How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions

Each new year, we love the chance at a fresh start with an intentional strategy. As ever engineers, our process of setting New Year’s resolutions as a couple involves tracking, checkpoints, and accountability. 

In this article, we share our four steps for setting, tracking, and achieving your New Year’s resolutions for 2021. 

Since we have several years of data collected on our New Year’s resolutions, we’ll use our own goals to show you how we track our goals and measure our success. 

So, let’s dive into the process (and free printable tools) we use to keep our New Year’s resolutions. 

how to keep new year’s resolutions for 2021

2020. Is. Over. 

Yet for many, January 1st feels just like another day on the calendar. Without a solid date to count down to for the better future we’re all looking for, this new year party seems a bit stilted.

As two engineers who have eagerly created a spreadsheet for our goals in Google Sheets since 2017, we were more hesitant this year. How do you set goals when you don’t know what the year will bring?

We’re not the only ones thinking this. A series of studies out of Texas Tech University confirmed what we all already knew: uncertainty is paralyzing. In these studies, test subjects were told that they were shortly either:

1) giving a public speech (a high-anxiety task)
2) listening to a speech, or
3) left unknowing which activity they would be performing.

Then, they were asked to solve complex anagram puzzles.

The results showed that the third group — left unknowing which activity they had to do — performed the poorest on the puzzles. In other words, their cognitive function was paralyzed with worry over the unknown.

Thankfully, we can work on improving our ‘uncertainty tolerance.’ Dr. Bethany Teachman, a University of Virginia psychology professor, recommends pushing yourself by trying things that make you uncomfortable.

Whether that’s calling an old friend you haven’t spoken to for years, singing in public, or laying down on a sidewalk, try a few safe things to push the limits and become more comfortable with the unknown.

New Year’s Resolutions Are Hard (Even During Normal Years)

Let’s take a look at the science. New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously challenging to keep, even when the world isn’t being pummeled by a pandemic.

To keep goals for the new year as a couple is even harder. But, we know you are up for the challenge. Our process will help. 

The statistics say that 82% of people fail to keep their resolutions by the second week of February.

For couples specifically, 44% of men confessed to making a New Year’s Resolutions for the spouse. Thirty percent of women admitted the same. What are these goals? The majority of them deal with getting healthier, in both fitness and nutrition.

But there’s hope. One statistic shows that when couples set goals together and work toward a combined goal, they’re 92% more likely to succeed than individuals. Wow!

Actually, we just fabricated that statistic. However, based on our experience working with hundreds of couples, we think it’s close.

Step 1: New Year’s Resolutions 2021 Strategy

For years, we have sat down together and created our New Year’s Resolutions together. We label each category, action item, frequency of checkpoints, accountability plan, and a column to rate ourselves at six and twelve months.

We usually set our goals with pen and paper. Then, we create a shared Google Sheet so that we can refer to it throughout the year.

Additionally, we list our top 5 and top 10 goals on our Evernote to-do list so that we are reminded of our big-picture goals daily.

If you don’t have a goal-oriented to-do list process that is driving your every day, implement our method of creating and managing a to-do list in Evernote.

Write down your goals together, and start tracking your progress toward your New Year’s resolutions. The below PDF is our exact New Year’s Resolutions Tracker for 2021. Enjoy!

New Year's Resolution Tracker for 2021

Start your new year not just with a bang, but with a plan.

Set, track, and stay accountable accountable to meaningful New Year's goals in 2021.

Free

Step 2: Create meaningful and specific goals

While we often include stretch goals in our Monthly Habit Tracker Sheet (free download below), we always make sure they’re grounded in reality. We’re not mixing up our dream board with our New Year’s Resolutions for 2021.

However, we do believe that the two are tied together. Therefore, at the top of our tracker sheet, we always write our year’s purpose. That way, the goals you create support your purpose and bring you closer to your goal.

An example of a meaningful and realistic goal is by making sure it is specific. Instead of writing, “Become fluent in Spanish,” you can instead list, “Watch one Spanish TV show episode a week and record new words.”

Firstly, that is a measurable goal that you can track. And, secondly, being more specific allows you to look forward to completing your goal without giving yourself an overly daunting and intimidating task.

