2 Secrets to Keep on Track with Your New Year’s Resolutions

In my last blog I talked about three tips to help you stay on track to achieve your New Year’s resolutions. Now that you are a few weeks into the process, you might be struggling a little bit, so let me make another suggestion. Over the years, I’ve realized that the people who have the most trouble accomplishing goals and sticking with resolutions are the people who are the busiest. The problem with these people is that too often they go through the motions of day-to-day busy work instead of focusing on the most important things first.

You have probably heard the theory that we all have two selves—the external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting the job done, and the internal, thoughtful, reflective self that considers things before acting. The task-oriented self is the first to wake up in the morning, of course, and is only focused on task achievement. You read email while you are eating breakfast, then jump in the car, head to the office and start attacking your to-do list in order to get everything checked off before you go home. It’s so easy to get caught in this kind of activity trap—you’re so busy doing urgent but unimportant tasks you don’t have time to think about the important goals you may have set.

So how do you get out of this trap? How do you help yourself focus less on task achievement and more on goal achievement? I suggest that in the morning, instead of jumping out of bed and right into task achievement, you enter your day slowly and thoughtfully. Take 20 or 30 minutes to think through what you really need to accomplish for the day. Remember how I suggested you write down your New Year’s resolutions and read them every day? Now is the perfect time. Look at your resolutions to see where they can fit into the day’s plan. Entering your day slowly gives you the opportunity to plan your day out so that you can both accomplish your tasks and fit in time to work toward your resolutions.

Then, at the end of the day before you go to bed, jot down a few notes about your day in a journal. If you don’t want to take the time to write in a journal, at least give yourself the gift of thinking about your day for a few minutes. What did you do during the day that was consistent with your New Year’s resolutions, and what got in the way? Soon you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative patterns so that you can make changes in your schedule to get yourself back on track toward goal achievement.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to spend twenty minutes in the morning to plan and more time at night to reflect.” But I guarantee that if you take that little bit of time, you’ll set yourself up for success in achieving your goals—and your New Year’s resolutions. And you know what? You’re worth it!

Work Smarter, Not Harder, During the Holidays

The old saying Don’t work harder, work smarter might seem like common sense, but it isn’t common practice—especially during the hectic holiday season. In addition to the year-end push for revenue goals and project completion at work, everyone’s personal time is impacted with school vacations and holiday celebrations that can result in added pressure and frenzied activity. Many people approach this season with the mindset If I put in maximum time and effort 24/7, I should be able to get it all done.

I’d like to suggest something a little different. Although it’s very tempting to tell yourself “Don’t just sit there, do something,” please consider this: “Don’t just do something, sit there!” I know it sounds counterintuitive, but let me explain how this mindset can make things easier both at work and at home.

Someone once taught me the phrase Plan your work and then work your plan. When you jump into a project without proper planning, you often make decisions without all the necessary information—which can create extra work for both you and your team. But when you take the time to think, strategize, and prioritize, you’ll actually save time, have better focus, and avoid pitfalls along the way.

At work, it’s critical to take the time to create a project plan before taking action. This will allow you to be proactive at making continuous progress toward the end goal instead of being reactive when issues come up along the way and slow you down. Without a clear plan, you have no real focus. And without focus, you might be working hard—but not smart.

At home, it’s important to get the whole family involved in creating a plan for the holidays. There’s nothing sadder than ruining your own holiday spirit because you feel like you have to do it all. You might be surprised at how much everyone would pitch in on holiday preparations if you simply asked for help. So sit down as a group and decide who is going to be involved in which project. Doing projects together—whether it’s cooking, shopping, or entertaining—adds to the positive holiday spirit. And you’ll spend more time together as a family. What’s more important than that?

I encourage you to sit down and take a few minutes right now to plan your work and personal activities for the coming month. I guarantee it will be time well spent—and you’ll enjoy the benefits of working smarter, not harder.

A One Minute Tip for Changing the Way You Set Goals

Business People Shaking Hands At DeskAll good performance starts with clear goals. That’s why Spencer Johnson and I made sure that the First Secret of The New One Minute Manager® is One Minute Goals. This is illustrated perfectly in the children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should take. The Cheshire Cat responds, “That depends on where you want to go.” When Alice says she doesn’t know, the smiling cat says, “Then it doesn’t matter.” The same is true in the work environment. If people don’t have a clear understanding of where they are going and what they need to focus on, they can’t perform at their highest level.

The secret of setting One Minute Goals is for the leader to work side by side with each direct report to write goal statements that include performance standards, so that both people agree on what needs to be done by what date. In other words, they work together to determine exactly what good performance looks like. I think the best practice is to have each goal on a separate page. Keep the goal statement short so that every day it will take less than a minute for the person to review it to make sure they are staying on track.

Yes—I’m suggesting that everyone look at their goals every day. Why? Because too often, goals are written and filed away in a drawer, not to be referenced again until it’s time for a performance review. Creating goals and hiding them from sight for a year is a surefire way to ensure that people won’t work on the most important projects in an organized way. What kind of message would it send if goals were set and never reviewed? Reading over goals every day ensures that people’s behaviors are matching their goals, allows them to adjust their behaviors if their goals are not being met, and reminds them how their work contributes to larger department or organization initiatives. This method actually lets people manage their own performance—which in turn helps them enjoy their work more and be more productive.

So where are you and your people going? When was the last time you checked? Start working with your direct reports today to write clear One Minute Goals, and encourage them to spend one minute each day to read them. I’m sure you’ll start seeing higher levels of goal achievement—along with higher morale.

NOMM-book-featureTo learn more about The New One Minute Manager, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.