You may have a long list of things you'd like to accomplish in 2015, but... you have an entire year to lose the weight, revamp your finances, and find a new job. You can start tomorrow. Or this weekend. Or after Valentine's Day.
Sound familiar? For too many of us, framing our new year's resolutions in the context of the whole year can lead to procrastination like this, which ultimately leads to failure.
The good news: recent research from the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that working toward your goals on a monthly basis, rather than all year long, can trick you into getting started on your goals right away, giving you a higher chance of achieving them.
In one study, researchers gave 100 students a data entry task and a time frame with a deadline to complete the task, and asked them when they would start working on it. Although the amount of time to complete the task was the same (5 days), some students' deadline was the the end the current month (January 31st, for example), while others had a deadline of the beginning of the following month (like February 1st). Interestingly, the people with deadlines in the current month were much more likely to begin the task right away, despite having the same amount of time.
Researchers say the timing of the deadline is important because we are hardwired to care more about the present than the future. When a deadline has an end date that is in the same month as the start of the project, it feels more like the present, which makes it seem more actionable.
So if you actually want to complete your resolutions this year, the key might be setting themed goals you can finish by the last day of each month. When you give yourself a monthly deadline rather than a yearly one, it feels like your goal is more urgent, making you more likely to act on it.
For example, say you want to drop a few extra pounds. Think up little tasks you can do each month to work toward your goal. It could be anything from committing to the gym at least three days a week one month or cooking more meals at home the next. Just take it one step at a time and come the next new year, you may have a lot more to celebrate.