It’s the new abs-workout device tucked beside the couch that’s still collecting dust from two years ago, the planner that’s been more useful as a bookend and the dozen style blogs you haven’t opened since bookmarking them the first week of last January. A failed New Year’s resolution can be a self-esteem crushing reminder of a promise you once made to yourself (perhaps in champagne-induced optimism). But you’re not alone. Most people take a haphazard approach to improving themselves in the New Year, every new year. But remember that you only get older and time goes by quicker. So let’s get serious. Whether it’s losing 10 pounds or adding 10 new suits to a revamped wardrobe, here are 5 tips to help increase your chances of fulfilling your own 2013 resolutions.

1.     Stick to One Resolution (at a time)

The human brain is a brilliant tool, when used correctly. Multitasking is said to slow down our brains worse than being intoxicated. This doesn’t mean that instead of simultaneously reading a book and watching TV, you should be reading that book and throwing back shots of whiskey (unless that’s a Friday night pregame ritual). It does means that you should zero in on one resolution at a time and single-mindedly focus on the tasks required to achieve that one resolution on a regular basis.

Set a single goal that you believe is challenging, but achievable. Set a goal too small and the rewards won’t motivate you enough to take action. Set a goal too big and your mind will dismiss it as unachievable. Be specific!

At Black Lapel, we set collective goals as a team and personal goals for ourselves. Here are two examples of New Year’s Resolutions that many of you might share:

  1. Derek, Black Lapel Co-Founder: “My resolution is to be 10 pounds leaner by June 30. I want to be in better physical shape by losing some fat and building some muscle so I look and feel good every day while still enjoying my love for food!”
  2. Patrick, Black Lapel Intern: “My resolution is to have 10 new pieces of well-fitting, timeless clothes by Labor Day 2013. I want to increase my knowledge of fit and style so that I make smart purchases and be a better dressed man, every day.”

2.     Focus On What You Can Control

Take chance out of your resolution and focus instead on actions you can control:

  1. Derek: “I love food. If you propose a trip to Shake Shack, there’s a 95% chance I’ll say yes. Life is too short not to enjoy each and every meal. But I know I need to be healthy too, so I’ll make sure I go to the gym at least 4 times a week.”
  2. Patrick: “I want to dress better, but I know I can’t afford all the things I want right now. I’m going to make a list prioritizing all the things I need vs. all the things I want…and take a look at my current closet to see what works and what doesn’t.”

3.     Schedule Your Actions

“A goal without a deadline is just a wish.”

If you’re like us, you’re probably wishing every day had 48 hours instead of 24…or wishing you could get your hands on some pills like the ones in the movie Limitless. However in real life, reaching goals require daily, consistent work. Block out non-negotiable times on certain days of the week where you can put in the work. And once again, be specific:

  1. Derek: “I’m going to get up at 7am every Monday through Thursday so that I can get in 30 minutes of exercise before heading to the office.”
  2. Patrick: “I’m going to devote 20 minutes at 8pm three nights a week to reading style blogs. I will not watch TV while I read.”
(Photo Credit: Tommy Ton, GQ

4.     Set Accountability

What’s the best way to achieve your goals? Be serious and own up to them. Write a signed letter to 5 close friends / family members that you respect and tell them your goal, why it’s important to you and how you’re going to achieve it. Don’t just write a Facebook post that you can delete later. It’s human nature to display social consistency – not wanting to look contradictory in front of others is an extremely powerful motivational factor.

You can go a step further and make one person an accountability buddy for you. Have this person check in a weekly or bi-weekly basis to make sure you stay on track.  And set up some painful consequences if you fail to stay on track. Back to Derek and Patrick:

  1. Derek: “My wife is my best buddy, so she’s my accountability buddy. I promised her that if I miss 2 gym sessions per month, I have to cook her a romantic dinner, which of course, isn’t all that painful. But I also promised my co-workers that for every 2 gym sessions I miss per month, I have to take everyone out to lunch.”
  2. Patrick: “My work mentor, Jay, is my accountability buddy. I promised him that I would email a description of something I learned from a style blog. If I don’t read at least 3 times a week, I will owe Jay $20 for that week. I’m really going to have to read because I need that money to invest in new clothes!”

5.     Revisit Your Goals Daily & Measure Your Progress

Print your resolution out and post it where you’ll see it every day. Put it on a post-it on your monitor, make it your desktop wallpaper, or post it on your ceiling above your bed so it’s the last thing you see before you go to bed and the first thing you see when you wake up. Ingrain your goal into your mind’s subconscious.

Measure your progress. One of the greatest motivating factors for following through with a resolution is seeing the progress you’re making. Use a robust online goal-tracking system like lifetick or set up a simple excel spreadsheet. Schedule checkpoints and note your progress towards your goals:

  1. Derek: “I put up two pictures on my bathroom window: one is this terrible picture that my wife took of me without my shirt on at the beach recently and the other is a picture of me when I was actually in shape. Looking at the two side by side is enough motivation for me to get my ass to the gym.”
  2. Patrick: “I wrote the following on multiple pieces of paper and taped them above the mirror in my room, on my bathroom door and on my monitor at work: ‘DRESS BETTER, LOOK BETTER AND FEEL BETTER!'”

Make this Year your Year

Your resolution is probably something that will make you a better person mentally, emotionally and / or physically. Whatever it is, work at it consistently and you’ll get there. We’ll be working right alongside you. So cheers to 2013, the year of a better you.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Share with us in the comments below!