New Year's Resolutions: Procrastination Expert Offers Tips to Make This Year's Goals Stick

PHOTO: To accomplish New Years resolutions, set small interim goals rather than end goals.Getty Images
To accomplish New Year's resolutions, set small, interim goals rather than end goals.

When the gym becomes less crowded, the smoke breaks more frequent and dessert once again takes its place at the table, it becomes clear: New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside.

"I think the problem people have is that they often set pretty unrealistic goals," said Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University and the author of "Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done."

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In order to make 2013 a transformative year, Ferrari recommended people be realistic and focus on small wins and successes.

"We need to have small interim goals rather than end goals," he said. "I don't think we reward the early bird anymore. We punish people if they don't do things but we don't reward them if they meet their goal."

Losing weight, a resolution for millions of people each year, can become more attainable if people start small, Ferrari said.

"You can't lose 40 pounds in four weeks, but you can lose 4 pounds in four weeks," he said.

Giving up cigarettes, another resolution that is often met with discouragement and procrastination, can become easier, Ferrari said, when small milestones are celebrated and rewarded.

"If you know you have a reward at the end, you're more likely to do something. You can say, 'Great, I have earned it now. I've been wanting to go to this movie, buy that pair of shoes,'" he said.

And if the resolutions are going to stick this year, Ferrari recommended everyone find a friend or partner to hold them accountable.

"Create a party atmosphere. Have everybody come with two or three resolutions written on a piece of paper. Mix it up and then have a grab bag and share your goals," he said. "Write it publicly on your Facebook."

Smart phone apps can also be crucial tools to help, encourage and keep track of progress, said David-Michel Davies, president of the Webby Media Group, which presents the annual Webby awards honoring excellence on the Internet.

For people looking to eat healthier, he recommended an app called fooducate.

"It makes it simple and easy to learn more about the food you are buying at the grocery store," he said.

A bar code scanner in the app pulls up instant information about the nutritional values of food items.

For people interested in learning a new craft, Davies recommended Skillshare, a virtual marketplace offering classes in real life and online at a low cost.

Finally, for those looking to solve the perpetual problem of lateness, there's an app for that, too.

"Cueup is a simple app that connects into your smartphone to send you reminders and alerts to solve that age old problem of tardiness," Davies said.

Whether it's an app, a friend or little rewards along the way that help the resolutions stick this year, Ferrari drew on his expertise in the art of procrastination to offer some parting words.

"Bottom line is, if you keep it private, you're likely to forget it," he said.