Ryan and I also believe in setting well-rounded goals as a couple. To achieve that, our tracker sheet includes a column to list goal categories.

When you download the tracker sheet, you’ll see we’ve provided ideas for goal categories. For example, career, personal development, hobbies, and relationship.

This is further corroborated by a 2016 study conducted by the University of Chicago. The study found that the biggest predictor of success for long-term goals was whether or not people received immediate rewards.

So, it is important to keep your resolutions small but create meaningful habit change over the longterm.

Step 3: Build In accountability

The goal of this article is to teach you how to keep your New Year’s resolutions in 2021. So, please take this step seriously. We believe this is an area many people overlook. It’s critical to your success in 2021.

Our 2021 New Year’s Resolution Tracker for couples requires an accountability plan. When looking at our prior years’ tracker sheets, we realize that we’re the most successful when there is accountability.

Fortunately, since you have a strategy to keep your 2021 New Year’s resolutions as a couple, you’re already at a huge advantage. For example, in this study, 50% of women smokers successfully quit when their partner stopped smoking at the same time.

That’s a great success rate compared to only 17% whose partners didn’t smoke to start with, and 8% whose partners continued to smoke regularly. Working together toward a shared goal is where the magic happens.

This accountability can take the form of Ryan checking in on Alex or creating an external pusher, such as signing up and committing to a paid race/competition.

Accountability works so well for us that we don’t need to list the more common resolutions on our tracker sheets anymore.

Resolutions such as working out five days a week, reading a book a month, or eating healthy are now routine. However, it’s only that way after years of accountability, creating healthy habits.

Step 4: Review and Success

We have one final tip for how to keep your New Year’s resolutions for 2021. That is, review your goals often as a couple. No less than twice a year.

A mid-year review is essential because goals change over time. Additionally, you need to check in on your goals to make sure you haven’t forgotten about a critical goal category such as personal development.

For example, in 2018, one of our goals was to practice Spanish at least an hour a day. However, by mid-year, we realized that our Spanish was serving us well. So, we modified that goal and allocated the time to our website.

A mid-year review is also critical to remind you of your goals. Too often, these goals are out of our heads and out of our minds by the end of January.

However, by printing the tracker sheet and reviewing it periodically, you’re significantly more likely to keep your New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

To ensure success, don’t focus on big New Year’s resolutions that feel daunting. Instead, break down goals into small daily steps. This approach will keep you moving closer to a larger goal.

For example, let’s use the goal of reading one book a month. We use our Monthly Habit Tracker to remind us to read at least 30 minutes a day. Having daily visibility to that goal helps us dramatically.

What’s more, is tackling these small daily steps gives you more opportunities to celebrate success together.

Use our New Year’s Resolutions Tracker to record your big goals for 2021. Then print out our Monthly Habit Tracker to hold yourself accountable to the small daily steps necessary to achieve those big goals.

We prefer to print the Monthly Habit Tracker, leave it on our nightstand, and take pen to paper daily.

Monthly Habit Tracker (PDF)

Ever commit to a new habit yet find, just two days later, you can't stick with it - no matter how small?

Download and print this free PDF to help you commit up to 15 new healthy habits a month.

Leave it on your nightstand and track your accountability daily.

Our New Year’s Resolutions as a couple

We have been tracking our New Year’s Resolutions since 2017. Here are the types of goals that we had on our list as well as our year-end success scores. We know, some seem vague but we’ve edited for privacy – we recommend that you write down specific goals. 

