As the New Year begins, the web, magazines, newspapers and TV talk shows are exploding with tips for creating and achieving New Year’s Resolutions. They tell us “How to Have Your Best Year Ever” (Jim Rohn seminar), or “How to Get Clear, Get Motivated, and Get Started in 2014” (Michael Hyatt) . Statistic Brain published a summary of interesting statistics on New Year’s Resolutions listing the Top 10 Resolutions of 2012 in their study. Losing Weight, Get Organized, Save Money, Getting Healthier… the list goes on, but I would wager that many of us have already recognized one or more of these resolutions from our own past.
Then we are also counseled on making S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound) goals. Many of us may have just gone through our organization’s annual review process which typically both reviews the goals that we set with our managers as well as creating new goals for 2014, so we may already be feeling all goaled out and less than excited about creating additional personal goals. Yet productivity experts warn that without goals – especially ones that stretch us – we are unlikely to continue to grow and are in danger of finding ourselves in the same (or worse) condition at year’s end. Some even go on to suggest that true happiness is found through achievements that we believed beyond us… often a result of following through on our stretch goals.
For myself, I did find this to be true with regards to the goal that Mary and I made last year to create the Year for Improved Productivity program for this blog. While at times it felt overly challenging, the completed program is something that both Mary and I find to be a very satisfying accomplishment. So what made this particular goal a reality instead of just another resolution that crashed and burned?
- We dared to imagine something new. Sir Ken Robinson says that imagination is “the power to bring to mind something that is not currently present” and that creativity is “the product of putting imagination to work.” We decided to take a leap of faith and commit to making a product of our imagination a reality.
- We planned for it. As early as November 2012, we took a calendar, brainstormed ideas and assigned each idea and date to a calendar so that it was clear to both of us exactly what we were committed to. This gave us accountability. It was no longer a wish or a goal to post a new article on the Year to Improved productivity every other week. We committed to a structured plan.
- We publicly announced our commitment. We created promotional emails that introduced the program and posted them on a number of library-related list-servs and within own university. We knew that other people would be watching our progress.
- We created a built-in support system. When one of us was feeling overwhelmed, the other could acknowledge the feelings and offer encouragement or more tangible support as needed.
- We tracked our progress. While in the beginning this was a little daunting, as the year progressed, seeing how far we had come helped lift our spirits and motivate us toward the end of year goal.
- We were flexible. We had a structured list of topic posts throughout the year, but we also remained flexible. We gave ourselves the freedom to change some post topics and even to reorder a few posts. We also switched weeks occasionally on who was posting. This flexibility allowed us to persevere when life became unexpectedly hectic for one or both of us.
- We were non-negotiable. While we were flexible on some topics and who was writing for a given post, we also had non-negotiable boundaries. We did not allow ourselves to miss our Monday posting dates. This forced a discipline on us and kept us continually moving forward on our goal.
- We celebrated mile-stones along the way. We had broken up the year-long program into three general topic sections, and we celebrated as each section was completed.
- We gained strength and determination from the encouragement of others. Every positive comment that we received on the blog, the year-long program, or our topics was saved in a special file that either of us could access when we needed a pick-me-up. Seeing our posts being retweeted or curated on other sites such as Steve Dale’s Personal Knowledge Management publication on papers.li also gave us a great deal of motivation to finish strong.
What skills or methods have you used to successfully achieve goals or New Year’s Resolutions in the past? What worked? What didn’t? Share your tips in the comments area so we can all benefit from the collective wisdom of all of us.