5 science-based strategies for nailing your New Year's resolutions

Kick off the new year by setting a goal that's "concrete and bite-size" to make it doable, behavioral scientist Katy Milkman advises.

Award-winning behavioral scientist Katy Milkman is the James G. Dinan Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, author of "How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be," cofounder of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative, and the host of Charles Schwab's "Choiceology" podcast.

(CNN)It's that time of year again. Champagne bottles have been popped, balls have dropped, and now your friends, family and colleagues are starting to ask, "What's your New Year's resolution?"

Some people love the tradition of setting a goal each January 1. Others argue it's a waste of time since most resolutions fail by mid-March. But there is actually a logic to jumping on the New Year's resolution bandwagon despite the grim numbers.
My collaborators and I have shown that on new beginnings — dates like New Year's, your birthday and even Mondays — you're extra motivated to tackle your goals because you feel like you can turn the page on past failures. Maybe you meant to quit smoking, get fit or start going to bed at a reasonable hour last year and didn't. A fresh start like New Year's lets you relegate those missteps to a past chapter and tell yourself "that was the old me, but the new me will be different."
    It might sound delusional, but it's quite handy to be able to let go of failures and try again. After all, you can't accomplish anything if you don't attempt it, and a lot of goals worth achieving can be tricky to nail the first time around.
      If you want to boost your chances of sticking to your 2022 New Year's resolution, behavioral scientists have discovered a host of techniques that can help. These tactics are most useful if you've chosen a goal that's concrete and bite-size. That means you'll want to avoid vague goals like "I'll exercise more" and instead set specific goals like "I'll work out four times a week."
      Here are my five favorite science-based tips for sticking to your resolutions, sourced from my book, "How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be."

        1. Make a cue-based plan

        Just as cues tell Broadway stars when to step onto the stage, research has shown that adding a cue to your plan helps you remember when to act. Be sure to detail when and where you'll follow through.
        If your New Year's resolution is to meditate five days each week, a plan like "I'll meditate on weekdays" would be too vague. But a cue-based plan like "I'll meditate at the office on weekdays during my lunch break" would fit the bill.
        Plotting when and where you'll execute on your New Year's resolution jogs your memory when it's opportune and generates guilt if you flake out. (Putting your plan on the calendar and setting a digital reminder wouldn't hurt either.) Detailed planning can also help you anticipate and dodge obstacles -- so if you plan to meditate during lunch, you'll be sure to decline a proffered lunch meeting.

        2. Consider a penalty clause

        This may sound sinister, but ensuring you'll face some penalty if you don't achieve your New Year's resolution can work wonders.
        One easy way to do this is by telling a few people about your goal so you'll feel ashamed if they check back later and find out you haven't followed through. (Telling all your social media followers would up the ante further).