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Start Strong in 2016: Nine Habits for Success

Tips to start the new year right in 2016With every new year comes the usual flood of resolutions and pledges, from major lifestyle changes to common goals like getting in shape or reading more. Yet one of the main reasons many New Year's resolutions fail is a lack of solid habits and structure for achieving larger goals. Rather than setting one-time resolutions with distinct endpoints, try to establish better and more consistent habits that can help you succeed at any goals you set for yourself in the year to come.

Below we've compiled some habits that can help you get off to a strong start in 2016.

Start Getting Up 1 Hour Earlier – Force yourself to break the habit of rushing to get ready each morning by setting your alarm 1 hour earlier than usual. Use this extra time to wake up, gather your thoughts, read the paper, or otherwise reserve a little of your morning for yourself before you start worrying about work, school, or other responsibilities. (Of course, this may also mean you have to start getting to bed a little earlier and more consistently, but the extra productivity can be worth it.)

Visualize Your Day by Making a To-Do List – One thing you'll hear many highly successful people talk about is the importance of visualizing outcomes. Set aside a few minutes in the morning to chart out what your day will look like—what tasks need to be completed, when will you work on each, do you have a few scheduled breaks to ensure you won't feel overwhelmed? To-do lists like these not only help you create a plan for success and stay organized, but they also offer small moments of reinforcement and accomplishment as you cross off tasks throughout the day.

Eat Breakfast – In developing consistent habits for success, this is probably one you've heard before, but it's important enough to be worth repeating. Like getting enough sleep, a good breakfast is essential for maintaining focus and being able to handle unexpected challenges throughout the day. While it's easy to skip breakfast in a rush to get to work or quickly get your post up on a discussion board, you may end up sacrificing focus or performance later in the day when it really counts.

Tackle the Hardest (and Most Important) Tasks First – Sometimes it seems easier to finish quick, time-sensitive tasks early on in the day, like clearing out your email inbox or completing your shortest homework assignments and readings. However, if you have a deadline for an assignment, or there's an important project you need to finish at work, you may not be able to focus effectively on anything else until it's done. Prioritize these tasks and devote the necessary time to finishing them first each day—you'll feel better knowing the hardest work of the day is behind you, and you can focus on anything else that comes up with a clear mind.

Exercise a Little Bit Each Day – Even if it's just a quick 15-minute run or a short 30-minute workout in the morning, getting regular exercise can go a long way toward helping you feel alert, energetic, and ready to face the day ahead. (If you have an especially packed schedule, consider biking rather than driving whenever possible to get an extra boost of activity.)

Pack Smart Snacks – When you get hungry, your ability to focus and concentrate on complex tasks starts to drop. Rather than grabbing junk food from the vending machine, pack a healthy, protein-rich snack or two to hold you over until lunch and/or dinner each day.

Do a Little Spring Cleaning Early – Extra clutter around your home or office can add unnecessary distractions and anxiety to your day. Try getting rid of old magazines, papers, clothes, or just extra things around the house that you haven't used in a while—you may be surprised how much better you feel. (If you work on your computer frequently for school or work, consider cleaning up any digital clutter as well by deleting unused apps, re-organizing your desktop and files, and going through your email inbox for messages you don't need anymore.)

Try Something New – When thinking about setting goals for 2016, push yourself to take some healthy risks trying new things. Whether it's planning a trip to someplace you've never been, or looking for new ways to push yourself at work, remember that learning and personal discovery don't happen without some willingness to try something new and uncertain.

Reserve Time for Reflection – Just as you should spend some time for yourself each morning, try to set aside a few minutes at the end of each school or work day to reflect on what you accomplished, any valuable experiences you had, and what you can take forward with you into the coming days and weeks. This may also be a time to reevaluate some goals and deadlines you've set for yourself, or to stop and enjoy a feeling of accomplishment for recent successes.

Interested in more tips on starting the year strong? Read our list of common habits of successful online students at CTU.