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New Year Resolutions – 8 ways to stick to habits

Have your Apple device help you become a better you

2024 is here. We know – it came as a surprise to us as well. Still, it’s the perfect time to say out with the old and in with the new – you. Well, sort of. At the very least, it’s a traditional time of year to scribble down a few ideas for self-improvement, and subsequently realize at some point in June you’ve done precisely none of them.

However, armed with your iPhone, you can make a better go of resolutions this year. And although you might not twelve months down the line have achieved everything you wanted to, there’s a good chance you’ll at least be a little bit fitter, a little bit more knowledgable, and – most importantly – a little bit more content.

1. Put resolutions front and center

Constant gentle nagging is one way to keep you thinking about your resolutions. If what you want to do is related to specific apps, place them on your main Home Screen – or even in the Dock – to make them more visible. Likewise, make use of Apple Watch, if you have one.

Cheatsheet on iPhone

Also consider relevant apps with Home Screen widgets that will keep your resolutions in mind. Streaks ($4.99/£4.99) can place icons of new habits on your Home Screen. Launcher (free) is great to house shortcuts to apps, websites *and* people that remind you of your goals. And Cheatsheet Notes (free + IAP) can be used for short written reminders.

2. Carefully use reminders

Most resolutions require time, and so use Calendar to add relevant recurring events into your schedule. Use notifications to alert you when it’s time to do whatever your resolution is – even if that’s just carving out 15 minutes to yourself.

Obviously, if one of your resolutions is to cut down on notifications, avoid drowning yourself in the things! But notifications can be useful when strategically used for infusing new habits into your daily routine.

3. Keep resolutions low in number

One of the problems with resolutions is getting carried away. You create a gargantuan list, thinking this is going to be the year you crack all of them. By the end of January, you throw in the towel, because the tasks are just too demanding and overwhelming.

Streaks offers help if it thinks you are feeling overwhelmed

A smarter move is to think smaller. Don’t try to do ten new things in a year – try one or two. An app like the aforementioned Streaks ($4.99/£4.99) is great for helping you think this through, given that its interface is primarily designed for six items. And remember: there’s nothing to stop you adding more as the months roll by.

4. Keep things regular – and flexible

An issue that’s notably apparent in exercise software is its insistence you work out daily. Apple Watch does this, breaking your streak if you have the audacity to take a day off – even if you, say, ran an actual marathon the day before.

But getting new things going in a routine is tricky, especially if your days are packed. With that in mind, keep everything regular but flexible. Rather than exercising or being creative on a daily basis, try to do these things a few times every week – it doesn’t matter precisely when. Similarly, for tasks you’d ideally do weekly, aim for two or three times a month. Remember as habits become infused, you can always increase the frequency later.

In terms of apps, we think Gentler Streak (free + IAP) is an excellent choice for exercise, since its recommendations are based on what you’ve done recently – and even how you’re feeling. For everything else, we’d again recommend Streaks.

5. Make some resolutions fun

Quite often, people resolve to do things they don’t really want to do, such as eating less junk food, quitting smoking, or going running every day. So where possible, have some resolutions be something you find fun – or find a way to make tougher ones enjoyable.

Duolingo’s colorful approach to learning a language

For example, gamify exercise with the likes of Run An Empire (free). For education, try fun apps like Duolingo (free) and Yousician (free + IAP), rather than dry alternatives.

Also, make some resolutions entertaining in and of themselves. Try a resolution that’s all about giving yourself ten minutes a day to add some words to a novella in Ulysses ($5.99/£5.99 per month) or to do a bit of painting in Procreate ($12.99/£12.99)/Procreate Pocket ($5.99/£5.99).

6. Track new habits

If you’re the sort of person who likes statistics and wiggly lines, and who is motivated by such things, track your resolutions. And, yes, we’re going to mention Streaks again. It’s an excellent choice and allows for the flexibility mentioned earlier, along with tracking ‘negative’ tasks (where a streak is only broken if you do something ‘bad’).

But another good option is Habitica (free + IAP). This app is inspired by old-school games, and powers-up little on-screen characters when you do well in the real world. Entertainingly, you can even go into battle with friends, to duff up monsters and win bling that’s later used to customize your avatar.

7. Give yourself a break

Don’t get obsessed with resolutions – there’s no point in getting upset with things you’ve not managed to add to an already busy schedule. If your existing setup isn’t working, change it. Cut down on resolutions, adjust them, or reduce their frequency. If things still aren’t working, just bin them entirely, and give yourself a break.

Alternatively, remember you can also just hit the pause button for a while and come back to resolutions later. You’re doing these things to be more fulfilled, after all, not to add more stress and horror to your day!

8. Or… don’t use your iPhone

Our tips so far don’t work terribly well if your overriding resolution is to use your iPhone less. However, apps, systems, and methods can help there too.

Bear Focus Timer and its grumpy bear

Apple’s Focus can eliminate immediate distractions through you reworking Home Pages based on custom contexts. In other words, when working you could hide all distracting apps. And when settling down to read, you could have a Focus show only reading apps on your Home Screen and also turn on Do Not Disturb.

If you don’t want to be distracted by your phone at all while working, use Bear Focus Timer ($1.99/£1.99), whose timer only kicks off when your device is face-down. Also use Apple’s Screen Time to blare warnings when you’ve used specific apps or games for a set period on any given day.

Consider removing non-essential apps when they too often take up your attention and don’t bring you joy. And keep your phone entirely out of the room you’re in at home when you should be concentrating on something else – or sleeping.