Everyone, me included, keeps saying, “How can it possibly be this year is almost over?” Time flies by so quickly when leading busy lives – attending to our careers, our family, our friends, and trying to take care of us.
December is the month when we begin to reflect on what has happened for us both professionally and personally during the past year, and about what we want for the upcoming New Year. Do you ever wonder why at the end of the year our thoughts are focused on all we didn’t accomplish, rather than what we did?
We often start January with lots of New Year’s Resolutions and intentions, but as we settle into business as usual, our ideas begin to fade. By the end of the month or early February, they are a distant memory. Before we know it, December rolls around and we are thinking about making the same New Year’s Resolution we made the year before. What a vicious cycle!
Personally, I gave up making New Year’s Resolutions years ago. I recommend that my clients give up doing so as well. Resolutions are usually too vague, asking us to call on our willpower (that for most is in short supply). We end up feeling bad about ourselves when we realize, once again, we are making the same resolution we made last year, and nothing much has changed.
Now I don’t mean to imply that December or the beginning of the New Year isn’t a great time to take stock, re-evaluate and figure out what we would like to accomplish in the upcoming year. But you need a plan. Without a clear vision of what you want, a compelling reason to work on it, and a step-by-step action plan, your chance for success is slim.
This year, try a different approach! Here’s the ten-step process I go through to assure that inspired ideas become reality. Give it a try.
1. Set aside a couple of hours when you can have quiet, uninterrupted time. Remove all distractions such as Blackberries, cell phones, and email. Have a notebook devoted just for goal setting, or create a folder on your computer. If working at your computer, shut off the sounds that alert you to new mail. You might like to put on some soothing background music.
2. Divide your page in half; one for professional goals and one for personal goals. Now have some fun. Ask the question, “What would I love to accomplish this year and why would doing so be great?” Write it down in the appropriate column. Dream big! But attach the dream to a really important “why.” Without it, you’ll have a tough time staying motivated.
3. Review and prioritize your list. Circle two to three of your most compelling ideas from each category. Much more than that will be too overwhelming. Make sure they are the ones that excite and energize you- those you really want to accomplish, not the ones you think you should accomplish.
4. Break the year down into a six-month calendar. A year is a very long time, and lots of things can change from month to month. Looking at your goals and objectives in a smaller time increment creates a more manageable picture. The shorter time frame gives a sense of urgency to take action right away. There is an opportunity to revise, add or delete goals dependent on what’s gone on so far, and what you decide you want for the second half of the year.
5. Define what success means, be specific, and know the reason it is important to you. Six months from now, what exactly will make you feel successful with each goal? “I will increase my income” or “I will be healthier” are vague statements. Be specific. “I will increase my income by 20% so that I feel financially secure.” “I regularly exercise which will help me control my blood pressure and weight.”
6. Take each of the circled prioritized goals and write down every step you can think of that needs to be done to complete it. For instance, if the goal is to exercise four times a week every week by July 1st, your list might include researching the gyms in your neighborhood, making a decision and joining one, buying new sneakers, hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to teach you proper use of equipment, and scheduling your sessions into your calendar.
7. Create weekly SMART goals to accomplish each step, and then schedule them into your calendar. The acronym SMART stands for specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time frame. It’s the difference between stating, “I will research the gyms in my neighborhood.” and “On Saturday afternoon, I will visit Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness, and the YMCA, take a tour and get information on membership.”
8. Choose a specific 15-minute slot every week to evaluate how you are doing, plan your next steps and schedule them into your calendar.
9. Review your goals at least once a day, every day. It’s easy to forget what’s important to us while we attend to all of life’s urgencies. If you keep your goals in the forefront of your mind, and your reasons for achieving them are compelling, purposeful and meaningful to you, you’ll be amazed and how successful you can be.
10. Enlist an accountability partner, and check in with each other frequently. Whether it’s another friend who is going through this process, a business colleague or coach, having someone to support you and keep you accountable is a sure way to increase your chances for success.
Don’t wait for next year to think about new resolutions. Goal setting and review should be an on-going process. Whether it’s once a year, seasonally or every time you complete one major goal going on to the next, having a plan will beat out making New Year’s Resolutions any time.