Don't Wait Until Next Year: Trash Your New Year's Resolution Now

No matter what happens this New Year’s Eve, we know one thing is always true: There will be lots of trash. This is peak trash season.

The end of the year is well-known for how much trash it generates. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that household garbage in the U.S. increases by 25 percent during the holidays, a million tons more than usual. All those boxes from Amazon, deliveries from Mr. Peak at UPS, Christmas trees, and discarded instruction manuals will have to find their way to landfills and recycling centers. And, of course, all that ball-dropping confetti has to get cleaned up, too.

But the most trashed item of all doesn’t take up space in landfills: New Year’s resolutions. The vast majority of resolutions end up in the metaphorical garbage, as attested by statistic and anecdote.

What can you do about it? Rather than writing a likely fictional story about what you want to do this upcoming year, consider crafting a more realistic account of why your resolutions so often amount to nothing.

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman describes this as the “premortem“. As he writes in his recent book Thinking, Fast and Slow, premortems can help organizations trying to make an important decision:

The procedure is simple: when the organization has almost come to an important decision but has not formally committed itself, Klein proposes gathering for a brief session a group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the decision. The premise of the session is a short speech: “Imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5 to 10 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.”

This would be a much more helpful way of approaching your resolution. Instead of fantasizing about all the fictional ways things might go right, consider all the ways your resolution is going to turn into a disaster. Write about how your idea will end up in the trash can. It will probably be the most productive thing you can do to get ready for next year.

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