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January 3, 2013 / carlispina

Celebrate The New Year With Tools To Help With Your Resolution

With the start of a new year, many people have decided to turn over a new leaf and commit to a New Year’s resolution. Whether this resolution falls in the category of getting fit, learning something new or something else entirely, there are tools out there to help you keep your resolution.

Learn a New Skill

For many, learning a new skill seems like the perfect New Year’s resolution. Most new skills benefit from committing to regular practice and such a skill might be useful in finding a new job or advancing in a current one. Regardless of the type of skill you are hoping to learn, there is likely an online tutorial for it, but I’ll focus on two skills that are particularly suited to online study, learning a new language and teaching yourself to program computers.

Learning a new language is daunting and learning one on your own is particularly difficult. But, the internet has launched a number of options that make this process easier. While it is always possible to invest in Rosetta Stone, there are a number of free or cheap online alternatives depending on the language you hope to learn. I would particularly recommend Duolingo which is a free, fully online language learning system that is perfect for learning French, Spanish, German, English, Portuguese or Italian. I have liked it from the first time I tried it, but it is even better now that there is a free app that lets you continue your studies on the go. If Duolingo doesn’t meet your needs, you might also try Mango Languages (available for free through many public libraries), Nihongo Master (an inexpensive Japanese Learning tool), or Marlee Signs (an app that teaches basic conversations in American Sign Language). Or, if none of these meet your needs, I highly recommend using Google to try to find other online alternatives; I’ve seen free online courses for everything from uncommon languages, such as Icelandic, to common languages, such as German, so you are sure to find an option that will meet your needs.

I’ve previously written about a number of tools that can be used to teach yourself to program, depending on the programming language you would like to learn, including CodingBat and Google Blockly, but some are particularly well-suited to regular study as part of a New Year’s Resolution. Perhaps the most obvious of these is Codecademy, which offers lessons on HTML & CSS, Javascript, JQuery, Python and Ruby and has focused on creating lessons that are designed to be done on a weekly basis. Their 2012 Code Year initiative specifically aimed to encourage people to make it their New Year’s resolution to learn to code and since that time they have only added more features, including the option to complete their lessons in Spanish (a fact librarians serving Spanish-speaking population may want to note). They are well worth a try for those who are interested in learning to code this year. For those who are willing to pay for a subscription to a service, I would also recommend taking a look at Code School and Lynda.com. Both offer a wide range of lessons on a variety of computer programming and technology topics and both add new lessons frequently.

Interested in learning something else entirely? Check out my guide to free online learning resources.

Get Fit

If your resolution is instead focused on improving your health, there are plenty of options available to help with this process as well. While I haven’t personally tried these services, some of them show promise as a great way to keep yourself motivated and moving towards achieving your New Year’s resolution.

If your resolution is to start running more frequently, there are tons of running apps that will let you track your progress on an ongoing basis or provide motivation for completing runs. One popular option that is great for gamers is Zombies, Run! This app, which has variations available for iOS, Android and Windows devices, turns your runs into a game where zombies are chasing you, complete with sound effects and prizes earned for completing runs. It is available in both a general version if you are just aiming to start running or a version that is targeted specifically to training for a 5K. Either way, it is sure to motivate you to get out there and run.

If your goal is to generally work out more, you might want to try Gym Pact, an app that lets you earn money when you keep to your work out schedule but makes you pay money when you don’t. With an online version as well as apps for iOS and Android devices, this is a possible option for those who feel that a monetary reward or punishment will keep them motivated.

For those who want to get healthy or conquer an illness or injury, SuperBetter will help you to gamify this goal and use your personal network of friends and acquaintances to keep with the program. It is available both as an online service and as an app for iOS devices.

Track Any Resolution

If your resolution doesn’t fall within either of these categories or if you just want to track your progress more generally, there are a number of options to help with that too. Lift is one such app, which lets you set goals for yourself, track your progress and even run reports. And, since it includes a social element, you can get support and encouragement from your friends who also use the service. It is currently only available for iOS devices, but web and Android versions are planned.

For an even simpler approach, you might try Commit, which will ask you each day at a set time whether you have done the task you set for yourself. If your resolution requires daily activity, this is a great way to make sure that it doesn’t slip your mind until late at night and it can help you to get into a routine of completing the task at the same time every day.

For gamers, Epic Win provides a similar ability to track tasks, but with an added game layer. In this app, users pick an avatar and set some goals. These goals can be items on your to-do list or recurring activities. Either way, the app will remind you of them and reward you with points and achievements when you complete them.

Conclusion

New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition, but for many so is breaking these resolutions. These tools might help at least some people to find success in their New Year’s resolution. If none of these quite fit your needs, you might instead want to consider Lifehacker’s advice on the topic or use this blog post to gamify your resolution for your self. For librarians, you may want to consider helping patrons with their New Year’s resolutions by offering a research guide or blog post with these sorts of tools (I’ve created a tab on my mobile app LibGuide highlight these tools, which you can see here).

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