It is easy to get caught up in creating ideas and making lists of plans for projects at the beginning of a new year (or anytime). There is almost always a sense of hopefulness as we open the door on a blank slate - a world of things waiting to be experienced. So much opportunity for the taking - a chance to embark on new adventures, make changes, grow, evolve, set and accomplish goals - fresh start, which inspires all kinds of creativity.
And yet, as we look back on where we've been, (if we allow ourselves to think about it), we discover that often our actual accomplishments are very different from what we had intended. Not always a bad thing. But what if you could ensure greater success? What if you could change the way you approach your ideas, goals and plans so that looking back you can say, "YES, I did it" and know you accomplished what you set out to do?
What did you have planned for the previous year? Did you accomplish all that you'd hoped? Did you make and keep resolutions? If you didn't, what was it that got it the way? What kept you from achieving your goals?
Most likely it was one or more of the following that kept you from your goals:
You thought about goals or plans but didn't write them down.
You fell back into your routine and 'forgot' about your plans.
You thought, "There's plenty of time" to get to it.
Life got in the way.
You didn't have a way to keep yourself accountable.
You weren't completely clear and you didn't create a plan.
And now, thinking about back on, how do you feel about this? Frustrated, angry, sad, indifferent? The question is, do you want to be in the same place at the end of this year, or would you like things to actually be different?
There are a lot of ways to plan for success and achieve results; almost all require that you write things down. And, just as important as writing your thoughts down, is to allow yourself the time, space, and freedom to get clear about what is worthwhile and important to you. Here are a few steps to keep you on track for success throughout the next year.
Strategize and Dream
Take some time when you are not distracted or busy trying to get something done, and allow your mind to wander. Go over in your mind the past year and daydream about the upcoming year. Often much of what we accomplish is based on necessity - taking care of responsibilities. This first step is designed to help get clarity around goals that are truly in alignment with what is important to you.
Ask yourself a few questions as they apply to your Work, Career, Business, or Life in general. What is it that you don't want in the next year? What do you want to clear out or be done with? What is it that you want in the next year? What do you want to bring in or have more of? What matters most to you, right now? What is the overall theme that you'd like to accomplish for the year? To be more organized, more effective, happier, have more free time, etc.?
Create Your Vision - X Marks the Spot - and Write it Down!
Next you need to create a detailed picture of your successful year. Keeping in mind what is truly important to you, make a list and describe specifically what it is you want to accomplish. The key here is to be as detailed as you can. This is the "X" on the treasure map, the clearer the description of the prize, the easier it is to see, understand, and chart the necessary navigation.
Make your list of goals - be as specific as you can. Make categories if it helps - Career, Relationships, Life. Use your list of 'wants' and define the picture. What are some concrete, high-level accomplishments you'd like to realize? New job, start a business, advance your career, home projects, improved relationship, etc.?
Make a statement for each item in your vision list. For example, not "I want a new job", but "I want a job in the computer Industry, where I am challenged, respected, located in Portland, and pays 20% more than I am currently making". Remember, the more specific the better.
For each item in your vision, describe what your current situation is like. If "X" is the goal, where are you now in relationship to that goal? It is important to know and understand the space between the two. Assess the space between - on a scale of 1-10, how far are you from what you desire?
From your list of goals what are the top three things that you want to accomplish in the next year? Go back and review what is truly important to you, consider values, and use this to help you prioritize. Keep in mind the overall theme for your year. Your goals should be in alignment with what is most important to you. Once you have the top three goals ask yourself, "If I can only get one done, which one would it be?"
Make a Plan
Here is where you get down and dirty. Starting with the most important goal, write out the specific steps to get you from where you are (see step three), to where you want to be. There may be several steps and they may have contingencies. They may have steps that require the help of others. Wherever possible include the time expected to complete the tasks for each step. Break them down as much as you can. You may discover that you don't know what all the steps are - this is fine - this means that one of your steps may be about research.
Use your calendar. Plug your tasks into your calendar. Be realistic about the amount you can get done. What do you want to accomplish in January, in February? Assign tasks to certain days or weeks and block time out as if they were appointments. Assign accountabilities where necessary. When part of your plan includes the help of others make sure you are clear about your expectations. With a little thought and little strategic planning you can fill out the whole year, spreading out the individual steps. Then enjoy the feeling of crossing each 'done' item off your list as you slowly, and effectively move closer to completion of important goals for the year.
Barriers and Blockades
Facing the hard stuff - what are the things that get in the way?
There are always things that we can't control - things outside of you - such as the economy, family issues, changes in the world, etc. The real work of breaking down the barriers to success is looking at the things that are in your control. What do you see (real or imagined) that's in the way of accomplishing your goals? Some goals may have very different barriers than others. Really think about this; do you have beliefs that work against you? Do you sabotage yourself? Do you have a history of making choices that take you further away from where you really want to be going? Do you put others' priorities above your own? If so, why? Do you abdicate when you should delegate? Do you have difficulty saying "no"? Are the right people on your team?
This may be the biggest area for the change needed to bring about success. Getting out of your own way could be the most important goal on your list.
Monitor Your Progress
All of the previous work is great on paper but it doesn't ensure that the work will get done. To increase the likelihood of success, create a way to monitor your progress throughout the year - a system of reminders and progress reporting. Set up calendar notifications that remind you to check in on your progress. Make an appointment with yourself - weekly/monthly. Monitoring regularly keeps your goals active and alive in your thinking, not allowing them to slip away and be forgotten.
The real change is not doing things differently but being different.
There's no better time than the present to think back about 2015 and what you did, and didn't accomplish. To create change, to grow, to reach goals is a choice - a personal decision - and then making a commitment to yourself, not about what you need to do but how you need to be.
Choose to be different and go out and make this year the best yet.