When do you think your New Year’s resolutions will become a distant memory? By the end of January? Before Easter? For most people, resolutions fail to stick. We make all sorts of promises to ourselves at the beginning of each year and then fail to keep them. Then next year, we reckon that’s a thing of the past and “this year” we’ll definitely stick to our resolutions, only to find “life” takes over and our resolutions take a back seat.
Each year people say things like “this year I’m going to blog every day” or “this year I’ll focus on a proper keyword strategy”. But before long those laudable objectives are consigned to the recesses of the office as “work” takes over. However, it is possible to stick to your resolutions. There is plenty of psychological research which shows us how we can be sure of sticking to our guns and ensuring our resolutions take hold.
The first step is simple. Write them down. Whatever your objectives for your website or blog in 2010, make sure they are written down. The mere act of writing our goals and objectives make them more “sticky”. Once you have written them down – share them. Tell your family, friends, neighbours or work colleagues what you plan to do. The act of sharing our objectives also appears to make them more achievable.
Now you need to trick your brain into believing that the new behaviour is “usual”. Say, for instance, you want to blog every day. Then, in order for your brain to accept that as “normal” you need to do it around 15-20 times without a break. That means scheduling your blogging activity into your diary – half an hour each day at lunchtime perhaps. But do it – religiously – for up to three weeks. After that it will become a new habit and you will find it much easier to carry on. Most people who want to blog every day fail to do so because they don’t do it long enough to make it a habit.
Next, work out what the triggers are that prevent you from doing what you want to do online. For instance, you might want to use social networking, but as soon as you open Facebook you might be tempted into looking at personal material from friends, rather than working on your business page. This is the diversionary trigger that is similar to people who smoke – they fail to give up cigarettes because they respond to triggers that make them smoke (such as standing outside the office talking to friends). One you know what your triggers for negative actions are you can avoid those factors. For instance, if you are distracted by the wonders of Twitter, use something like Tweetdeck to switch off the main feed so you can view only those Tweets from people and organisations that matter to your business. Avoiding triggers for negative actions is another essential component in making sure you stick to your resolutions.
You should also reward yourself for positive actions. For example, if you want to add five articles a week to your website have a meaningful reward at the end of each week – you could even pay yourself a fee for achieving your targets. Rewards and positive feedback helps us continue with our resolutions, so ensure that you set up some kind of reward system for your online objectives.
Finally, take a look at your resolutions themselves. Are they negative or positive? For example, “giving up smoking” (negative) is much harder to achieve than “going to the cinema twice a week” (positive). If a smoker goes to the cinema twice a week, they probably smoke less as they are banned from smoking at the movies. Equally, online if you want to “spend less time on Facebook” you’ll actually find it easier to achieve your objective if your resolution is a positive alternative, such as “increasing the number of pages in my website”. In other words, if any of your resolutions are negative in any way, replace them with a positive resolution that will help you achieve the same objectives. That makes success much more likely.
So, whatever it is you plan to do in 2010 to improve your online business, a few simple steps will ensure those resolutions stick:
- Have positive resolutions
- Write them down
- Tell your friends what you intend to achieve
- Avoid triggers for negative actions
- Set up a reward system for achieving your targets
With these things in place there really is no excuse for a better year online in 2010.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+