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The Only New Year’s Resolution I Ever Made That Worked

I have ADHD, but I wouldn’t exactly say I have an attention deficit. Rather, I spend more time than most people paying attention to things I’m not supposed to pay attention to and less time than most people paying attention to things I am supposed to pay attention to.

One of the things I’ve been prone to paying too much attention to is TV. Things like TV and the internet are dangerous because they provide constant novelty and stimulation, exactly what the ADHD brain is hungry for.

Cutting Back on TV

Of course, nothing wrong with watching TV when you do it in moderation. The problem is that people with ADHD have a harder time doing anything in moderation. Because we’re very reward driven, we tend to overdo things that give us a reward, even if they’re time wasters, and underdo things that don’t give us a reward, even if they’re important.

TV falls decidedly into the first category. During parts of high school and college, I had an addictive, compulsive relationship with watching TV, to the point that it interfered with being able to spend time on the things I actually wanted to spend time on. I felt a lot of frustration and guilt with how much of my free time was used up watching TV, and I’d make vague promises to myself to manage my time better, but nothing ever changed.

After my first semester of college, I realized it was time to bring a new weapon into my so far unsuccessful fight against my TV problem: the New Year’s resolution! I also knew a general resolution to watch less TV wouldn’t cut it, so I got specific: I resolved to keep watching new episodes of shows I’d already started but not to start watching any new shows.

I figured this resolution was conservative enough that I could actually stick to it (unlike giving up TV altogether) but extreme enough that it would end my TV habit over time as more and more of the shows I was watching got canceled.

Surprisingly, the resolution turned out almost exactly as planned. I’ve since upgraded it from a yearly resolution to a permanent rule I live by, and I don’t watch much TV these days. The only complications to my plan have been that Bones and Castle refuse to die and remain on air five years later (not the ones I would’ve predicted would last ~10 seasons) and that I did add Downton Abbey to my list of permitted TV shows after starting the first season with someone else and binge watching it past the point of no return.

If you have any of these behaviors that are interfering with your life, now’s the time to start thinking about going after them with a New Year’s resolution. And try for a specific New Year’s resolution, a rule to follow – this can make all the difference.

Really, a lot of what I’ve learned about coping with ADHD comes down to something fairly obvious: if you’re not exercising enough self-control over some aspect of your life, the way to fix things isn’t just to tell yourself you’re going to start exercising more self-control over that aspect of your life. In the case of my TV habit, just saying I’d watch less TV in the future never worked because there wasn’t an exact moment in time when watching TV became watching too much TV, so I didn’t always know I was breaking my promise to watch less TV until I’d already broken it.

However, once I made my New Year’s resolution, I could pinpoint precisely when I was in danger of breaking the rules I’d set for myself. As a result, I was able to stop myself slipping into my old ways, and my life has changed for the better.

That said, cutting back on TV time has made room in my life for other problematic behaviors. The one I want to work on this year is my internet usage, and over the next few days I’m going to try figuring out a specific rule for cutting back on unproductive internet time in 2016 (a little trickier because I do need to use the internet to research my writing projects, and sometimes the boundary between research and recreational browsing gets blurred).

Have you successfully kicked any of these addictive/compulsive-type behaviors? Let me know how you did it!

Image credit: Wikipedia/Noles1984

The Only New Year’s Resolution I Ever Made That Worked

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2015). The Only New Year’s Resolution I Ever Made That Worked. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Dec 2015
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