If you're like most people, you're spending this month thinking about making a change. In 2015, you're going to quit smoking. You'll stop eating dessert, quit that nightly glass of wine, or give up the overspending cold turkey.
Those are all noble goals. But you should know that attempting to tackle them at once is setting yourself up to fail. That's Money Rule Number 49: Don't Budget While You're Dieting. Don't Diet When You're Budgeting. Why? I'll tell you next. I'm Jean Chatzky and this is Money Rules.
What's the one thing you need to make a change in your life, whether it's skipping your nightly bowl of ice cream or getting yourself to the gym each morning? Willpower. And that, as it turns out, is a limited resource. Think of it like a muscle: If you use it too much, it gets fatigued. That means setting a list of lofty goals may actually backfire. Trying too hard to control yourself can cause your willpower to lapse completely.
To use your willpower to your advantage, don't work on more than one thing at a time. Instead, prioritize your goals. In January, focus on going to the gym in the morning. Once you're in a routine, you can turn to cutting out the ice cream or stopping your online shopping habit.
Finally, you should know going in that making a change in this age of constant temptation is difficult: To quit spending, for example, you have to put a stop to the window-shopping you do on your lunch break and keep yourself from surfing your favorite stores on your web browser once you're back at your desk. Set yourself up for success by putting barriers between yourself and the behavior. If you want to stop online shopping, unsubscribe from retailer email blasts. If you want to stop oversleeping your morning exercise time, ask a friend to join you at the gym so you're accountable. And quit that nightly ice cream by not bringing it into your house in the first place.