Already having trouble sticking to those New Year’s resolutions? These must-have tools will help.

We’re two weeks deep in 2013, and already my New Year’s resolutions are feeling burdensome.

Go to the gym? I mean, I guess. Floss? Ugh. Bring my lunch to work tomorrow? Okay, but it will consist of three pickles, a petrified block of mozzarella and a bottle of sriracha.

You may find yourself in a similar rut, but there’s still plenty of time to polish off that list of things that you (with the help of (okay) a bottle and a half of Brut) promised you’d do late on December 31st.

And what’s even better is you don’t have to go it alone. Below are a few tools, from the old-fashioned to the high-tech, that you can use to keep yourself on track to meet whatever lofty goals you set for 2013.

1. A blog (or a notebook, if you wish)

This is not a blog to host all of your brilliant political treatises or poetry. It’s a place to end a stressful, awful, never-coming-back work day or to celebrate your greatest, I-am-the-smartest-woman-alive triumphs.

Which is to say that this is not a public blog. I always wondered what in the world was the point of the “private” setting on WordPress—why commit my priceless thoughts to the internet without unleashing my genius onto the world?—until a friend told me that he keeps a work blog to help him reflect on his work days.

If you’re like me and you think that the word “reflect” sounds too gooey, think of it as an assessment instead. For even just five minutes at the end of a work day, ask yourself what you did that day that worked and what you did that completely blew up in your face. Thinking about it and writing it down can make these lessons stick far better than just noticing and moving on.

Did it work better to do all of your email catching up at 10:30 a.m. instead of right when you got into the office? Write it down. Can you never remember the precise way the accounting department wants your expense reports done? Write it down and bookmark it.

A notebook, of course, can serve exactly the same purpose, but you’re already here on the Internet, so you might as well poke around on a site like Blogspot, WordPress or Blogger—and learn a new skill in the meantime. Plus, you can give your personal blog any sort of ridiculous, neon-green-with-blue-flashing-letters theme your heart desires.

2. A big mouth

This one is simple. If you want to get something done, talk about it. To everyone. Then you’ll have to do it, or be ashamed when a friend asks, “So…did you finally save up enough money to buy that sternum-rattling guitar amp you’ve been talking about, ad nauseum, for weeks?”

<sigh> <looks at feet> <mutters> “No…”

3. A good calendar

This is the part of the article where I tell you what every pushy organize-your-life piece exhorts you to do: get a calendar AND DON’T FORGET TO USE IT. This is true, but I’d like to add another piece of advice: make this more important than your to-do list.

To-do lists are great, but if I’m actually serious about doing something, I block it out on my calendar. It’s a great goal, after all, to want to sweep and mop the apartment, but it’s a lot more likely I’ll get it done if I’ve blocked it out for 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. than if I’ve sandwiched it into a bullet-point list between “repaint toenails” and “buy cottage cheese.”

This can mean rethinking how you use your calendar. You may not put mundane things like “go to the gym,” “write in my journal” or “cook supper” on your calendar, but if you really are serious about getting in shape, being more introspective or cooking at home more in 2013, making dates with yourself can help to make those things priorities.

This means you’ll also force yourself to think about the logistics of accomplishing all of your to-do items. Reorganizing your closet sounds simple enough, until you consider that it will involve clearing off eight shelves, refolding some balled-up t-shirts, trying on things that may not fit anymore, maybe whimpering a little afterward, bagging up old clothes and finding a place to donate them.

When it comes to choosing a calendar, you’ve got a whole lot of options, right down to the bargain-bin paper calendar from Barnes & Noble if you want to go low-tech. I personally stick to the calendar on my iPhone, synced up with my Outlook at work and my Google Calendar for my pressing social engagements. (Do these involve watching Ally McBeal while inspecting my bunions? Maybe.)

Those who want to take it a few steps further can sign up for a more sophisticated system. One pretty amazing one I’ve run across is LifeBalance by Llamagraphics. It’s not free, but it comes with all sorts of useful bells and whistles, forcing you to consider how long a project might take by asking you to enter how much time and effort (“minimum” to “maximum”) it will require. The program also tracks your life balance by tracking how much time you’ve spent on different areas of your life. Meaning that whether your New Year’s resolution is to work more or less, this sort of tool might be able to help you out.

4. An alarm clock

Want to get more done at work? It may be more productive to go in earlier rather than stay later.

No one likes to go in early, it’s true, but that’s also precisely the point. If you get into the office even 15 minutes earlier than everyone else, you’ll have 15 minutes in a relatively quiet office to do all sorts of things uninterrupted, whether it’s clearing off your desk, making a few phone calls or catching up on emails. (Plus you get to act all high and mighty when people arrive and there you are, all settled in, with your coffee and oatmeal and smug little grin. They’ll look annoyed, maybe, but trust me: they’re really just jealous.)

What other tools are essential for accomplishing your goals this year?

Danielle Kurtzleben is a journalist in Washington, D.C. She doesn’t really have bunions.


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  3. Vanessa Fiorido

    “I always wondered what in the world was the point of the “private” setting on WordPress—why commit my priceless thoughts to the internet without unleashing my genius onto the world?”
    haha yes, my sentiments exactly. the work blog is a nice idea though:)

  4. Kera Hitam

    I think point 2 just too sadistic. Maybe it works great for me. Point 4 never works well for me.

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  7. Alison Moore Smith

    As a confirmed, life-long night owl, I object to number four!

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  11. Avloppstankar

    Trying to be better at #4. It’s hard though! Am definitely not a morning person.

  12. R A Molla

    No way! it can’t be possible, tried but totally fucked up bro…

  13. Tulisa

    It was this post that highly motivated me to do all 4 things when I read this post in February. I have finally started my blog and hopefully will update it every so often. As often as I can really. Here’s a link to my blog I much appreciate feedback as I have only just started.

  14. TJ

    Thanks for the tips.

  15. Mila

    When you come early to work – it’s very like the boss. It really is true.

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  26. Matthew M. McEwan

    I couldn’t agree more with your fourth point there Danielle. And there are probably even more benefits of being an early riser.

    It especially powerful to plant the seed in everyone else’s mind that you’re a hard worker so by being there before the crowd comes in. Then you seem to be the one most dedicated to your work 🙂 And as you say, that combined with some peace and quiet to start your day is great.

    I have personally started waking up at 4am nowadays and it’s incredibly the difference it has made in my life. That peace and quiet is now extended to several hours every morning where I can focus on doing what I love the most. This has really given me the time and ability to focus to go for my long-term goals.

    Thanks for a good and actionable post 🙂

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