New year’s resolutions… It’s not rocket science that the key to them is (a) choosing them carefully and (b) sticking to them.
But all this is easier said than done. We often slip at the first hurdle by picking things that just aren’t that important, while missing the changes that would really transform our lives.
One of the best tools I’ve come across for figuring out where you’re at in life, where you’re trying to get to, and what you need to do to get from A to B, is Your Best Year Yet by Jinny Ditzler. It takes you through ten questions – the first four about the year that’s just finished. If we don’t take stock at least once a year and ask ourselves big questions like this…well, as Socrates famously observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. ‘Nuff said. Here are the ten questions:
1. What did I accomplish?
2. What were my biggest disappointments?
3. What did I learn?
4. How do I limit myself and how can I stop?
5. What are my personal values?
6. What roles do I play in my life?
7. Which role is my major focus for next year?
8. What are my major goals for each role?
9. What are my top ten goals for next year?
10. How can I make sure I achieve my top ten goals?
If you just take a couple of hours to sit with your journal and work through these questions, chances are you’ll gain some valuable insights. But if you feel inspired to work through this exercise in full, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this great little book, which is currently discounted to £5.54 on Amazon. It contains a full chapter on each question, with (among other things) many sub-questions to really help you pinpoint where you need to be focusing your time and energy in the coming months.
Now, when it comes to achieving whatever it is you’d like to achieve in 2012, you increase your chances if you know how to manage your time. Personal development blogger Steve Pavlina wrote 99 tips for increasing productivity. I’ve honed them down here to the 30 best for helping YOU achieve whatever goals are on your list.
1. Daily goals
Without a clear focus, it’s too easy to succumb to distractions. Set targets for each day in advance. Decide what you’ll do; then do it.
2. Worst first
To defeat procrastination learn to tackle your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later in the day. This small victory will set the tone for a very productive day.
3. Peak times
Identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times.
4. No-comm zones
Allocate uninterruptible blocks of time for solo work where you must concentrate. Schedule light, interruptible tasks for your open-comm periods and more challenging projects for your no-comm periods.
When you begin a task, identify the target you must reach before you can stop working. For example, when working on a book, you could decide not to get up until you’ve written at least 1000 words. Hit your target no matter what.
Give yourself a fixed time period, like 30 minutes, to make a dent in a task. Don’t worry about how far you get. Just put in the time.
7. Early bird
Get up early in the morning, like at 5am, and go straight to work on your most important task. You can often get more done before 8am than most people do in a day.
Reduce stress by cultivating a relaxing, clutter-free workspace.
The Pareto principle is the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the value of a task comes from 20% of the effort. Focus your energy on that critical 20%, and don’t overengineer the non-critical 80%.
Bust procrastination by taking action immediately after setting a goal, even if the action isn’t perfectly planned. You can always adjust course along the way.
Tell others of your commitments, since they’ll help hold you accountable.
Visualize your goal as already accomplished. Put yourself into a state of actually being there. Make it real in your mind, and you’ll soon see it in your reality.
13. Glittering prizes
Give yourself frequent rewards for achievement. See a movie, book a professional massage, or spend a day at an amusement park.
At the end of your workday, identify the first task you’ll work on the next day, and set out the materials in advance. The next day begin working on that task immediately.
15. Slice and dice
Break complex projects into smaller, well-defined tasks. Focus on completing just one of those tasks.
Once you begin a task, stick with it until it’s 100% complete. Don’t switch tasks in the middle. When distractions come up, jot them down to be dealt with later.
Pick a totally random piece of a larger project, and complete it. Pay one random bill. Make one phone call. Write page 42 of your book.
18. Insanely bad
Defeat perfectionism by completing your task in an intentionally terrible fashion, knowing you need never share the results with anyone. Write a blog post about the taste of salt, design a hideously dysfunctional web site, or create a business plan that guarantees a first-year bankruptcy. With a truly horrendous first draft, there’s nowhere to go but up.
19. 30 days
Identify a new habit you’d like to form, and commit to sticking with it for just 30 days. A temporary commitment is much easier to keep than a permanent one.
20. Super Slow
Commit yourself to working on a particularly hideous project for just one session a week, 15-30 minutes total. Declutter one small shelf. Purge 10 clothing items you don’t need. Write a few paragraphs. Then stop.
Schedule a specific time each day for working on a particular task or habit. One hour a day could leave you with a finished book, or a profitable Internet business a year later.
Just say no to non-critical requests for your time.
Reclaim other people’s poor time usage for yourself. Visualize your goals during dull speeches. Write out your grocery list during pointless meetings.
Say no to drugs, suffer through the withdrawal period, and let your natural creative self re-emerge.
25. Conscious procrastination
Delay non-critical tasks as long as you possibly can. Many of them will die on you and won’t need to be done at all.
Turn off the TV, especially the news, and recapture many usable hours.
Time all your tasks for an entire day, preferably a week. Even the act of measuring itself can boost your productivity, not to mention what you learn about your real time usage.
Pick the one item on your task list that scares you the most. Muster all the courage you can, and tackle it immediately.
29. Do it now!
Recite this phrase over and over until you’re so sick of it that you cave in and get to work.
Hire a personal coach to keep yourself motivated, focused, and accountable.
Whatever you’re doing tonight to see in the new year, ENJOY, and here’s to 2012 being YOUR best year yet!