Whether you call it a resolution, a business plan or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, you probably have some intentions for 2015. Now that we are a couple weeks into the new year, you could be finding yourselves in a variety of places regarding those goals. Some of you are “rockin’ it out,” in other words, your project is going great, couldn’t be better. Some are moving forward, but it feels like a struggle. Others may be intermittently committed: their commitment comes and goes, depending on the day. Some are absolutely, 100%, definitely going to start tomorrow. Still others have tried, but that old familiar resignation has set in. Some changed their minds and decided that it was a stupid idea anyway. All of this is completely normal. Regardless of where you are, it is still possible to accomplish your goals with relative ease.
As I discussed previously, in order to achieve challenging objectives we generally need (1) a plan and (2) structures to help us follow that plan. Thus, the first question becomes, “How do you know if a plan is sufficient?” Do you have a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable Results set up within a Timeframe); and do you know what your next actions should be? If you answer yes to both questions, your plan is good enough. Plans don’t have to be perfect. They just need to provide focus and clarity. If confusion about what to do is the barrier preventing you from moving forward, then your plan needs some attention. However, 95% of the time, the devil is in the doing, or more accurately, in the not doing. If you know what actions to take, but time, motivation, fear, or anything else is getting in the way, then try creating structures to support you in taking the actions. For all of my insight junkies out there—and I love you, you are my people—as valuable as it can be to look at the philosophical or emotional underpinnings, in this case, I recommend trying the “just do it” approach. You will be amazed at the resulting power and clarity.
I have defined five different categories of support structures, the first two of which are things that you can do on your own. The other three involve your relationship to others, and I’ll save those for another day.
The Pings – Your colleagues, your puppy, and your smart phone: what do they have in common? They, along with pretty much everyone and everything around you, are trying to get your attention. If you let all those external factors determine what you do and when you do it, you will be stressed, tired and probably unfulfilled. Therefore, the first category of structure, which I have nicknamed “The Pings” are anything outside of your busy, mercurial brain that will remind you of your commitments, even when you are distracted or feel like doing something else. This can include reminders in your calendar, posting your goal on a sticky note next to your computer, a reminder bracelet, etc. For example, Georgia has a notebook where she tracks her business development. On the front of that notebook she has inspirational pictures and quotes, and on the back she has a chart that shows her ideal weekly schedule. Her weeks don't look like that yet, but they are a lot closer than they used to be; and seeing it there reminds her to keep taking action to generate the life (and business) she wants.
Checklists and Other Tracking Methods – The time management guru David Allen says, “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” The basic premise behind his system is to get as much as possible out of your head and onto lists. That way you can focus on the present, instead of being distracted by the other 57 to-dos that are plaguing your mind. Checklists, tracking structures, and written plans (at least, those that are referenced regularly) are all great ways to stay focused and simplify implementation. For instance, Greg has a business development plan for the year, and he has operationalized it by, each month, creating a chart where he tracks the actions he plans to take on a daily or weekly basis. The barrier to action is lowered because he doesn’t have to think too much about what to do next; he just looks at his chart, takes the action, and checks it off when he is finished. Like many of us, Greg gets a surprising amount of satisfaction from simply checking that box, (similar to crossing it off of a list). These tools can also be used for personal goals as well. Greg has another tracking sheet focused on his health and well-being. By simply looking at it every day, checking off what he did do and noticing what he didn’t do, he keeps an eye on his health and notices the patterns. How happy and productive is he on those weeks that he completely ignores his health? When tracking our actions, the cause and affect become very clear, and we tend to start making better choices.
On the other hand, if you don't want feel like creating structures, you could rely on being constantly inspired by your goal…. Though that tends to be difficult to sustain over time.
Let me know how it goes if you try any of the structures I mentioned above. I’d also love to hear about great results you have achieved with structures other than the ones I mentioned above. Bring on the inspiration!