Illustration: Clayton Junior

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Rule 2: There's Nothing Magical About January 1
Day 1 of the new year may seem the perfect time for a fresh start, but let's face it: After a season of indulgence, going cold turkey on anything is iffy at best. "It's hard to avoid temptation in January," says Oklahoma State University social psychologist Melissa Burkley, PhD. "There's usually too much food and alcohol left over from the holidays." Burkley's more realistic three-month plan can help you succeed:

January: The Warm-Up

Too often, people fail to build in a prep period when they set goals. It's hard to, say, begin a successful diet if you haven't removed foods that may trigger you to overeat. Spending a week or two ramping up for a new behavior will signal to your brain, Hey, it's time to make a change! You should also use this time to write down your resolutions.

February: The Starting Line

Now that you're prepared, get going! But instead of launching a new habit on a Monday, opt for the first Wednesday of the month. Mondays are inherently prone to long to-do lists and curveballs. By Wednesday, you'll be more settled in. Another bonus: Starting midweek may lead to greater success because three days is always easier than five.

March and Beyond: Check-In

Don't forget to regularly review the goals you've set. Pick the same day each month to assess how things are going—are you getting closer to your goal? Have you plateaued? Are you moving backward? Keep in mind that most people will have many lapses on the way to lasting change, so be prepared to adjust as you go.
— Arianna Davis