How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions, Ten Minutes at a Time

By Kiki Baxter 01/08/19

You can keep your New Year's resolutions just by devoting ten minutes to certain simple daily tasks. I've seen people build websites in 10-minute increments, write screenplays, do taxes, and even date!

Woman wearing glasses looking up at the numbers 2019 in front of 2018 and 2020. Making New Year's resolutions
“Drink less." “Save money." "Exercise." I wanted to be perfect because I thought that would get rid of the anxiety and the feeling that something was very, very wrong.

I want to work out more. I want to lose five pounds. I want to drink less. Have better relationships. I used to love making New Year’s resolutions. I would write my list, check it twice, and write another one, and another, and another. I loved writing lists. It made me feel productive, organized, on top of things; in control. I can’t tell you how many lists I wrote that had “drink less” on it. Or “save money.” “Get in better shape.” I wanted to be perfect because I thought that would get rid of the anxiety and the feeling that something was very, very wrong.

The only thing that worked for me was recovery. AA, DA, SLAA, and Alanon have become my cocktail of choice. But as they say, “program” is not self-improvement, it’s self-acceptance and, of course, surrender.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who was chowing down the candy at a SLAA holiday potluck. She laughingly said she was out of control. She’s in a few programs and goes to OA occasionally; she’s not sure she really identifies.

“I really want to lose some weight this year,” she said. I asked if she tried Weight Watchers because it seemed to work for some people.

“I’ve tried everything. The only thing that works for me is self-will. It may not sound program to say that, but it’s true. I just set my mind to it and I can control my food and lose weight. All on the strength of will.” She helps herself to another cookie.

“Is it sustainable?” I ask.

She looks at me then sighs. “No. It works for a time - even a long time, but then eventually I give up.”

I understood. I tried to quit drinking or “drink responsibly” so many times and then, like my friend, eventually gave up and went back. I could not do it on my own will. Some people can. And based on un-scientific observation, a few of them are sorta happy and not complete assholes. I have a friend who quit drinking without any program in his 20’s and never looked back. He may be a little workaholic-y (not like I’m taking his inventory or anything) but he seems pretty happy, and not, as they say, “dry.”

I can’t speak for other people’s process, but I can say that now that I’ve found recovery, I don’t drink (aka I’m sober), I have an IRA, and I don’t use unsecured debt. In terms of SLAA, I don’t have sex outside of a committed relationship. I also meditate regularly and exercise maybe three times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less.

I still do love the illusion of being “perfect” but I have to admit that as I get older, or perhaps accumulate more time in recovery, it compels me less. When I first got sober, I would think of myself conceptually, like I was a conceptual art piece. It wasn’t conscious and it was only in retrospect that I noticed it. It was like I was outside my body and I looked at myself like a piece of clay that I wanted to mold. It was an idea of me. Just like I had an idea of who my boyfriend was, or what our relationship was going to be or “should” be. Or just like I had an idea of who my dad was supposed to be. Or what life should be like. They were all concepts. Ideas. Fantasies. And they all were outside of me. From me, but looking in from the outside.

I am learning to trust myself more. I think that’s hard for an addict. That still small voice – is it safe to trust her? But as I get to know the lay of the land of my dis-ease and recovery, and I do it within a community, I find that, yeah, I can trust her and wow, I can maybe even trust life. And if I want to make sure that life doesn’t get dry and brittle, I’d better start listening to that inner voice because that voice is deeply connected to my higher power. And that higher power is intrinsically linked to the life around me.

And to that end (here come the lists!):

I want to be more present
Find work that is more rewarding
Reconnect to my creativity
Date in a fun and juicy way
Furnish my new apartment
Continue to expand my community

So how do I do it?

In my local Debtors Anonymous, a guy named Chris created the DA Tools Game. It is brilliant. Everyone gets into teams of about four and you play for four weeks against the other teams. The team with the most points wins. You gain points by taking four daily actions. And each action you do for exactly ten minutes, not more, not less.

The first action is making an outreach call to one of your team members to check in. The second action is spiritual/financial (which is usually recording what you spent your money on or opening your bills, etc.) The third action is self-care (stretching, taking a walk, listening to music). The fourth action is income expansion so that can be sending out a résumé, following up on a lead, or updating your website. Once you choose what your action is going to be, you have to commit to it for the whole month otherwise you lose points. This is to avoid the monkey mind that wants to switch things up all the time – especially when things feel uncomfortable. So if you choose taking a short walk as your self-care action, you can’t, after week one, switch it to yoga – unless you check in with your team first. And the consequence is losing 100 points (ouch!).

The brilliance of this game is that you get to see how much can be accomplished in ten-minute segments each day. Some people will have decluttering as their self-care action and will spend the ten minutes every day that month decluttering their home office and then, lo and behold, they find themselves in a new relationship, or career path, or, at the very least, a clean office! The phone calls keep us accountable and provide support. I’ve seen people build a website in ten-minute increments, write a screenplay, do their taxes, and even date!

Every action gets 25 points so if you do all your actions in a day, you get 100 points and the team with the most points at the end of the month wins. It’s a great way to accelerate one’s recovery: “Just for today, I will do my numbers for ten minutes. Just for today, I will work on my résumé…for ten minutes. Just for today, I will listen to music. Just for today, I will make a phone call to a fellow.” It cuts right through the obsession of perfection, the obsession of self-will, procrastination, and isolation.

Granted, there are those who are able, through the sheer force of their own will, to change their lives. There are a ton of YouTubers talking all about that. I think that’s awesome. But that has never worked for me. And when it did (for a time), I was not a very fun person to be around. There wasn’t much room for intimacy when I was like that.

But just for today… I will not drink. I will not debt. I will not act out. I will call a fellow. I will meditate. I will take actions to increase my earnings. And other “top line” behaviors (as they say in SLAA) would be: having fun, dancing, singing, going to yoga, cooking, sponsoring, being sponsored, doing the steps, reading literature, and practicing gratitude. A lot of those actions were on previous New Year’s resolution lists but, prior to recovery, the chance that they would become a part of my life was close to zero. 

Let me know your thoughts on how your life has changed and what resolutions you’ve made in the past or want to make today. I would love to hear your experiences with this stuff because there are as many approaches as there are people. Let me know in the comments.

And Happy New Year! Happy New Day.

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Kiki Baxter is an experienced content creator with a demonstrated history of working in tech, non-profit, and hospitalityindustries. She is also skilled in Digital Marketing, Design, and Photography and is a yoga instructor. You can find out more about Kiki on her website or on Linkedin or Instagram.