A lot of people shun New Year's resolutions, but I think they get a bad rap. It's not the resolution's fault you can't last 72 hours into 2012 without stuffing four cupcakes down your throat every night. Don't kill the messenger - and then mix it with yeast and bake it and cover it with icing and bits of colourful sugar-coated sprinkles.
No, the key to resolving your resolution issues is understanding it's all an expectations game. Don't vow to build a deck, reshingle the roof and add a game room to your house - downshift to the attainable.
I, for example, resolved to merely rearrange my freezer full of ice cream so the door doesn't randomly pop open and leak water all over the place while I'm at work. After just the first week of January, I'm proud to say, "mission accomplished", and by "accomplished" I mean I ate the pint of butter pecan sticking out in front and then threw it away - bonus points for creativity, by my reasoning.
Of course, the actual key to self-improvement is repetition, and that's where the smartphone app Commit (Dh3.67; iPhone, iPad) comes in handy. Unlike apps that do little more than keep track of your "lists of intent", Commit can actually reshape your habits over time, sort of the way the tide reshapes rocks on the shore (but hopefully, a bit faster than that).
Simply type in the healthy behaviour you wish to reinforce ("eat a vegetable", "walk a mile", "avoid reality television") and then assign a time every day when Commit will alert you with a "did you do it?" spot-check. If you did, tap the checkmark and Commit will keep track of your daily winning streak - miss a day and it will go back to zero. Most users report that after 20-50 straight days, the behaviour they wish to reinforce becomes almost second nature.
Everyone knows habits are powerful things - how many of us have stood dazed and confused in a grocery store aisle for 15 minutes just because the toothpaste we've used since 1975 wasn't available?
The only drawbacks to Commit are its five-task limit and its inability to issue reminders any more or less often than once a day.
However, perhaps its simplicity is its genius. For a week it's asked me "did you eat three cupcakes or less today?" Seven days, seven checks - wish me luck.
Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at firstname.lastname@example.org