A new year is a time for reflection and the resetting of goals and desires for the New Year. I’m not a fan of New Year Resolutions because they are form over substance. You resolve to do something you know you should do, but you have no intention of following through. You simply can't, or won't, commit to seeing it through. Nearly all such resolutions are abandoned before Groundhog Day. Why bother? Better question: Why keep lying to yourself?
I’ve always believed that you should be on a path of constant self-improvement. Your primary focus areas should be mental, spiritual, and physical with a goal of being a better “you” each day in each of those areas. There is no reason to wait another minute. If you are convinced that you need to make an improvement on June 22nd, March 4th, December 31st or any other day, why wait unless you have no sincere intention of following through? The best time to set a new goal is today.
Another thing about resolutions: They don’t work, they don’t inspire, and generally they address the long-term desires, not the current needs. Sometimes a current need might be to start working on a long-term goal. So let’s focus on goals.
What do you see?
There is a great deal of information available on goal setting. I won’t belabor that. I will, however, offer an approach that might help. When you think of a perfect world, what is different in that world than the one in which you are currently living? World peace? Star Trek transporters? Safe drinking water around the globe? We all have such dreams. Too often we leave them as dreams because we have no idea how to make those dreams come true. Even so, I want you to think seriously about that world.
What can you do?
Now I want you to carve out a piece, perhaps only a tiny sliver of that big amazing dream. You want world peace? Who have you encouraged lately? If the world is going to change, it starts one-on-one with each of us. Set a goal to encourage or affirm ten people every day. I did that several years ago and have conscientiously tried to fulfill it each day. I don’t see it as my job to create world peace for over 7 billion people. I can encourage constructive interactions with the several hundred I might encounter on any given day.
How do you make it happen?
That describes the fourth step – define specific actions that you will take each day to move you closer to your goal. In detail, write down each task. Try to make it achievable in no more than a few hours. Consider dependencies among the tasks and keep them in order. You can't edit the manuscript before you write it.
This is a grossly oversimplified version of goal setting. It is still a great framework from which to begin your journey.
FIRST NON-RESOLUTION – Vision=>Mission=>Goals=>Tasks
Think of ways you can improve the world with small steps every day. Suppose you encourage 70 people a week, and each of them encourages 70 people a week. You know where this is going. It starts with you.
You got the time?
Many people struggle with time management. The fact is you are ALWAYS doing what you want to do. It’s our human nature. We justify, rationalize, make excuses, guilt ourselves (or others) into certain actions, and succumb to what we “want” to do rather than what we “need” to do.
Look to Your Goals
This is where your goals can guide you. If you have laid out all the tasks necessary to achieve each of your goals you will have a very, very long to-do list. Whenever I reset my goals (against my vision and my selected mission), the task list is usually 10 or more pages long. Work diligently in constructing that list. Do it with complete honesty and attention to the details of the tasks. It will take a considerable amount of time to get it where you want it to be.
Distractions Suck Time From You
Allow me a diversion here. Most often we lose time, or misuse time, because of distractions. Many, if not most, of them are of our own creation. I know that focus is an issue for me. My mind never wants to shut up and will flit from topic to topic incessantly. Then I have to refocus. Several years ago I adopted the mantra of “Focus and Finish.” That was the year I published my first eBook and wrote my 678 book on Sustained Leadership.
A Time for Every Purpose
The key tool that allowed me to focus was my prioritization list. From my 10+ page list of tasks for the foreseeable future, Each week I would choose the top 25 or so. This was not very scientific. It was often driven by deadlines, due dates, and long-term things that needed to get started. A few of them are what I “wanted” to do, converting them to needs. I then use a system of matched paring to compare each item to each other item on the list. The most important of the two, even if by only the tiniest of margins, got a hash mark.
Once I was finished I had a very messy paper with 625 hash marks. The one with the most hash marks was clearly #1. I do this every Sunday. When I get up on Monday morning, I dig into that #1 item and press to complete it. As soon as my mind starts to wander to all the “other” things on my list and try to pull me away, it was very easy for me to remind myself that each item now had its priority and would get its turn. Until then it was to sit down and shut up. With a little practice you will see discipline rising in you.
Organization Clears your Mind
This organized method of prioritizing all of my tasks, each one of which pushed me further along toward achieving my many goals, cleared my mind for greater focus and thus greater productivity. As soon as #1 was done, I’d celebrate for five minutes and start on #2. The daily goal was to finish five each day, or, depending on size and complexity, 25 each week. Trust me it works.
NON-RESOLUTION #2 – Create time magically by having a definitized goal setting and task prioritization system.
Stop Chasing Your Dreams – Start Catching Them
What is something you always wanted to do? It might not rise to the level of world peace, or even safe drinking water. The sustained leader is always on a path of self-improvement Perhaps it’s to learn a new language, take a trip, learn to crochet, or any other talent stack building activity (thanks to Scott Adams).
Go back to that list we constructed above concerning your goals and add that. Include all of the tasks that will get you to an acceptable level of proficiency. Prioritize them with the others and get to work. Perhaps you want to understand spread sheets. Plan to read an article or book, or view a video each week on the subject. In 52 weeks you will be holding your own against a CPA and will be asking your bookkeeper much better questions. Maybe in French.
Seek Continuous Improvement
Never let up on your talent acquisition. You might never perform at Carnegie Hall, but you will be a happier, more interesting person. And that is worth working towards.
NON-RESOLUTION #3 – Plan your personal improvement, incorporate it into your goal setting process, and devote some portion of each week toward that goal.
There you have it. Non-resolutions that you can implement TODAY, no matter when you are reading this. With only a little bit of effort, these are three things you are likely to follow and contribute to becoming a better version of yourself each and every day. You might even like the “you” that doesn’t lie to yourself every year.