When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we often stretch ourselves too thin.
We vow to lose weight, eat better, stop all unhealthy habits, relax more, enjoy life, dedicate ourselves to our loved ones, and still give our all as entrepreneurs. I’m not saying your heart isn’t in the right place, but you may be setting yourself up for failure.
It’s well documented that our brains have limited ability to commit to mental tasks and decision making. This ability is known as executive function. And when it’s overtasked, it pumps the brain brakes.
This is mental fatigue. Mental fatigue slows (or completely impairs) your response to all those tasks and decisions you were planning on slaying. By optimistically piling on the “new year, new you” mindset, you’re setting your brain and your resolutions up for failure.
So how to prioritize? Which resolutions should you hold on to? How can you even let go of a resolution if it’s vital to your home or work? Let me break it down. Here are some of the resolutions you should make and some of the ones you should absolutely break.
Be More Social: Make It!
Extroverts rejoice! Fellow introverts, I feel your pain, but I’m not sorry for this being number one on the list. Top resolution to keep: be more social!
But (and this is a BIG caveat) only socialize more when the connection/conversation is meaningful. In a world saturated with chatter, make sure you and your conversation partner have SOMETHING TO SAY!
Your executive function is limited, remember? If the conversation or relationship is a meaningless mental drain, don’t make time for it.
Instead, strive for honest, authentic connection. Express your appreciation for those you care about, invest yourself in their lives, and be open to them investing in yours. And go out of your way to make new connections in both work and life. You’ll be surprised how much happier you are in social situations if you do (yes, even the introverts).
Take Away: Strive for authentic, gainful connections. If a connection is a drain instead of an investment, let it go.
Work More: Break it!
Work smarter, not harder. With a smorgasbord of automation and consolidation software at your disposal, you can easily cut down on monotonous tasks. Social Media schedulers like Later, scalable email management platforms like MailChimp, and even free invoicing software like Wave can minimize your work-time without hurting your income.
Your small business is a labor of love. If you’re not loving the work, congratulations! You’re perfectly normal. But if you’re actively hating it, you may want to consider reworking your business structure.
Even if you do love it all the time (please teach me your ways), you probably love doing other things as well. Who doesn’t like stepping away from the time clock to meet up with friends, indulge in hobbies, or spend valuable time with family?
As much as we want all these things, our brains can’t run that marathon every day. We have to choose what’s most valuable day to day. Maybe your business won't grow as fast as you’d like, but your kids are growing faster every day. Your friends are growing further apart. And there are only so many sunny days in the year.
Some days, it’s more important to keep your business stable than it is to make sure it’s growing.
Take away: Growing a business is hard work, but it’s just that: work. Remember to live your life.
Relax More: Make It!
Leave work at work.
This resolution goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, but I promise they are separate resolutions! This one is just for you. Remember to make time for yourself. This is self-care time, and I’ve got great news.
This one doesn’t tax your executive function. This resolution recharges your body and your brain!
Relaxation is a personal preference. Whatever activities make you feel the most energized, the most de-stressed, or the most yourself; these are the activities you do to relax.
I know it sounds bonkers. Pamper myself when I could be building my professional empire?! But I promise you self-care is important. A lot like sleep, leisure revitalizes our executive function.
So don’t think of it as self-indulgence. Actually, no. DO think of it as self-indulgence. You’re a hard-working, important person. You deserve to invest in yourself as much as you already do into everyone and everything else in your life.
Take Away: You are deserving of the same consideration and care that you give to other people and tasks. Invest in and be kind to yourself.
Be Healthier: Make It!
I know. I know. But I’m not talking about radical changes in lifestyle and diet! Baby steps will go a long way here.
Start with something simple. Add a 30-minute walk to your day or cut your daily soda intake in half. Keep everything else the same. For now.
Once your walk or soda diet is second nature, add or take away something else. Maybe that 30-minute walk becomes a 30-minute fitness class. Maybe you cut out all soda or decide to add a salad to your daily lunch. And then...wait until that also becomes second nature. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Healthy habits are easier to build when they don’t over-tax your brain’s executive function. Building one small habit at a time is easy mental work, but it amounts to large changes over the long term. And when it comes to life, most of us want to be here for the long term.
A healthier diet and exercise won’t just improve your body. It will also improve your mind! It's well documented that exercise and diet benefit our mental stamina. So, yeah, being healthy takes work, but you reap double benefits.
Take Away: Small changes over the long term will have a larger and more lasting impact than drastic changes made in the short-term.
Stop All Unhealthy Habits: Break It!
Come on, guys. All unhealthy habits? No more binge-watching tv, no more chocolate, no more dining out?
While some bad habits (like biting your nails or drinking coffee after 9 p.m.) are truly bad ideas, others are infrequent indulgences. The occasional television binge or night out isn’t going to destroy all your hard work. In fact, the opposite may be true. It may be a great way to relax or socialize, and those are habits we want to keep, remember?
The keyword here is infrequent. These indulgences are just that, indulgences. They shouldn’t be routine, but you shouldn't banish them from your life either. They may not be the “healthiest” of choices, but they fulfill some sort of need or desire.
Besides, there’s no such thing as a completely healthy habit. Exercise leads to sports injuries. Too much sleep is just as bad as too little. No one can survive on raw salads alone. Every healthy habit has its own baggage. Most every bad habit has a kernel of good inside of it.
The important thing is to recognize when the bad outweighs the good and when “occasional” starts becoming “regularly”.
Take Away: Unhealthy habits can be healthy in moderation. Healthy habits can be unhealthy when taken to the extreme. Find a balance that makes you feel happy and healthy.
What Are Your Resolutions?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of resolutions. Hopefully, I’ve hit on some of the ones on your list, but we’d love to hear which resolutions you plan to make and break in the new year.
What’s most important when making resolutions is remembering that resolutions are about growth and wellbeing. There’s only so much energy you can invest before mental fatigue sabotages your hard work. If your resolutions are stressing you out or are coming from a place of guilt, you may want to reevaluate your list.