With a New Year right around the corner, it’s only natural for most of us to reflect on the year that was, take stock of our goals and our lives, and set our hopes for different and better outcomes for the next 365 days.
While this is natural, a learned behaviour, and a healthy practice, most people end up doing much the same thing year over year which doesn’t do much to produce different results. Our friend Einstein famously quoted, “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity”.
Insanity may be a bit harsh, but let’s agree that if we have our own operating system set to ‘autopilot’, we’re probably not navigating new flight paths. That’s exactly what a lot of us end up doing as we go through our annual evaluation & reset, only to face our share of disappointment and unachieved goals; only to get down on ourselves for our lack of effort, and then repeat the cycle next December/ January.
To avoid this unwanted hamster wheel, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite tips around planning, goal setting, and productivity for this time of year (or any time).
- Start with your goals. Your goals are your compass in life; they position your choices, your actions, and often your priorities. Either we are being stretched by our goals, or we are easily lured into the trap of sleep, eat, work, TV, repeat. Start with goals for next year, but go bigger! Have your written your bucket list? Does it have personal and professional goals? Goals around what you’d like to experience, where you’d like to travel, family goals, and goals about giving back? They’re your goals – don’t be stingy, take a few hours and write down all the great stuff you’d love to do over the next few decades
- A year is a long time, but the older we get the faster they seem to fly by. Be realistic with what you can achieve in a year, but don’t “sandbag” your goals to make their attainment too easy, either.
- Use a structure for planning your year that includes all of the elements that are important to you. Set goals for 2017 for business and personal (which you wish to further subdivide to family/ relationships/ health/ wealth/ interests). Failure to plan on the personal side leads to an inevitable lack of balance, and that’s not your boss or your business’s fault.
- Break the big goals into ‘bite-sized chunks’. For instance, if your goal is to save $10,000 towards a home purchase for the year, you would need to put away $2,500 each quarter. If your goal was to run a marathon by October, and in January you’re only running 5k at a time, you should be comfortable running 10 K’s by April, and ½ marathon distance by July at least so that you set yourself up for your big goal by October.
- Once the big goals are broken down into smaller goals or steps, they can be broken down from quarterly milestones into weekly action items.
- Once your big goals are extrapolated into weekly to-do’s, they should be in your planner/ calendar/ whatever system you use to stay organized.
- Once you are placing your to do list in your weekly calendar (along with appointments for both business and personal), we recommend planning each week the week before, on Thursday afternoons. By Thursday afternoon the current week is far enough along that you start to know what has to show up on next week’s schedule, but it’s not Friday when we’re already one foot out the door and we often rush our last few items to pick up kids, meet friends, or get dinner started.
- Review each day – take 10 minutes to reflect on what got done, and adjust tomorrow’s plan based on what didn’t get done.
- Prioritize your daily tasks based on urgency and importance, and alignment to your top overarching objectives. In business we never move forward towards our goals if we’re always putting out fires, and in our personal lives it’s hard to move towards deep fulfillment when we’re always occupied by cleaning, getting groceries, taking our kids to soccer, or catching up on our favorite shows. At least some of our time has to be spent on moving forward with long term objectives, no matter how busy we think we are.
- Share your plan with your inner circle (and even those who you may influence). Your friends and family will get awful tired of hearing how busy you are, unless you let them know what you are busy doing. Instead of frustrated or alienated, they may be inspired and ask to join you on some of your adventures. Beyond sharing your plan with your inner circle, be sure to include the most important members – your family and those friends who feel like family – in the planning process. Shouldn’t your spouse have a say in the family goals for the year, or where you travel?
Those are our favorite 10 tips for setting ourselves and our clients up for success. For more tips on staying on top of your personal and professional game, and maximizing your chance of success for your 2017 goals, email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s make 2017 more like flying an F-14 through the Grand Canyon and less like autopilot over the same stretch of real estate we always navigate.
Cheers to the best of the season and a great year ahead folks!