I’m not any more of a fan of New Year’s resolutions as I am of any moment in time when I can stand back and reflect on who and where I am and what I can do better going forward. While the start of a new year is the most popular time to set goals, it’s generally the least successful time for many of us who do.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80 percent, and most lose their resolve by mid-February. If this is true, the problem then, might be in the tradition itself versus thinking that there is something wrong with us. Most of us have been there—clinking champagne glasses at the stroke of midnight, enjoying traditional festivities while ringing in the new year with a fresh resolution. The research suggests that the biggest reasons people fail to keep their pledge is because their goals lack specificity, clear measures or are too bold and out of reach—making us less likely to succeed with our fresh start.
So, what happens come March when many of us slide back on our good intentions? Here lies my personal bias around new year resolutions. For many, it may be the perfect time or any other time for that matter, because they know how to recalibrate their goals and continue onward. For others, it’s more complicated. It may come down to better planning and scheduling and committing to write SMART goals.
Recognizing that we all have setbacks for one reason or another, let’s remember this old school, yet classic proverb:
“Tis a lesson you should heed,
try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
try, try again.”
Originally a maxim used to encourage American schoolchildren to do their homework, William Edward Hickson, a British author of Time and Faith, wrote this famous proverb in The Teacher’s Manual. The takeaway for me with this quote is about being persistent with our goals and flexible with our calendars. In other words, don’t cauterize yourself in defeat and discouragement by throwing in the towel, instead select the next best time to start again, perhaps the next day or later in the same day, or right now!
Make it a habit to start each day strong by
focusing on your priorities and tackling those tasks first.
Understanding that it’s human nature to set goals at the start of something new such as a new year or the beginning of a semester, let’s open our minds to consider quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily opportunities for a fresh start. At the beginning of each “mental accounting period” of your choosing, devote time to plan and schedule your top priority tasks (activities linked to your goals). Do this before your calendar gets filled-up with small or less important to-dos.
Some goals may be a one-and-done task. Other goals are much bigger and involve multiple tasks or sub-goals that require sequencing and are scheduled into the future. They can be projects or a series of repetitive activities that culminate over time toward your ultimate destination. Short- or long-term, every goal comes down to doing some “thing” on a specific day.
A solid majority of your daily or weekly to-dos should be linked to your longer-term goals, eventually cascading down from your annual, quarterly, and monthly goals. Planning and scheduling are key.
Take the calendar test to see how many of your current to-dos are linked to your larger goals. Or, you can look at your goals and check to see if any of your action plans (tasks, activities) can be found in your calendar.
Planning and scheduling are the secret for making things happen.
Things that are scheduled, happen.
Things that aren’t scheduled, may never happen.
So, if you want something to happen, schedule it.
With that being said, here are four power tips to get you started on your journey.
- Focus. Craft a vision by focusing first on the results, outcomes, or conditions that you want to achieve.
- Plan. Building off of your vision, develop SMART goals. This is deciding WHEN and WHERE to do WHAT and with WHOM. Keep in mind, though, these are just intentions.
- Prioritize. Decide what you’re going to do first, second, etc. As Steven Covey said it, it’s putting first things, first.
- Schedule. Decide when you’re going to do what. These are your daily actions, where the rubber hits the road.
Follow these four steps and simply take one hour and day at a time. As new goals, projects and to-dos surface, prioritize them, drop them into your calendar, and get back to the priority tasks for you day.
Your success and happiness are riding on it. Leave a comment to share your wins and challenges.
Do you want a short-term boost? I can help. Click here to schedule a free 30-minute power session with me to get you started.
Tom Sullivan, MPA, sHRBP, is a strategic partner with ProGrowth Associates LLC, and trusted advisor who specializes in professional and personal development solutions. You can reach out to Tom directly using his scheduling link. Or simply ask a question using this contact form.