The List: Five ways to make your New Year resolutions work

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Whether you want to lose weight, eat healthier or kick some bad habits, New Year’s is the perfect time to get started. Millions of people around the world use the new year to turn their lives around, or even just make small improvements to their daily habits. That said, not everyone succeeds in sticking to a resolution. A study by the University of Scranton found that just 40 percent of resolution-makers stick to their resolutions six months in. If you’re dedicated this year, here are five tips from experts to make your resolution stick.

Use an App

Habit-forming apps have taken the online world by storm, with so many now offering their services to users that LifeHack put together a list of its 24 best habit tracking apps. With features such as spreadsheet export, social media integration and daily reminders, these apps can give you the extra assistance needed to stick to a goal. Some apps even give an incentive for keeping up the good work.

Have Clear Goals

Showing up to the gym and simply saying “I want to get healthier” won’t do you much good unless you know what that looks like. Fitness experts say that establishing a clear goal, such as losing a certain amount of weight or going to the gym on a regular schedule, can be easier than trying to reach a constantly-shifting goal. That’s a trick that can be expanded to other resolutions, too.

Reward Yourself

That same study by the University of Scranton also found that using the brain’s natural incentive systems can make a huge difference. For example, give yourself a “cheat day” if you’re on a diet, but only if you’ve hit your goals elsewhere. Bad habits are formed over time, according to Scranton psychology professor John Norcross, and are often associated with their own rewards. To beat them, you’ll need to give yourself a short-term incentive or two.

Reduce Your Activation Effort

This tip comes from “happiness researcher” Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage,” which posits that just 20 seconds of extra effort needed to perform a task is enough to motivate most people not to do it. The “20 Second Rule” has been embraced by go-getters such as Oprah, so there’s plenty to be said for making those goals just a bit easier to hit.

Give Yourself Time

Let’s face it, you’re bound to slip up at some point. That’s not a catastrophic failure, though. As mentioned above, good habits take time to form, especially if they’re replacing a bad one. Take your goals day by day and remember not to be too hard on yourself. After all, beating yourself up after missing a workout or eating fast food can result in a negative incentive, causing you not to keep trying to avoid disappointment.

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