Welcome to 2016! I always love the possibilities of a new year: A fresh and newly minted calendar that is a mostly clean slate of opportunities ahead. Despite the promise of all the time on that clean calendar, we still struggle with accomplishing what we set out to do at the beginning of the year. The success rate for folks achieving their new year’s resolutions is around 8% – not a particularly motivating statistic.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or executive, your time is the most important resource you have, and the opportunities are vast. One habit that has served me well is to take time at the end of the previous year or first week of the new year to reflect on what I accomplished, and, more importantly, acknowledge what I learned. As part of my planning process, I make decisions about what I need to continue to practice or learn in the new year.
Taking time to get crystal clear about my goals for the new year is essential for me. From those decisions, I break my projects into smaller increments of action in order to accomplish those goals. This helps me deflect shiny objects (those attention-getting activities and relationships that are nonetheless distractions from accomplishing what’s most important to us – think cats and laser beams) and stay focused on the goals.
Here’s what I mean. Most of us have this list of things that we want to accomplish in a year. Lose weight, adhere to a regular workout schedule, finish a marathon. Clean out closets and organize the entire house. Read 50 books or take a class. Hike the Appalachian Trail and travel more. Achieve sales goals and reduce expenses while hiring the very best people and changing the culture of the company. Am I right? Whew. I’m tired already thinking about that exhaustive and exhausting list of things to do.
One thing I’ve learned, and had to relearn a number of times, is that many times, less is more, and simplicity, not complexity, enables us to accomplish more. This is where “chunks” come into play:
- First, decide that it would be a great year if you accomplished three major goals. Yes. Three. Not 30 or 300, but three. And make these things very specific to changes that you are willing to commit to, stick with and celebrate when you get to the end of the year.
- Next, break the year into quarters or two-month segments. Decide what has to happen in each one of these “chunks” in order for you to accomplish each of your three goals.
- Once you’ve decided what your chunks are, break them into smaller chunks. For example, you might decide to train for a marathon that you will run in November. What would your training look like in the first two months of the year? What would it look like weekly? Daily? What do you need to do today that will get you to a particular milestone by Friday?
Now that you’ve broken up the year into manageable chunks, decide where you will begin. What is one thing you can do today that will move you to accomplishing something by Friday?
Think about it this way, using numbers that are significant to consider. If you accomplish three things a day that will move you toward your annual three goals, and you do that five days out of every week, you will have accomplished 15 things every week. In four weeks, you will have accomplished 60 things. If you take two weeks off, and have 50 productive weeks, you will have accomplished 750 things that are tied to significant outcomes.
Knowing the path that you are on and being able to connect each day to your most important goals will keep you much more focused and motivated, and, in its simplicity, will also allow you to shift and change if a more important goal or opportunity comes along. Happy start to your best new year yet!