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Phelan: Action plan can help with New Year’s resolutions

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

At the start of each year, in between the cries of well-wishers and requests to not drink and drive, I always hear about “New Year’s resolutions” – some things people will start doing in the new year, making it the best 365 days of their lives. Working out more, being nicer and getting work done on time are all examples. Recently, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been filled with friends’ promises to themselves about how they will become better people in 2013.

None of my friends, however, take the time to explain how exactly they’ll be a new-and-improved person in 2013. I know that posting specifics about workout plans on Facebook is a bit unreasonable, but it’s still rare to hear anyone say, “I’m going to stop procrastinating in the new year. I’ll do this by initially reorganizing my workspace to limit distractions, then maintaining by writing out a to-do list every day at breakfast and only allowing myself to watch TV once I’ve completed everything on it.”

There are books, websites and apps about how to stick to your resolution, but I’ve yet to see an iPhone app that helps ensure that you’re making smart goals. SMART, of course, meaning specific, measurable, action-focused, realistic and timely.

I could resolve myself to make a $1 million this year, but I think that’s pretty futile. Although making money is specific and measurable, I’ve yet to plan any action toward my goal. And even if I took action immediately, making that much money as a full-time student would be nothing short of miraculous. Perhaps this goal could be more manageable if I decided to make a million dollars in the next 20 years.

Another problem with New Year’s resolutions is that many people are seemingly unable to make changes or set goals at times that aren’t January. Why can’t people make new month resolutions? Or simply set new goals each week? In fact, setting a new goal each week would make it easier to achieve a year-long goal – no one is as optimistic each Monday as they are on Jan. 1.

I’m not immune to New Year’s resolutions; I always find myself deciding that I’ll do something after winter break ends. My resolution last year was to eat healthier, and the Chipotle employees can tell you exactly how well that went.

So, this year, I’ve decided that my goal is to make better goals. I’m not going to commit to doing every single homework assignment or keeping my room perfectly tidy. Instead, I’m dedicating myself to making better long-term study goals and actually making a plan about when and how I’ll clean my room.

And I’ll let everyone know how well those go next year.

• Courtney Phelan is a senior at Geneva High School. She is an outgoing and energetic young writer who likes to swim, read and participate in general teenage activities. She can be contacted at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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