Our 2017 New Year’s Resolutions – 7.9/10

  • Fitness: Getting wedding ready with Body Beast – 10/10
  • Social: Host monthly dinner parties – 3/10
  • Hobby: One hour a week learning Spanish (through podcasts, Rosetta Stone, and apps) – 2/10
  • Health: Sleep at least 8-hours a night and research how to improve the quality of sleep – 10/10
  • Nutrition: Track intake regularly, focusing on eating more vegetables and only healthy carbs allowed – 8/10
  • Beauty: Research and perfect skincare routine (both Alex and Ryan) – 10/10
  • Mindfulness: Journal about three things we’re grateful for each night and write in our Q&A a Day: 3-Year Journal – 10/10
  • Career: Ask our business mentors for more personal development books to read – 2/10
  • Wedding Planning: Discussions on Friday nights only (to keep our sanity!) – 10/10
  • Relationship: Guilt-free, no-work Friday nights – 10/10
  • Fitness: Follow our individual physical therapy routines weekly (for Ryan’s Achilles tendon and Alex’s calf) – 10/10
  • Efficiency: Research and use grocery store apps to ensure healthy eating – 10/10

Our 2018 New Year’s Resolutions – 7.5/10

  • Fitness: Alex to be able to do seven pull-ups and Ryan to be able to do an extended handstand – 6/10
  • Social: Host monthly dinner parties with new South American friends – 2/10
  • Hobby: One hour daily of Spanish lessons or immersion – 2/10
  • Health: No electronics at least one hour before bed for higher quality sleep – 9/10
  • Personal Development: Ryan to read at least one book a month. Alex to read monthly finance books – 8/10
  • Business: Build our website and create an awesome free course for couples – 9/10
  • Efficiency: Work on using synced online calendars to communicate/share plans better – 9/10
  • Relationship: Better division of labor for chores – 10/10
  • Nutrition: Cook together and take cooking classes for healthy vegetarian meals – 10/10
  • Career: Create a 3-year goal and work towards career development – 10/10

Our 2019 New Year’s Resolutions – 7.9/10

  • Fitness: Practice yoga two or three times weekly – 8/10
  • Fitness: Work outdoors at least once weekly – 10/10
  • Fitness: Ryan to practice handstands – 5/10
  • Fitness: Alex to do a split – 4/10
  • Nutrition: Cook new recipes at least twice weekly – 8/10
  • Nutrition: Eat slower (Ryan) – 9/10
  • Personal Development: Complete eight courses from Masterclass – 10/10
  • Personal Development: Read one book monthly, including two relationship books – 10/10
  • General Health: Unplug by 9 PM every night on weekdays –  5/10
  • Career: Focus on media outreach and get published in a variety of magazines, newspapers, journals, and online media companies – 8/10
  • Career: Set week’s goals every Sunday night – 10/10
  • Career: Increase website traffic to 10k monthly visitors – 5/10
  • Career: Increase social media strategy and followings – 8/10
  • Career: Take SEO and blog writing courses – 10/10

Our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions – 8.8/10

  • Fitness:  Ryan to make an 8-pack, recover calf, and master handstand – 6/10
  • Fitness:  Alex to make a 6-pack – 7/10
  • Nutrition: Cook the cookbook recipes – 10/10
  • Personal Development: Read at least 2 books per month – 10/10
  • Relationship: Unplug one hour before bed –  8/10
  • Relationship: More outdoor exercise together – 9/10
  • Relationship: Read at least 2 relationship books together – 10/10
  • Business: 30K monthly website visitors – 10/10
  • Business: Media outreach through HARO – 10/10
  • Business: Set weekly to-do list and goals on Sunday nights – 8/10

Now it’s your turn!

Now that you have learned how to keep your New Year’s resolutions for 2021, take action and follow our 4-step process. Download the New Year’s Resolutions Tracker for 2021 (big goals) and the Monthly Habit Tracker (daily steps toward big goals).

We also recommend you get your to-do list in Evernote and follow our to-do list method. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you plan, track progress, and focus on baby steps. 

For the over-achievers, we highly recommend you sign up for our Just Duo It program below. We’ll be with you every day for a year helping you engineer your best life.

$197

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Just Duo It

Our flagship program. Transform your mind, body, and marriage using small, systematic steps. These tried-and-true techniques have been taken from our research and personal experiments to reconnect, get healthier, and add spontaneity into your relationship.

  • "Daily Duoables" to keep progress simple and easy
  • Access to our exclusive Duo Life Community app to stay accountable for your fitness and nutrition
  • Monthly guides to put it all together

We're willing to commit a year on you, are you ready to commit a year on you? Made for couples by couples.

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Hey we're Ryan and Alex

The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”

After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.

The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.

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