10 Winning Rituals to Bust the Broken Resolution Cycle

10 Winning Rituals to Bust the Broken Resolution Cycle

We make resolutions, fight the good fight for a while, and then lose track and lose heart.


This year,  break the resolution-defeat-discouragement cycle before it gets going. Start some rituals instead. These 10 help me keep writing, hit deadlines, and generally stay sane.

 1. Make a daily to-do list

Have at least 3 specific things on the list you want to get done that day. Nothing vague like lose weight. One should relate to a larger goal. The list needs to be written down—on your phone, on a sticky note. Don’t keep mental lists, they are easily misplaced and fatiguing.

2018 update: I’m giving Triple fold-out planning folios from Levenger’s a try. With the whole week on one expanding accordian card, I can easily carry over unfinished tasks from one day to the next.

 2. Own a Calendar

Put it on the wall, on your phone, in a planner. Get into the habit of looking at the month view rather than just the day or week layout. A month gives you a larger perspective for planning purposes. Don’t just let the year happen.

 3. Watch or Read Some International News

The world is a big place! Know what is going on beyond your own doorstep. It will stretch your brain, give you new perspectives and give you something interesting to say in an interview, cocktail party, or the first day in a new job. Try BBC News.

4. Keep a Small Victory List

Especially when things seem bad, you need to record the small victories. Got the child to stop crying, remembered to set up that automatic payment into your savings account, brought a mug to work to drink office coffee instead of buying a latte, etc. After a few weeks of keeping such a list, you’ll recognize talents you didn’t know you had.

5. Say Hello and Goodbye

We can enrich our relationships with just a hail and farewell. Greetings are such simple things but they provide acknowledgment and respect.

6. Thank the person who prepared or brought your meal

In our house, the dinner prayer always ends with a thank-you to whomever cooked. At a restaurant, we always thank the server. Gratitude for food sometimes gets lost in a fast food culture but it is basic good manners and always appreciated.

7. Eat at least 1 meal/day with an identifiable vegetable component

We can’t live by carbs and fried stuff alone. Eat something green, something fresh. Your colon and arteries will thank you.

8. Save Money

Put something in the bank every month or every payday. If you can set up an automatic deposit to a savings account, do it. Doesn’t have to be a lot. But the ritual of paying yourself first will pay dividends (pun intended) down the road.

9. Make a Schedule for Checking Your Finances

Every 2 weeks or so, check all your online banking accounts (write a reminder on the calendar!) Open up the statements that came in the mail and got dumped by the sofa. Have a folder for tax-related items and stick stuff in there. If you pay bills online, know when credit card bills are due and pay them ahead of time.

 10. Stretch in the morning

Get out of the bed and stretch. Feel the spine crack. Do a few arm circles. Touch the old toes. Get the blood going. See, a small victory already!

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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


Solve Problems Like a Detective

Solve Problems Like a Detective


In CLIFF DIVER, Detective Emilia Cruz starts piecing together a police investigation by using a timeline. Emilia’s love of timelines will be an element of her crime-solving skills in every book in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. It’s her go-to problem-solving device and the best way she knows to start organizing the many disparate threads running through every case.

Off the pages of a mystery series and into real life, however, a timeline is a better planning device than a decision-making tool, in my view. Alone, it can’t help you narrow down solutions or predict consequences.  But pair it with one of the tools below and you have a powerful way to resolve issues:

Pros and Cons

I once bought paper pre-printed with two columns, one reading PRO and the other reading CON. I actually pulled it out when a friend could not choose between a new job that was a risk and the current, safe, job where he felt stale. We literally brainstormed both sides of going vs staying. It was a simple exercise but helped him see solutions through an unemotional lens.

Plot the pros and cons on a timeline to know the time frame each will require. In my friend’s case he took the higher risk job because when he counted up all the pros of the new opportunity, they far outweighed not only the cons, but also the limited pros of staying where he was.

Action items

For years when I felt blue, worried, or stuck, I’d make a list of what was going wrong on the left side of a legal pad. On the right side I’d list all possible action items for changing the situation and achieving a solution.  I’d timeline the actions to see how long they’d take or if I could do them immediately, in the next few days, or in the distant future. Inevitably I’d find something I could do to improve the situation and know when I could do it.

Maybe the list won’t make the problem completely go away but the exercise always leaves me with a feeling of greater control and that is half the battle.

Related: The Ultimate Secret to Productivity

Linear Thinking

A lot of problems feel bigger than they are because we are afraid of unknown consequences. So diagram the linear logic thread and figure out what and when some of those consequences might be/take place. It’s a basic “this action will lead to this outcome” exercise. But in order to work you have to be both realistic and honest.

For example, when we lived in Mexico, friends rarely paid their gardener on time. He stopped showing up and they attributed it to “typical” laziness. A more honest, linear thinking mindset might have recognized that if they wanted a nice yard, they’d have to pay for the work on time. The gardener could not afford transportation to get there on Thursday when he wasn’t paid for his work on Monday, even if they were prepared to pay him for both days on Thursday.

These problem solving ideas are likely to make their way into the investigations in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. But will they help her find a solution to her problems with Kurt Rucker? She might have to deal with corrupt politicians, dirty cops, and drug cartels in Acapulco, but Kurt is without a doubt her biggest challenge!

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solve problems


Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


solve problems

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