You can, obviously, start 'afresh' in April. Or October. Or at midnight during the summer solstice if you feel like it (if you're not dancing around Stonehenge in the nude at this time, of course). There is no set moment when you should take stock, reassess, change, start out on a new path or simply try another way.
It's just that New Year is just such a convenient time to do it, isn't it?
You've had some days away from your office during the festive period and, with a bit of time on your hands and the slightly uncomfortable feeling of your tightening waistband, it seems like the perfect moment to start thinking about the year ahead and what you could or should be doing differently.
The newspapers love New Year: lazy journalism (and always the same hideous strapline...) dictating that we should all now be enthusiastically thrusting ourselves into tracksuits, stamping out that last cigarette, swapping our full English breakfast for three blueberries and a quinoa smoothie and reaching up a couple of rungs on our career ladder. That's seven pages of the first few papers filled, just like that. Copy last year's text, change the date to 2018, insert what ever superfood is trending right now and paste. Job done.
Of course, deciding to get more exercise, live more healthily or set new work goals are good things and there's nothing wrong with aiming at them. It's just that deciding to change huge aspects of your life just as Big Ben strikes midnight on 31 December often feels a little like telling yourself that as of 12.01am on 1 January (oh, actually, let's make it 'from 8am on 1 January'', I've still got a gin and tonic in my hand right now) you're going to transform into a whole new person. And that's a huge undertaking. Permanent change takes a lot of time and effort.
And it's that enormous pressure that we put ourselves under every New Year that mean most of our resolutions are doomed to failure. (See that 'Oh, actually' in the paragraph above? That's generally my downfall: the ease with which I can find convenient excuses to put things off...)
So, despite having a lot of ideas for what I could do differently this year - I'm not making New Year's resolutions.
I'm making 2018 resolutions instead: there are things I definitely want to change and achieve this year but I'm going to be a bit cleverer about how I do them. And how I make sure they stay done. Otherwise it'll end up the same: spending a wintry fortnight trying to reach Wonder Woman status, then burning out, shrugging my shoulders and slumping back to all my bad habits by the 15 January.
So I'm not going to start them all at once, but attempt one at a time and wait until each is firmly embedded into my daily routine before introducing the next.
For example: I waste too much time prevaricating before starting work. 'I'll just check...' is a phrase which signals the beginning of at least 45 minutes of staring into the abyss that is the internet. And so, to that end, I'm going to kick off 2018 with Resolution No. 1: structuring my day differently: no internet until I've crossed off at least two things on that day's 'To do' list (and proper things too - not just 'Have a cup of coffee' or 'Finish the crossword') and then only for a short, pre-set time, before getting back to work.
And once I've stopped reading every article on the BBC/Guardian/Times/Digital Spy/Buzzfeed (oh, there are so many...) websites before achieving anything concrete I will then find it easier to move on to Resolution No. 2: to plan my social media and blog posts further ahead, instead of rushing to do things on the fly every day. Having a pre-planned time to respond and post on FB - and then logging out - will (hopefully) stop me getting sucked in to the vortex of clicking on things-I'm-not-really-interested-in-but-will-read-anyway-to-put-off-working and allow me to only absorb and write things that are productive to my business.
Once that's firmly in place, and I'm no longer distracted every 5 minutes by new alerts I can then move on to Resolution No. 3: FOCUS. Finishing one task before beginning another. Honestly, I have the concentration span of a distracted gnat at times.
And so on.
By making sure one resolution has been achieved before taking on another they won't feel quite as intimidating and impossible as when you start them all at once. And it appears to be working...already this morning I have ticked three important things off my list and I haven't looked at FB once yet. Ok, I know it's only Day 1 but you've got to start somewhere...
My Writing Workshops are kicking off again on Wednesday 10 January - book your place now!
Happy New Year!