Simple strategies to keep your resolutions this academic year
A new year. A blank page. (Or perhaps a clean whiteboard?) For some, the new year is incredibly inspiring, whereas others find the perceived pressure to do and be better, both personally and professionally, tiring. For teachers, the buzzing, busy new year feeling is compounded by the fact that (in many countries) the new academic and calendar years coincide quite neatly. Of course, New Year’s resolutions, whether you love or hate them, are an unavoidable January topic of discussion. But how can you keep them past February? Here are some simple ways to get more traction out of your resolutions this year.
Be realistic, specific, and concise
It’s been said that only 8% of people keep their resolutions. This can be due to “typical” resolutions being vague (“be happy”) or unrealistic (“give up pasta”). So give yourself a good chance by crafting specific, realistic resolutions. The idea is to vanquish vagueness by adding metrics to measure results. Change well-meaning intentions (“be organized,” or “network more”) for specific versions with clear signposts for success (“block time for lesson-planning each afternoon from 15:30 – 17:30,” “on the first day of each month, reach out to an education professional I admire”).
Choose a word of the year
Some people swear by the strategy of choosing a word or phrase to color the coming year. Your word can be anything: something inspirational (growth, strength, movement); metaphoric (early bird, driver’s seat, dive in); a feeling (calm, happy, peaceful, energized); or absolutely anything else. The great thing about choosing a word or phrase is that it acts as a place to return to after the academic year has begun in earnest and your goals for neatly filed report cards and beautifully crafted resources have slipped away. When that happens, go back to your word, reset, and try again.
Make a mixed list of goals
Rather than identifying overarching resolutions, this list is a selection of serious, fun, professional, and quirky things you would like to do this academic year. A mixed list can combine “make bread for the first time,” with “go to a conference,” “speak to my boss about a pay rise” and “try coffee without milk”. The feeling of mixing loftier aims with simple goals is fun, and feels less emotionally charged than traditional New Year’s resolutions.
Link resolutions to each semester
January 1 is an attractive date to make habit changes—but is also entirely arbitrary. As a teacher, you may find that it’s not realistic to tie the entire academic year to your resolutions. After all, challenges will be overcome, students and colleagues will come and go, and your own energy levels will wax and wane. Instead, try choosing specific, concise resolutions for each semester, making sure they are linked periods in the academic year; such as back to school jitters, revision season, exams, report card writing, or parent-teacher interviews.
Know if you’re a “sharer” or a “sparer”
Some people gain from widely sharing their resolutions via social media or in person with friends and family, while others are horrified by the idea of their community knowing about them. If you’re a sharer, try linking a habit-tracking app to your social media accounts or posting pictures of your wins (with or without #azillionhashtags, your choice!). If you’re a sparer, you may prefer to privately track your progress in a notebook or check back with yourself regularly, such as before class or at the end of the school week.
Have an accountability partner
This is another tactic that depends on personal preference. While some people can naturally keep themselves on track, others wilt when left to their own devices and thrive when they know someone is going to check on their habit-keeping progress (Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework contemplates this phenomenon). If you think having an accountability buddy will help you keep your professional resolutions, ask a trusted colleague to check back with you at intervals throughout the semester—and offer to do the same for them if they would like.
Though we have got used to the concept of making New Year’s resolutions, the specific practice doesn’t have to remain set in stone. Try playing with how you identify your professional resolutions this year—and above all, have fun with them!