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Yes, this is another article on how to keep your New Year’s resolutions. But unlike other articles, this one gives you one sneaky weapon – to use a click-bait phrase – for actually doing it.

To help yourself keep your New Year’s resolutions, write a contract with yourself. That’s the “sneaky weapon.” Why do this? Because contracts work. A contract that details exactly what you’ll do, by when (if you have a deadline), with rewards for performance and consequences for nonperformance, and with a fallback plan if your main plan falls through – this is a promise you make with yourself.

You don’t want to break promises with yourself, right? You value yourself enough to keep promises with yourself.

Let’s take an example from the workplace. You’ve been getting feedback from your reports that when you’re in meetings or conversations with them, they aren’t able to finish speaking or to fully communicate with you information that you need to know.

You decide to use a simple conversational rule that I call the 3X Rule, or “The Three Times Rule.” The 3X Rule says that you should wait three times as long as you think you should before speaking, in particular situations:

  • when your report is speaking to you; in other words, don’t interrupt;
  • when you’ve asked a question or indicated that you want information; in other words, let silence stretch out.

You write a contract with yourself that specifies that you’ll use this rule, the penalties you’ll impose on yourself if you don’t use the rule, a reward you’ll give yourself when you follow the rule, and a fallback plan.


I, ________________________________, voluntarily enter into this contract with myself.

  1. I agree that I will always follow the 3X Rule in conversations and meetings with reports.
  2. Every time I don’t follow the rule, I will stop myself and request that whoever had been speaking, continue with what he or she had been saying.
  3. I’ll allow myself one exception to (2), and that’s when I’m genuinely under time pressure and need a quick answer.
  4. For every five times I don’t follow the rule, I’ll set aside $5 in a special fund. On the last working day of each month, if there’s any money in this fund, I’ll purchase coffee and doughnuts (or croissants) for my reports. (In here, specify something that your reports will value.)
  5. Every time I do follow this rule, I’ll (privately) commend myself for making it easy for my reports to convey to me the information they need to convey, thereby making my work, and theirs, easier.

When you make your New Year’s resolutions this year, write a contract with yourself that specifies exactly how you’ll keep the resolutions. Make it realistic and actionable, and help yourself keep your New Year’s resolutions.

Photo credit: © 2015 World Bank Photo Collection, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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