Most of us make resolutions for the new year. And almost as many of us break them. “Research shows that about 80 percent of people who make resolutions on Jan. 1 fall off the wagon by Valentine’s Day,” says Marti Hope Gonzales, associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, according to the New York Times.

This applies not just to our resolution to exercise more often, but to our professional learning goals as well. I know many project managers who have set themselves ambitious learning goals for 2009. If you are among them, what can you do to make sure you don’t fall off the wagon? Here are some tips.

Put the big goals in place first

Make a list of the most important things that you need to learn in order to advance your career. Think in terms of categories like technical skills, project management skills, interpersonal skills, etc.

Set yourself one big learning goal for your current project. Maybe you want to track project progress using Earned Value Analysis. Or perhaps you want to resolve conflicts more effectively. Knowing yourself, decide how you can best develop your skills in this area—by reading, talking to people, attending seminar, etc.

Identify the appropriate resources. Then make sure that you allocate time for your preferred learning activities in your calendar.

Begin to act like the person you want to become

Look around the organization for project managers who you admire. What is it that they do well? For example, if you notice that Tom is especially good at handling difficult conversations, then study his behavior and try to apply it the next time you are in a similar situation. The brain is only convinced it is OK to change when it sees change happen, says psychologist Marion Kramer Jacobs. Don’t assume you have to be ready to change. Just get started and the rest will follow.

Don’t try to do it alone

Find peers who have learning goals similar to yours. Also identify experts in your organization. Look for ways to bring peers and experts together in a learning community. Keep in mind how you best learn. You might consider starting a book group, inviting experts to share their experience in a brown bag session, or starting/participating in an online professional community.

Image: Darts by Nico Jensen licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 puttygen