How to keep your New Years Resolutions


I recently came across some interesting statistics on New Year’s Resolutions when reading a blog by Stephen Shapiro, business consultant and author of the book Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want Now. Since the Chinese have only just observed their New Year (January 26th ushered in the Year of the Ox), and I’m still refining my own personal & professional goals for 2009, let’s take a look at these stats: 

·        45% of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions; 17% infrequently set resolutions; 38% absolutely never set resolutions.

·        Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year.  49% have infrequent success.  24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed.

Shapiro suggests ditching the whole idea of goal setting in favor of working with a THEME for the year. Some of the examples he offers: “service”, “new beginnings”, “doing cool things”, etc. After pondering this idea, I’ve decided MY theme for 2009 is “work productively, live joyfully”.

From experience, I know the key to both in my life is to have a SYSTEM (Save Yourself Stress, Time, Energy and Money) in place for getting things done at work and at home. This month’s column is the first of a 3 part series focusing on what it takes to set up useful systems at work.

3 Keys to Getting and Staying Organized

So, what is “organized?”  To answer that, simply ask yourself four simple questions:

1.     Does it work?

2.     Do you like it?

3.     Does it work for the people you care about?

And finally,

4.     How quickly can you recover?  

Let’s face it.  Life is messy.  In spite of our best plans, disorganization happens.  People get sick.  Airline flights are cancelled.  Projects fail. People don’t do what they said they would. But, if you are organized, recovering is significantly easier!

So, what does it take to “get organized?”   There are 3 key components:

Organization = Methodology + Tools + Maintenance


Methodology is simply a “way to think about things.”  A good business consultant won’t tell you exactly what to do, but help you think about the RESULTS you want and what you need to do to get those results. People often ask me, “What should I do?” but the real question is “What will you do?”

Let’s review some basic organizing principles to guide you in determining your response to this question:

·        Clutter is postponed decisions®.  Are there piles of paper on your desk? Do you have an e-mail inbox full of items that need attention? Does your day end with a to-do list full of carry forwards because of countless interruptions? Albert Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  Make a commitment right now to think differently and start making decisions. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to decide, but you can use the next principle to help you decide.

·        The Art of Wastebasketry®.  You can keep everything you want if you are willing to pay the price:  time, space, money, and energy.  Getting rid of things is not a moral issue – it is a choice – your choice!  Ask yourself, “If I decided to let go of this, and it turned out to be the wrong choice, what would happen?”  When you determine your answer, ask yourself if you could live with that result.

·        File, Act or Toss:  When you are struggling about whether to keep a piece of paper or an electronic document, you really have ONLY three choices:

·        You can TOSS, recycle or shred it

·        You can FILE it in a Reference File  

·        You can ACT on it – now or at a specific time in the future, which brings us to…

·        Next Actions:  Perhaps you’re like me, and often feel overwhelmed with all the things you need and want to do.  When I sit down at my desk, I sometimes freeze in the face of everything that needs to be done.  Making a decision on each item becomes a challenge.  What keeps me moving forward is asking the question, “What is the next action I need to take?”   We often get stuck because we fail to break down what needs to be done into smaller actions arranged in logical order.  For example, let’s say you need to plan purchase a new piece of equipment for your office. What is the next action you need to take?  It isn’t very helpful to write “Buy a computer” on your “to do list.” Instead, you might need to “Talk to George (the most computer savvy person you know) about what kind of computer he would recommend.  Or, maybe you need to do a search in Consumer Reports, or stop by the computer store, or talk to your boss about the budget.

Understanding how to apply organizing skills effectively will impact everything you do in your personal and professional life. Don’t wait another moment to refine your skills in this area. Let’s make 2009 the year all of us in the Northside work productively and live joyfully! Next month we’ll talk about Key #2: Tools. 


Cheryl A. Lowitzer serves on the board of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO, Pittsburgh chapter). She is a certified Paper Tiger Authorized Consultant™ (PTAC™) personally trained and mentored by Barbara Hemphill and the Paper Tiger Productivity Institute. For help finding and working in your Productivity Zone, contact Ms. Lowitzer at 412.231.2127 or via email:

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