This is the time of the year for the many New Year’s resolutions. Or maybe it is the time of the vanishing of all these good intentions. According to statistics only 90% of  New Year’s resolutions are kept. Of course you can be part of the remaining 10% but what is the reason that it is so hard to keep these great intentions?

The main reason is not having a plan. Without a plan, or rather without alternatives for what you want to do instead of what you want to change, it will be very hard.

This sounds cryptic, so an example. For instance, in the morning you want to start with the things you consider important. Because you noticed that lots of time is taken up by checking your mail, surfing the web a bit and some small talk with colleagues.  It is 11.00 before you know it and you haven’t done anything. Good intention: start straight away with what is important.

No sooner said than done. The first couple of days everything works well, but on the third or the fourth day it is very tempting to check your mail. And before you know it…..

So the next day you start with renewed courage. However, you find it hard to tackle your work and before you know it you are surfing the web or chatting with a colleague at the coffee machine.

It is very hard to change something just by using willpower. What works better? To make sure you have a plan, a plan with two aspects.

Firstly it is very important to know why you want to change something. If you don’t have that very clear, why would you bother changing? The bigger your reason, the easier it is to keep your intentions.

Now come back to the example. Why do you want to start with the most important task? Perhaps because you notice that you don’t get to finish the important tasks. You also notice that you are slow at the start of the day to tackle your work, so only at the last moment you will do the important things which means you work longer because you were not very productive that day.  This will result in a not so easy start of the next day. You might be in a vicious circle, which will hamper your progress. What are the consequences if you don’t finish your thesis in time?

So consider very clearly why something is important to you. By asking yourself a couple of times ‘why is this important?’ you will find out what is the mean reason for the change you want.

The main raison why New Year's resolutions don't work

The second aspect is that you have alternatives. So coming back to our example this means you should make a plan the day before to know exactly what you are going to do the next day. This has to be a very specific plan: what is your first act in the morning? And what is the alternative if you start wandering off to surfing and chatting at the coffee machine? Is there a different job to do? Can you put a timer to limit your time on the web? How to monitor your small talk at the coffee machine? When you don’t have a different plan ready to stop your procrastination, you will procrastinate. So make sure you have stipulated scenarios what could happen and what how you are going to act upon it.

Make sure you have options, alternatives. What do you need to do first to do what you intended? Do you have to change the circumstances, what to prepare, what to do differently? What to do if you catch yourself in the act of not keeping your good intentions?

By using a clear plan, knowing why you are doing it and what alternatives you have, I am sure you will be able to keep your good intentions.

Good luck!


Do you want to stay informed about all the handy tips, tricks and tools? Receive 244 #phd tips and get the newsletter as a bonus! Register here

Get your free PhD tips


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment