It’s a feeling we all know well: the holidays are over, we may be a few pounds heavier due to an excess of cookies and treats, and we wake up to a new calendar, January 1. We quickly take stock of the past year and decide what things we’d most like to change; usually this involves saving more money, losing weight or finding more passion in our jobs. These are all good intentions, but January 1 is not the time to be making these resolutions. It can be easy to fall into the belief that we must declare our resolutions the day the calendar changes, but in reality, you are setting yourself up for failure by setting hasty goals. Read below for the biggest reasons to not set your resolutions on January 1.

You Need Your Mind Back

Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays can take time. After spending time with family, running from party to party and the frenzied shopping for gifts, you can feel pretty disconnected from the business. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as research shows that we all need breaks in our calendars. “If we continue to ignore this need, it will, without a doubt, lead us to burnout,” shares Matt Plummer, founder of Zaryana. He recommends setting sleep and exercise goals for your time off in order to relax but also maintain some semblance of routine, so you don’t struggle as much when it’s time to head back to work. Realizing that sometimes we need to slow down to go fast is key to setting smart resolutions. Taking the time to ease yourself back into the business and waiting to set goals until you are fully focused again will allow you to set better, more effective goals. If waiting a month to set your resolution means you’re more likely to actually stick to it, that’s a worthwhile trade-off.  

Pre-Work is Key

Taking time to do your pre-work and give serious thought to your goals will lead to better success in the long run. Again, you probably haven’t put in the time to do this over the holidays and are not prepared by January 1. Setting goals without context and pre-planning is not useful because you need to fully assess the previous year by asking yourself what worked, what didn’t, what to improve on and any potential roadblocks to be aware of. A lack of context can also lead to setting unrealistic or unattainable goals, which is demotivating for both you and your team. Stretch yourself but stay realistic. When planning, ask yourself: How will I set myself up to win? What else needs to change in order to make this resolution possible? What do I need to say no to in order to say yes to this resolution? Pondering these questions up-front will lead to proactive problem-solving. Another big part of this pre-work is determining your “Why.” This why should inspire you (and your team) to stick to your resolution even when things get difficult or unforeseen problems occur. As Michelle Segar, Ph.D. shares, “Whys are the foundation of the entire behavior change process and have a domino effect. Motivation is our fuel for doing anything, and the quality of our motivation affects whether our resolutions stick or fade away.” Identify what will motivate you, what needs to be in place and how you’ll achieve your resolution before you commit to it.

Calendars Don’t Matter

I’ll put it bluntly: The idea that we need to start over and commit to new things come January 1 is a made-up belief. Just because we have a new calendar does not mean we need to tie that to our goal setting. In fact, Dara Kaplan, co-creator of the Pretty Electric podcast, advocates for setting goals in the autumn months. “If you start planning in October for these goals, you will have been already taking the steps to achieve these goals by January,” she shares. “You will have already been on the road to progress, and less likely to give up when you do not get immediate gratification the week after New Year’s.” Ask yourself what the right time for your business planning is- that might be in the summer if you’re on a fiscal calendar or in the fall of the previous year before holiday craziness and year-end deadlines hit. Whatever time you choose, allow time for pre-work and reflecting first.

Incremental Change = Real Results

Incremental change- the small things that add up to big results- is what creates real, lasting change. It can be easy to get distracted by ideas of big sweeping change, but in reality, those lofty resolutions rarely last and often lose steam after just a couple of weeks. Instead, choose to focus on a few small, specific resolutions that will make a big impact when followed consistently over time. For example, instead of planning to hit the gym every morning before work (very lofty if you don’t already have an exercise routine), commit to exercising at home for 20 minutes before work three times a week. You’ll be more likely to stick to this resolution because it’s easier to follow, and the smaller effort will lead to greater results over time than exercising every day for two weeks and then stopping. Incremental goals will also help you stay consistent through the ups and downs of business. In many industries people seem to check out and slow down during the holidays and summer time, and once we hit the New Year or back-to-school time everyone gets more frenzied and turns on the gas at work. Avoid these fits and starts by sticking to small, consistent actions. Statistics show that only 9.2 percent of people ever achieve their New Year’s resolutions and break free from their bad habits; this doesn’t have to be you! Create smaller resolutions that will lead to big results.

The right time to set your resolution is the time that you’ll be able to stick to it. Usually, this means you don’t set it on January 1. I urge you to wait until your mind is fully engaged again after the holidays, do your pre-work and planning and to focus on smaller resolutions that will cause large change over time. Remember, you are in control- not the calendar!


  • Sue Hawkes

    CEO, Speaker, Best-Selling Author and Entrepreneur

    Sue Hawkes helps CEOs and their leadership teams succeed. As a bestselling author, keynote speaker, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized, award-winning seminar leader, Sue brings over twenty-five years of experience to her clients. She is CEO of YESS! and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people. Sue has received numerous awards including the Dream Keeper award recognized by the Governor’s Council for her leadership program, the Regional U.S. Small Business Administration Women in Business Champion of the Year award, the Exemplary Woman of the Community award, WomenVenture’s Unsung Hero award, Women Who Lead from Minnesota Business Magazine, NAWBO Minnesota’s Achieve! Vision Award and named a 2018 Enterprising Woman of the Year. Her most recent book, "Chasing Perfection- Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success," is available now.