It’s New Year’s Day, the start of 2019, and the year stretches before us like a billowing white ream of paper, full of hope and potential.  And with that vision in mind, and possibly a glass or two of something to inspire our imaginations, we make our New Year Resolutions.

However according to those smart-Alec pollsters (maybe a good resolution would be to stop reading polls), a depressing 80% of all our resolutions will have bitten the dust by February.

Apparently we are such a predictable lot that our most common resolutions come up year after year, and the top ones include exercising more (38%), losing weight (33%), eating more healthily (32%) and learning a new skill or hobby (15%). They’re followed by resolutions to spend more time with family and friends, drink less booze, and stop smoking.

According to psychology lecturer Philip Clarke, the biggest mistake people make is to identify what they want to achieve – but don’t think about how to do it.

He said: “They set long-term outcome goals such as getting a ‘dream body’ or to spend more time with family and, as a starting point, these sound like good goals. The problem is that the goal-setting process for many people stops there”.

He says people who develop action plans experience less anxiety, more confidence, improved concentration and greater satisfaction about achieving their goals and are more likely to succeed.

So, a bad goal might be, “I want to fit into my old jeans”, while a good one would be more specific, such as “I’m going to get into my old jeans by June 1st 2019”.  In short, make sure the goal can be achieved realistically in the time frame.

Also, the goal needs to be exciting, so don’t just say “I want to save money”, but fire it up with a purpose, such as “I’ll save the money to take us on holiday to our favourite place – or some exciting new destination”.

The thought of that longed-for end result will help you stay motivated when you’re faced with some tough decision that takes you away from your goal.

Also, don’t keep those resolutions in your head and then let them fade – write them down. By putting your goal on paper, you make a conscious commitment that this is what you want to achieve. Then post the note in places where you’ll regularly see it – such as your gym bag, the bathroom mirror or the fridge.