New Years Resolutions

A recent study found that only 8% of Americans consistently achieve their New Years Resolutions. 68% of the respondents are successful some of the time, and 24% have failed on their resolutions every year. You can find more statistics on New Years Resolutions here.

There are many commonly discussed explanations for why our resolution are often unsuccessful. Some of these explanations include setting expectations to high, lack of good planning, and absence of a reward structure for your goals.

Today I thought of another reason – our society has shifted away from an annual productivity cycle. A few generations ago when we were all farmers, annual resolutions were logical and could take the form of planting and harvesting goals. For example, a farmer could plan around planting and harvesting an extra acre of corn. Now, the vast majority of us are at least a couple degrees removed from the planting cycle, and have much shorter productivity cycles. Some examples of modern day productivity cycles include:

students and teachers – most schools follow a semester or quarter calendar

sales professionals – often have monthly sales quotas

corporate executives – public companies file quarterly earnings with the government

Let’s take the example of a college student who wants to improve their grades. Setting a goal to get better grades in 2009 would probably be successful during the student’s first quarter of school. However, the goal may be forgotten by the third and fourth quarter and would then go unfulfilled. Now compare this to a student who resolves to get better grades at the beginning of each and every quarter. We would expect this second student to be more successful over the course of the year. Thus, matching goals with productivity cycles is almost certain to produce better results.

I am now setting goals for the first four months of 2009. This time frame aligns with my last two quarters of school. I will graduate in May and will then set goals for the summer.