The end of December is always an enjoyable time for me as I focus on the coming year and my priorities. Whilst it’s true that if you want to do something, you should do it, the New Year is helpful in providing a distinct time for reevaluation and refocus.
The trouble with New Years’ Resolutions is that they have a lot of bad PR – namely that they aren’t worth the hot air they’re spoken by – and whilst we have ever intention of starting on January 1st with a whole new outtake on life and a brand new daily routine, we all know in the back of our minds that it won’t last.
What I want to share with you today is a simply mindset change that will help you achieve the change you want to make in a year, without experiencing resolution cut-out or just plain burnout from the 52-part routine your day now consists of.
1. Your Vision For The Year
Every year I have a vision for the year – an overall statement that will guide what I do. Last year my vision for myself was “a leader of teams, not a doer of things”, as I was the bottle neck for way to many projects because I was the one doing all the work. Instead, I had to make 2010 about being a leader of teams and not a doer of things if I wanted the projects to become significant.
I find a vision is more helpful for an overall year that a list of 50 monthly goals, because the vision helps you make quick decisions (does this fit in with my vision for the year?), and also is more a guiding vision than a list of objectives that, if they aren’t fulfilled, can discourage your greatly.
2. Change Your Mindset: The Vision Is For The End, Not The Beginning
Once you have your vision statement – mine for 2011 is “Fatherhood” – then here comes the most important shift that will change the way your approach this year.
Rather than making the vision about what you must be from January 1st, your vision is actually what you want to have integrated into your life by December 31st. In other words, it’s not about making 10 immediate changes to your work habits and setting wildly outrageous goals for exercise, family time, professional achievements and spiritual development on a week by week basis. Instead, it’s taking the pressure off and relieving this intensity by setting a picture that you want to move towards, rather than a marker that you must already be at. The vision is for the end, not the beginning.
If you think about this, this is just common sense. I can take a year to fully integrate a new routine in my life, but I am unlikely to get it into my life tomorrow. This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about in Philippians when he said “not that I have attained on been made perfect, but I press on towards the goal.”
3. Work Backwards In Quarters
Once you’ve got your vision as where you want to be by the end of the year, work backwards and set an objective for each quarter.
Too often we set a vision but then never layout a path to get there, and the mistake I’ve made is by setting the vision and then having a few key objectives that I didn’t make time sensitive, and as we all know when it comes to getting things done, you need a due date.
Now I’m not saying that these objectives become to-dos on our to-do list. But what I am saying is they are timed and measurable markers to help us move towards our vision. So my first of 4 objectives is to “have a daily routine for my life, for life”, by which I mean a daily routine that I can be happy with for the rest of my days and works at my optimal level, with room for adaptation. This is my first objective, so of course, it’s tied to the first quarter (due: end of March!)
By having this overall quarterly aim, I am still avoiding the intensity and weight of a totally changed life from day 1. In fact, it’s not even an intensity per month, but per quarter. I also think that if your vision needs more than 4 quarters to get to, it’s too big for the year.
Once you have your objective, you can then break it down into some smaller goals to help you get there. But don’t make too many – we want to keep this simple as you already have enough complexity in your life.
4. Develop A Daily And Weekly Routine
I recently taught a group of leaders that I mentor about daily and weekly routines and was surprised to find how none of they really had one. So whilst I am indeed talking to early adopters and suspect many of you do, I will still go over how I suggest it’s done.
First thing is that simplicity is the key. I have no interest in creating more work to manage my work. I need a routine that is basic, adaptable and easy to complete so that I don’t get discouraged.
My daily routine goes a little bit like this, which Chris Brogan posted this week – so have a watch:
The key points to add in addition to Chris are 1] I have a set bed time and wake up time as my body loves this, 2] I know what food makes me feel better in the morning, so I eat that! 3] I have a rule when I can use a computer from – in order to force me to disconnect, and 4] my daily routine is more basic than this, but the idea of sectioning time is what I want to get at here.
My weekly routine is even more basic. On a Sunday, I mind map the projects that I am doing on my iPad (I’ll discuss this another time), and based on that mind map, I allocate slots of time to work on those projects in my diary, like appointments with myself. This leaves no whitespace in my calendar and thus that time can’t be taken up with other things like meetings and so on. It also means I have made that commitment with myself, and then can make commitments with others based on what I can get done in those time slots. This means I have accountability with my teams.
5. Get Things Done
If you haven’t read Getting Things Done, then rather than buying the book, you can read this summary by Olivier Roland. This is the very summary that changed my life two years ago. There’s also a fuller summary here. It’s important that you have a daily system for the work you do, and whilst I would assume you as an early adopter do, there are so many people that don’t that I don’t want to assume.
Over To You: Your Leading Thoughts
I always ask for your thoughts to build to this post, as there’s more wisdom in the comments than in my brain! I’m keen to know:
- How do you plan for your year? How have you learnt to make every year count?
- What is your vision for this year?
- What tools can you suggest others here use that you have found indespensible?
Also, I’m so passionate about productivity and being efficient and effective that I’m really keen to help with any questions that you have – so please, ask away.