don't achieve them, [laughs] because they're publicly available.

Douglass: [laughs] "Missed that one."

Lewis: Yeah, right? But, really, if you have something written down, the reality is, most people are not going to get their life in order on January 1st or January 30th. It's just not going to happen. You have so many moving parts, you have holiday parties, whatever. There's so much going on.

Douglass: The flu.

Lewis: The flu. People get sick. But, if you have something written down, one, you have the process of organizing your thoughts into the things you want to prioritize for the coming year. Two, as you have free time, you can revisit that list and actually knock off the things you want to get done, rather than kind of remember something that you wanted to do but you don't exactly remember the specifics, and eh, I have to take the dog for a walk, and it never gets done.

Douglass: And things get in the way. And instead, by attaching something to it, whether it's, "If I do this thing, I get to take myself out to a nice dinner," or, again, I'm thinking of this in a dollar per hour basis, that gives you the carrot, in addition to the stick of "Yeah, this is a thing I need to do." So, you have the guilt in one hand and the prize for doing this thing. And hopefully, this gives you a powerful combination.

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