It's one of the oldest traditions we have, so lost in the mists of time that most people have no idea that the practice extends back to Roman and maybe even Babylonian times thousands of years ago. In all of that history, resolutions have been made and forgotten, ignored, put off, or, in very rare cases, accomplished.
And that's the problem. How many resolutions did you make last year? How many did you accomplish? How many do you even remember? If you are brave enough, tell me (and the world) about them in the comments box. By the way, don't be upset if you have no idea what they were. Studies show that a very small percentage of New Year's resolutions are even attempted, much less attained.
The biggest trouble with resolutions is that they are very broad, general statements, for instance lose 100 pounds or write a book, with no starting date and no specific steps attached to them. It is easy to put them off until tomorrow or the next day. After all, we have all year to accomplish them. One day won't hurt.
One day does hurt and so do all those days that follow, the worst one being December 31, when we realize we did nothing and have to make that same resolution all over again.
Let's change it this year. Instead of just writing down a bunch of resolutions today, let's take a more serious approach. After all, if these resolutions are important enough to make, they are important enough to achieve.
Instead of making resolutions, let's create year-long action items, just like you create action items of returning a phone call or writing a blog post. However, these are not random action items. They are specific projects we want to accomplish.
Here's how you do it:
1. The Review: Look back over the last year. Be hard on yourself because your future depends on it. What did you accomplish last year? What did you fail to do? Of the failures, which ones are still important? Which items did you find easy to work on and which ones were difficult and why? Where does your business or life stand at this exact moment? As you move forward, what items you planned to do last year still fit into this year's projects? How have you changed in your passions and goals for the coming year?
2. Choose Your 2012 Projects: Pick three items you want to accomplish in 2012. These are not the only goals you have for the year, just the ones everything else depends on. As you look over the review, specifically decide yes or no on each potential project. Since I am in the book business, I will use that as the example but the steps you take apply to anything. Decide definitively on January 1 that these are the items you will finish before next December 31. Nothing will stop you. The only question is how long it will take.
3. Give Yourself a Specific Completion Date: For each of the three items, write down the date you want it completed. Be realistic. For instance, don't decide to have your 500-page novel written in one month. Give yourself the time you realistically believe it will take for completion. Now work backward from that completion date to today, writing down the steps you will need to take and the time needed for each. Keep it general. For a book it might be December 31, 2012 publication date, to printer December 15, start getting endorsements October 15, finish editing and corrections October 15, finish cover design October 15, to the editor September 1, complete final draft September 1, finish first draft June 30, begin writing February 15, finish research February 15, complete outline February 15, start outline February 1, complete theme statement by February 1, start working on theme statement January 1.
4. Determine the First Step: What is the actual first item you need to do to start you on your journey. On a blank piece of paper or in a notebook, write the date January 2, 2012 at the top of the sheet. Under it write the words "To do list." This list is a mini-resolution for that date. Write down every item you need to do that day, the time you will do it, and how long it will take. If you have to watch a football game, write it down. If you see that you cannot accomplish all the items, schedule them for the next day. You will eventually get a feel for how much you can accomplish each day. Do not over schedule yourself. You do not need to work on every item every day but you must schedule the necessary work so you can meet the schedule you set for yourself in number 3.
5. When dawn January 2 arrives, sit down at your desk and review the list. Look at the clock and get started. Do not play a game, do not read email, do the first item. This is its time. It has top priority. Nothing else may interfere with it. Complete the first item and move on to the second. When you reach lunch, stop working, relax and eat. Don't think about other items. Lunch is your task of the moment so enjoy it to the fullest. Watch the football game if that is your passion. Stay in the moment so you enjoy it to the fullest. Then return to work.
6. Please note that I am not telling you to become a workaholic. If you only want to work four hours a day, schedule that four hours so you get your short-term and long-term work done. If you find it is not possible to get all of the work done, you either need to do less or expand the hours you work. Do not complain that you can't get it all done. Reinvent yourself so you can.
7. Keep track of your progress as you move through the year. Determine where you are at the end of each month and quarter. If you are behind, make arrangements to catch up. If you are ahead, congratulate yourself on a job well done. Remember, we all have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else. It's how we use that time that matters. If you are having trouble fitting everything in, hire a coach, mentor, or an assistant. If the project cannot be completed on time, set a new deadline. Don't give up on it.
8. Give yourself plenty of time for family, play, and reading, both recreational and educational. This will keep you recharged so your work hours will be most effective.
Remember the important point: Success is the result of action, not thinking. Businesses get built, books get written, and projects get done because you take action. This year make Resolution Day into Action Day and celebrate it every day of the year, not just January 1.