7 behaviour design tips to stick to your New Years’ resolutions

checklist in a notebook, image by mt23

Are you thinking of making one or more New Year’s resolutions? Finally lose some weight, eat healthier? About 4 out of ten people use the first day of the new year as a kick-starter to change a bad behaviour. Obviously, you are not going to be part of the 88% who make resolutions and fail. So don’t read these 7 tips on how to increase your chances of success in achieving your resolutions and how design can help:

  1. Don’t try to change everything at once

Several studies show that when we have a lot on our mind, the flesh is weak. Try spreading your resolutions across the whole year. So instead of quitting smoking, drinking less and lose weight by eating healthy and exercise more, start with one thing at a time. And perhaps the next tip will give you an idea on where to start.

  1. Be kind to yourself

Changing behaviour takes willpower and willpower requires energy. Eat well, stay nourished and get plenty of sleep, avoid stress and stay positive. Perhaps reorganise or redecorate the house?


  1. Focus on the problem first

First, write down the pros and cons of the problem. Understand why it is a problem. Be honest. Next, write down the pros and cons of the solution. Make sure the positives outweigh what’s holding you back, only then are you ready. Keep this list visible, always.

  1. Put in some hard yakka

Imagine yourself doing it and how to do it, change your environment and remove stimuli, think of how to cope when things get tough. No wishful thinking. Research shows there are no shortcuts, be prepared to stick with it for at least 6 months. Make it visual, mark it in your diary, track progress and celebrate milestones.

  1. Practice distracting yourself

People who are better at distracting themselves are more likely to be successful. Kittens, anyone?


  1. The more the messier, so go it alone

Contrary to popular belief, research shows that doing it together actually decreases your chance of success. As success becomes a collective effort, you are more susceptible to a psychological phenomenon called ‘Social loafing’. You are likely to try less hard, when you think others are slacking.

However, after six months, social support does help to keep it up.

  1. Finally, cut yourself some slack

You will go back and forth through these five stages: 1 thinking of it, 2 thinking how to do it and how it would be, 3 getting ready, 4 doing it and 5 keeping it up. More than half of people will slip and on average you will experience 14 slips in two years. Stay positive.

If it is any consolation, Jan 1st is just an arbitrary date. Only 2046 years ago, the year started around spring. So, try again then and keep trying. You will succeed, eventually.

Happy New Year!



Karau, S.J. Williams, K.D. (1993) Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(4), 681-706. Read article

Norcross, J.C., Ratzin, A.C. & Payne, D. (1989). Ringing in the new year: The change processes and reported outcomes of resolutions, Addictive Behaviors, 14, 2, 205-212. Read article

Norcross, J.C. & Vangarelli, D.J. (1989).The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts, Journal of Substance Abuse, 1, 2, 127-134. Read article

Prochaska, J.O., DiClemente, C.C. & Norcross, J.C. (1992) In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviors. American Psychologist, Vol 47(9), 1102-1114. Read article

Prochaska, J. O., Velicer, W. F., Rossi, J. S., Goldstein, M. G., Marcus, B. H., Rakowski, W., … & Rossi, S. R. (1994). Stages of change and decisional balance for 12 problem behaviors. Health psychology, 13(1), 39. Read article

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