Okay. You reviewed your performance for last year. You went over what planned changes went right, which ones fell through, what surprises happened, how you handled them, and worked through the new things and experiences you were presented. You want to do a better job this year. Going from the top-most level and branching down (and outward):
What are your core goals?
Where do you intend to focus on personally and professionally? Think of the “Four Burners theory.” There are things you can only do yourself if they are to be done, and if you want them done, then they have to be high priority, e.g, you must willingly give these items the attention, actions, and time they demand.
Then there are things a little lower on the list and stuff you can push around, delegate, or outsource. These are the items you fit around your Very Important Priorities.
Think about how you handled things last year. Where did you experience the most discomfort? How were you surprised? What are you going to do with the new layers of experience you gained getting through these rough spots? How are you moving forward?
How do you want these core goals done?
What are your standards for “done?” Your answers determine when and how will you know to stop working, which are very important factors in making consistent, sustainable progress. Being stubborn about ‘how’ can act as a straight-jacket for when life throws you into a corner. When you build some margin into your plans, and have back-up options in place, the peace of mind this gives helps you recover faster when you encounter delays and sudden changes of circumstance on the way.
What are your target dates?
A year can pass by in a flash if you’re not paying attention, and you can’t save any of it up. You have to use time as it comes, so what’s your time-line? How are you planning to break things down into small, achievable steps and execute them? And in connection with this line of thought, how are you tracking your productive time?
Have you zeroed in on the daily micro-steps to attain your goals?
The old joke about New Year’s resolutions and the uptick of January gym enrollment has a seed of truth in it. Starting something important is easy — maintaining it to the desired result, not so much. Breaking goals down into sustainable, daily increments uses the power of aggregation to create something notable from many, many small actions.
What are your micro-actions? Are they small enough you can do them without excuses? Do you have it set up so you can track them too? And do you have a small reward system or celebratory mini-milestones in place to help encourage you to stick it out to the end?
You’re The Boss.
Part of the workload includes keeping up to date, whether it’s industry news and shifts, best practices, or specific skill-sets. In this light where do you intend to keep current? What area are you focusing on this year to give you the returns you want?
High personal returns-on-investment (ROI)
When we say personal, we mean the areas where you and only you can execute the actions necessary for change to happen. It will be the same as no one can exercise for you, or change eating habits for you, if you’re the one to want better health.
Say you want to update your skill-set in a particular area. This means that when you do decide, if you want to maximize the learning, you compartmentalize your time so you can set yourself up to do it without hindrance. You focus on the learning yourself. Create and protect a distraction-free environment that encourages you to focus and work untempted.
You can also reach out to find sources you can trust, and find mentors willing to share what they learned. Look for study groups too; sometimes group sessions with peers can foster a better learning experience when they focus on sharing and learning from each others’ mistakes.
Who are your accountability partners?
Depending on your personal style, having people in the know to help you stay on track can be a source of strength and comfort (as well as feedback) when you face trying times and feel discouraged.
Put in some slack in the system.
Start things out in small, survivable ways — small positive bets, over time, help with sustainability and consistency. It is very, very easy to fully subsume yourself in what demands your attention at the moment. This is how internet black holes work.
If you don’t set things up in a way as to fully take advantage of your level of energy and willpower first thing, you have nothing to anchor you when you get sucked in. And the time dilation really does happen. One moment you’re just fact-checking, the next thing you know, you’re shocked when you look up and notice the time.
Action and direction must move together.
In some areas, it is good to wait. In working towards your goals, you can only move onward, or you could flounder and waste time and opportunity. Take action, whether it is a test, an attempt, a step — just try. Forget Yoda. Every real try is a “did.”
Work at your goals . You can only go so far with theoreticals and speculation. You have to do the actual work to tease out the connections that will cement themselves in your brain and lead to change.
Record and inspire yourself.
What you don’t observe, you can’t take into account. What you don’t measure, you can’t improve. Track your progress. Remember aggregation; every little step counts. Even if– especially if — you feel that you’re sliding backwards or not moving, your records show the steps you took and that you are working on what matters to you.
Learning from our mistakes is one of the hardest things to do, because there can be so much self-induced pressure to get it right or don’t do it at all (perfectionism and paralysis) — and when the pressure is always there, it nibbles at our energy and self-esteem, like mice in the dark.
The things we accept without question because they’re expected, they’re normal, they’re what you know — well, they were the building blocks you got or were given. By your family, by your teachers, by the culture you grew up in and the experiences you were exposed to.
As an adult, it’s your responsibility to keep learning on your own, and to handle the pains of stretching your comfort zone while learning.
Develop a limber perspective.
Attitude can be one of your greatest assets if you learn to direct and harness it. The loss of hope is a loss of perspective.
See, the way we see it, life seems like it gives us a lot of scripts. You do this, you get that, you have this, and that means you’re successful . You’ve made it. You’re one of the lucky ones.
But the truth is, it’s the structures within life that presents us these scripts. Culture, family expectations, popular media, your own self-image — they make overlapping stories. Sometime it can lead to feeling your life is out of your control, or you’re not truly living it.
Owning your own business is a major way of taking on responsibility for how your life will go. Are you intent on writing your own story? It takes paying attention.
Stress is how we were trained to respond — with mindfulness, we can retrain our over-sensitive warning systems to ease up somewhat.
One of the best ways to boost our productivity and happiness is changing our environment to help us get there and do that. It’s the change that’s hard.
As an aside, we’d like to just share this new tool we found from a post on Reddit’s r/GetMotivated forums. It’s on “Close 2016, plan 2017. Fill out a year planning booklet and have a greater awareness of your life.”
The YearCompass is a short, printable booklet (also available in editable formats) which you can use to dig deep and review the best and worst of your 2016 while helping you plan to make the best of 2017.
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