I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and a wonderful New Year. But now January looms large over us all, I’m going to do my best to help you get through it over the next few weeks!

Many readers might not be inclined to write a resolutions list. But January is a good time to organise your life so things feel a little less chaotic in the year ahead. The problem with making plans is it’s easy to get overwhelmed (and give up). My laptop is littered with long-forgotten spreadsheets and lists that never made it past February. So speaking as someone who’s made many, many false starts, here’s my guide to getting organised in 2024.

Know yourself

Sometimes the act of writing things down – or even talking through your plans with a friend – can help you figure out what it is you want to do in the year ahead.

By all means make long lists, download apps and have big plans. Then stop and ask yourself: can you update these lists in less that 15 minutes each week? How much time a day would it take to do everything you want?

Psychologically, failing to succeed with even one of your good intentions can set many people spiralling down a cycle where they give up on all their good intentions. So start small and make your goals attainable. You can always add more things from your ‘big list’ in to your plans as you make progress.

Divide your lists in to groups

My personal ‘to do’ list currently features 176 different tasks. Looking at it makes my brain go a bit fuzzy. So divide up your lists in to separate chunks to make them more manageable. My list breaks down in to; bills, finances, complaints, health and lifestyle, complaints, fun stuff and friends and family. You might want to add an ‘urgent’ column too for things that you absolutely have to prioritise.

Think about what’s annoyed you

Negative emotions can be a motivator too! Have a think about the poor service you’ve experienced over the last year and note down the businesses that you’ve had enough of.

Next up, make yourself a complaint template. All this needs to involve is three things. A one-line overview of the main issue, a summary with around five bullet points setting out the main problems and one line specifying what you want to resolve the matter. Sticking to this template means it’ll take five minutes to draft up a complaint, which you can then email or simply spell out on the phone. How a business deals with your complaint can give you some resolution or the motivation to go elsewhere.

Don’t shell out for resolutions

If you’re feeling motivated and ready to make some positive life changes, it’s tempting to fork out some cash on the projects you’ve committed to. But resist the urge to spend money until you’ve proved to yourself you can meet a few basic targets.

We waste millions on gym memberships, health plans and good intentions every year because businesses know that we are less inclined to cancel subscriptions that mean admitting defeat. So use free, trial versions of apps or contracts first to see if they work for you before committing. Try YouTube exercise videos that don’t require equipment. Or experiment with some free online recipes before signing up to a monthly delivery of healthy or exotic food ingredients.

To fail is to be human

As anyone who is avoiding booze or fags, or is trying to live a healthier life will know, there will be setbacks on the road to changing your life for the better. If you fall off the wagon or fail to meet the targets you’ve set for yourself, don’t give up or think you’ve got to start over. Get a cheap wall calendar in the sales and mark off the days you’ve (mostly) achieved your goals along with those you haven’t. You’ll see you’re winning more than you think. And give yourself a break.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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