As a college student, I’m extremely familiar with getting bombarded with the final exam
rush before the holiday break begins. You’ll often find me hiding in the corner of a coffee shop with a mug and my laptop in front of me, notebooks spread onto as much surface area as possible. All I can think about are my exams, and the only interruption I allow myself occurs during my fifteen-minute brain breaks to check my phone and double-check my coffee levels.
The last thing on my mind? New Year’s resolutions. It’s hard to think so far in advance when you have multiple projects and exams staring you in the face every time you open your Google Calendar. I’m guilty of forgetting about self-care during finals season, though; my workout schedule disappears, and I don’t leave much time to socialize with friends since all I can think about are exams and keeping my GPA up. I’m not the only person who does this. In fact, my friends all have the same problem, so we all become a bit like meerkats by hiding in our respective holes around campus.
After all my finals are over and I’m home for the holidays, my next concern becomes gift shopping. Again, New Year’s resolutions get pushed aside as I browse the internet for potential presents and walk through the mall. I’ve always been a selective gift-giver since I want to provide people with presents I know they’ll use, so this genuinely takes ages. I often find myself making an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything organized. I’m far from thinking about goals I have (or presents I want), which is why resolutions fall to the bottom of my to-do list.
After the holiday season is over for my family, I’m left with days to recuperate and figure out what goals I’m setting for the new year. Coming up with New Year’s resolutions
isn’t a strength of mine since I try to be super realistic and achievable. I’ve made typical ones, like, “I’ll work out more this year!” but those fall through once May comes around because I have finals again. I tend to drop resolutions as soon as I have to prioritize something else, and that “something else,” more often than not, is something related to school.
So, how do you make manageable New Year’s resolutions as a college student? I’ve used the following tips to be better about making them and staying on track with them.
1. Be Specific
“I’ll work out more” is not a measurable goal to set for the new year. What does working out more look like in practice? Does this mean that you’ll work to lift heavier weights at the gym, or does it mean that you’ll go to the gym more than 3 days a week? The more specific you are with your New Year’s resolution, the more manageable it will be.
An example of a more specific resolution is, “I will go to the gym from 7 to 9 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The first hour is for cardio, and the second hour is for weights.” You’ve set a reasonable schedule for yourself that is addable to your Google Calendar, and what you’ll be doing is clearly laid out. This specificity will help you keep your New Year’s resolution because it’s legitimately actionable; you know what you’re going to do without the vagueness.
2. Remind Yourself
Set up automatic reminders on your phone, especially if your resolution involves daily progress. It’s as easy as when you set alarms to wake up for your 8am class. You can use Google Calendar’s reminder function or even write reminders on Post-it Notes around your dorm room
or apartment so you purposefully get constant exposure to do what you’ve told yourself to do since the beginning of the year.
Repetition is key. Reminders play a large role in that, and seeing your goal over and over again will lead to your resolution being more firmly ingrained. When I set my New Year’s resolution a few years ago in order to save more money, I taped a Post-it Note in my wallet so I was reminded of the larger purchases I was saving up for. This helped me to resist the temptation of treating shopping as a way to relax; and, as a result, I bought myself the purse I had been eyeing for months.
3. Track Your Progress
Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to cut sugary drinks out of your diet. Every 24 hours you don’t have one, write it down in your planner or mark it in your online calendar. It’s a way of keeping yourself accountable, and it’ll feel satisfying to draw in your checkmark every day that you succeed.
Accidentally have a sugary drink while out for dinner with friends? Slipping up is expected when it comes to new habit formation. Draw in a sad face or an ‘x’ and move on – you’ve got this! It’s rewarding in itself to see the amount of checkmarks grow in comparison to the little mistakes along the way, and you’re encouraging yourself on a day-by-day basis. That self-encouragement will help you keep the New Year’s resolution since you’re actively motivating yourself for a presumably better change.
4. Make It a Group Effort
Don’t trust yourself to stay on track? Think about making a group New Year’s resolution with friends so you can all work on a shared goal. It’s a great test of friendship, and it can lead to some interesting stories and new skills that benefit everyone involved. You can hang out with your friends and celebrate when the goal is reached – it’s a win-win situation!
Free cooking classes on campus are a great place to start for group New Year’s resolutions, especially if you aren’t confident in your kitchen skills. Learn how to roll sushi, how to prepare a vegetarian-friendly meal, or how to bake chocolate chip cookies with your friends and hold a potluck to test everyone’s skills. Alternatively, watch YouTube videos about how to do certain tasks and follow along as a group (it’s important to know who can mince garlic the fastest for bragging rights, after all).
New Year’s resolutions give you a clear opportunity to set goals for yourself. They’re less intimidating than setting life goals, and you’re bound to pick up good habits along the way. During college
, it’s common to hear from mentors that setting habits early on will lead to better quality of life after graduation; making and keeping resolutions can help you achieve that broader goal. Make a manageable New Year’s resolution for 2020, and get ready to celebrate when you’ve succeeded!