08/15/2007 02:32 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Benefits of Resolution Charts

One key tip to help you be happier, lose weight, have more fun, be a better parent and spouse, have more friends, be more productive, and more -- plus, get something for free!

We've all made New Year's resolutions. But the problem is -- how do we actually follow through? Initial enthusiasm and determination so often fade to neglect and guilt.

To help myself stick to my Happiness-Project resolutions, I keep resolution charts.

I borrowed the idea from Ben Franklin. In his Autobiography, he explains that he identified thirteen virtues to cultivate, then made a chart with those virtues plotted against the days of the week. Each day, he'd score himself.

I've made a similar scoring chart -- a calendar with all my resolutions, in which I can give myself a √ (good) or an X (bad).

Keeping these charts has made a huge difference in helping me stick to my resolutions. Why?

Studies show that we're much more likely to make progress on goals that are broken into concrete actions, with some kind of accountability.

Actually writing down a goal helps to commit to pursuing that goal.

Research shows that repeating ideas makes them much more "accessible" and therefore more active. As I review my resolutions to score myself, I'm also keeping ideas like "Sing in the morning," "Show up," or "Answer the phone with good cheer" uppermost in my mind.

Visible proof of progress is encouraging. I crave those gold stars! I've been trying to get over my need for recognition and praise, but it's not easy, and that little bit of reinforcement makes a difference.

Although everyone's Happiness Project would be unique, seeing Benjamin Franklin's example did help me create my resolution charts.

So, if you'd like to see my resolution charts, just email me at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [.com]. (I wrote the email that way to thwart spammers, but just use the usual email format.) I'll email you my charts.

I've included a blank template at the end, so you can adapt the format to your own particular goals.

In case there's confusion -- each month I concentrate on a particular set of goals, but I do score myself every day on resolutions for all twelve months.

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin