2478-3617751660_dc695d0829_m.jpgThe 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.


Photo courtesy of HKD

Archived Comments

  • Anonymous

    Hi Scott,

    Further to our discussions yesterday, I have to say this is a great set of steps for people to adopt who are looking for ways to ensure they hit their goals in 2011.

    I’ve always been pretty comfortable in structuring my activity throughout the year at a macro level, but (I’m sure) like many who work and run teams in agencies, the problem is often keeping focus while you’re trying to keep all the plates spinning! You’ve got your day/week planned then client work pops up and throws a spanner in your carefully planned schedule…

    Like you, it seems, I’m a bit of a productivity junkie and am constantly looking at ways in which I can squeeze more value out of my working day. I would wholeheartedly recommend the GTD methodology you talk about in step 5. David Allen’s (The creator of GTD) steps really do make sense, and more importantly, work!!

    You’re also dead on regarding your point about it taking time to ingrain these changes into your daily approach.

    Getting over the hurdle in order to allow new changes to become habit is often greatly underestimated, and in my experience is the biggest stumbling block people encounter when trying to implement new ways of working.

    I find that only focusing on making one significant change at a time is a great way of getting habits to form. A large dose of perseverance helps too! ;-)

    Look forward to more of your thoughts on productivity in 2011, Scott.

    See you in the New Year,


  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I’m in agreement with Alan, here. These are solid suggestions. It’s only been within 2010 that I recognized how to use my imagination to benefit by considering those visions and ideas end results (or way-points), then working backward to uncover the supporting objectives. It could be 2011 will be the closest I’ve ever been to making one, let alone every, year count.

    Habits are major hurdles. I don’t have cable or even antenna TV at the house, but if I could just break the habit of making dinner and settling down with Netflix, wow. 20hrs a week, easily. It’s spending an hour in stop-n-go after work, surrounded by mindless cattle, cutting each other off and diving from lane to lane in futile attempts to go a little bit faster, burning through three, maybe four cigarettes in a hour, and getting home mentally drained.

    Reflections of more pedestrian resolutions.

    I think my vision for the year could use a little more development. Thanks for the charge to do so. It might be said the current state of my vision for 2011 is a metaphor for my vision for my vision for 2011! (wink)

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Allan

    Thanks for adding more value to this discussion.

    Glad to hear that you have the same challenge as me – to keep you eye on the bigger change while you have to focus on the details. This is why I think having a dozen goals for the year is just a bit too much for change. It’s always why I think developing a daily routine is perhaps the most powerful way to achieve in life because it frees you up and structures you more.

    I’d actually be keen to hear more about how you arrange your days mate! Any tips?


  • / Scott Gould

    Sounds like, Brian, you need to learn how to Switch Off more than anything and recharge your batteries, not just on a holiday, but with daily rest.

    Tell me, how was 2010 different for you from 2009?

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I’m definitely thinking about organizing my schedule for better use of time, but my penchant for big picture, “we’re going that way,” thinking knows no bounds, Scott. Guess you could say I’m rather results-oriented.

    It seems to me I’m often weary because I’m so sedentary. I think steps to improve my health – quitting smoking again, eating better, engaging in a bit more physical activity – will net me an energy boost enabling me to get more done, which would be compounded by my successful GTD efforts. ;)

    2010 was different from 2009 in that my first couple months starting out with Gearbox gave me a taste of what could be possible if the movement were to catch on. The year was prefaced with a reminder of a conversation between Dave and the HAL9000 from Kubrick’s “2010″ movie.

    Dave: Something’s going to happen.
    HAL: What?
    Dave: Something wonderful.

    Over the course of the past year, things have taken off for Gearbox. The team has gone from one to seven people on two sides of the world, people are complimenting us on what we’re doing – and how we’re doing it – both on and off-line, and it feels like we’re on the cusp of the idea clicking globally. We’re looking to host our first series of webinars, offer some merchandise, and invest heavily back into our communities. We’ve even landed our first official partner; a big name in our community.

    The motto for 2011 seems to be “building high performance machines and lives.” We’re on our way! How’s your 2011 looking? Anything you’re eager to see evolve to the next level? More “participations,” perhaps?

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Brian

    Sounds like good things are going on – as I’ve said before, I bet there’s a good story to tell there and I can’t wait to hear it. Congrats on the parter for the year as well, that’s excellent news and not easy work as I know!

    My 2011? My key word is “Fatherhood” – I’ll share more on it next week when I’ve got it more together :-)