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In 2017, forget New Year’s resolutions and set small monthly goals

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We’re one week into 2017. The time to buckle down on resolutions for the new year is here, but first I need to mourn. Today, we bury my aspirations to better my life in 2016.

My 2016 resolutions died young and unrealized, as unfulfilled and unfulfilling as the year in which they floundered. Simple enough in theory, there was one major impediment: self-control. I wanted to take a healthy step back from technology whenever and wherever I could.

In 2015, I’d been an over-eager app user. From meditation and sleep tracking to book lists and concerts, I had an app for that...as if people couldn’t achieve self-improvement before low-price smartphone software.

My interest in fancy gadgets like the Amazon Echo and a new iPad peaked, dealing a mortal blow to my bank account. But the gadgets rarely stuck. I ditched my Kindle a month after I got it. I was drowning in hardware I didn’t need, and doing so at my own expense.

If you’ve ever set a serious slate of resolutions for yourself, you know what an undertaking it can be. This process requires both self-knowledge of your flaws and a desire to improve upon those personality defects. In other words, what do you not like about yourself? And are you actually willing to change?

My 2016 goals were half self-care, half pretentious nonsense. I wanted to spend less time on the internet, admittedly an odd choice for a journalist in online media. I would read at least one book once a month, and write something unrelated to work every day. I vowed to keep a written journal and refresh my familiarity with a foreign language.

My ambitions died on different hills for different reasons. I tried to tackle too much, and I went about it haphazardly. A journal is hard to keep when you’re an obsessive workaholic with a lot of anxiety. The slow process of handwriting missives to myself didn’t help. I lost track in my first month.

And then there were foreign languages, hard enough on their own, even harder when you’re trying to avoid using apps. I caved and cheated one resolution by downloading Duolingo. A month later I gave up entirely.

My personal book club was next. That fell by the wayside after month five, when I knocked a cup of coffee onto my current read and ruined half of its pages. I was too busy to pop into a bookstore and wanted to avoid hitting up an online retailer. Before I knew it, the final weeks of the month had passed, and I’d failed to finish the novel. With the habit broken, it suddenly felt less important.

And my final resolution, to stay off the internet? It also began to feel silly. I’d had lasted a few months away from Twitter and Facebook, favoring only the safety of Instagram’s idealized life. I started to creep back toward social media, browsing forums first, then Facebook, then Twitter. In the lead up to the election, I felt invigorated and active. I’d outgrown the one resolution I’d successfully formed into a habit.

What I learned from a year of failed resolutions is twofold. First, forsaking any sort of tech that makes your life easier is folly. Second, it’s okay to let go when you’ve gotten what you need. I’m giving myself one more day to decide on what my resolutions of 2017 will be, but the truth of it is that I’m giving up on the idea of one overarching, all-but-impossible goal. In 2017, I plan to set and track tiny goals every month. Probably with the help of my phone and not my journal.