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January 2, 2014

5 New Year’s resolutions to make you smarter everyday

The New Year is traditionally a time for beginnings, fresh starts and making resolutions to better yourself. So we’ve come up with five resolutions that we think will help make you ‘Smarter Everyday’.

1. I’ll learn how habits work

Lots of us make New Year’s resolutions, saying we’ll break a bad habit or start a good one, like giving up smoking, or starting to go to the gym regularly. The trouble is, most of us break them before January ends. That’s because we ignore just how much of a hold our habits have over us. Habits are wired into our brains – we act them out without engaging our conscious brain, so it takes a lot of effort and mindfulness to change them. According to Charles Duhigg, there are three steps going on behind-the-scenes in your brain with a habit:

  1. Cue – the cue is a trigger that sparks the ‘habit loop’. It could be a location, a time of day, an action, or a person or people, or a feeling.
  2. Routine – this is the action that is triggered by your brain responding to a cue, for example, your cue might be finishing your lunch and immediately lighting up a cigarette after.
  3. Reward – the reward is the benefit you get from your routine. In our smoking scenario, the reward is the effect of nicotine on your body, and the satiation of your craving.

Understanding this habit loop, and finding ways to create new cues and rewards to support your chosen routine will increase your chances of succeeding with your resolution. Find out more about habits.

 2. I’ll work smarter, not harder

There’s a limit to how hard you can work and how many hours you can put it. A lot of us try to ignore this though, and will work longer and longer hours until we hit breaking point. The answer is to try to work smarter – think about how you can be more efficient and more productive, rather than working yourself into the ground. (Some of the rest of the tips in this list should help you to do that.)

3. I’ll give my full concentration to whatever I’m doing

Too much of the time, we try and do two or more things at once. While we might like to think that we can multitask, our brains work best when we focus on one thing at a time. On a work level, this means that you should approach tasks one at a time rather than trying to juggle them – the reward will be completing them faster and to a higher standard. Find out more about why we can’t multitask.

4. I’ll design my day around my energy, as well as my time

When we plan our days, more often than not, we just look at the amount of time we have available, and fill it. However, the real pros think about how much energy they have too. For example, if you’re at your best in the morning, you should hit the tough tasks early in the day, and save easier tasks for the afternoon when your energy is flagging. Find out more with our Design Your Day ebook.

5. I’ll ask ‘does this deserve my attention?’

Thanks to the internet, we now creating more content in just two days than was created in the whole of human history before 2003. Keeping up with all those ‘must-read’ articles, funny videos and cat-based memes can start to feel like a full-time job. With so much content, it’s important to focus on quality, not quantity. Ask yourself if the link you’re about the click is really deserving of your attention and time. Be selective.

So those are our five Smarter Everyday resolutions. Will you be giving any of them a try? Have you made any productivity-related New Year’s resolutions of your own?

Image credit: Sally M