Cut yourself a little slack on your resolutions

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The other day I happened upon a gardening blog that started something like this: “As we enter the shortest days of the cold, wet season, it’s a good time not to garden.

“Take a break to rest and reflect … Clean up the weeds, rake the dead leaves and branches, and mulch … Reap any late harvest … Then start making plans of what to put in place for the approaching spring and the year ahead.”

I like this idea — it’s a good metaphor. Because as much I like to tailgate on the hype of the ‘New Years Resolutions’ bandwagon, as an opportunity to encourage people to set positive goals for themselves and be proactive about their lives, I have always thought the timing of it kind of stinks.

Bumper to bumper with all the excitement of Christmas, folks tend to start the new year a bit burned out and tired, often with ensuing colds or flu, and in weather that screams, ‘Duvet Day’.

Is this really a great time for motivation and mustering the energy and enthusiasm to make positive changes and form new healthy habits?

And how much thought and planning have we really put into these resolutions of ours? Sometimes just the thirty seconds between someone asking us what they are, and us answering.

Now I don’t want to dampen anyone’s drive. If you’ve managed to hit the New Year running, so to speak, and are making strides towards your resolutions — great … go for it! Do what it takes to spur that motivation and keep it going.

But if it all snuck up on you a bit too quickly and you didn’t have time to make any resolutions, or if life has gotten in the way of your big breakthrough and, like I heard the other day, “well I’ve already broken my resolution and given up” … don’t despair.

I’m suggesting that perhaps we cut ourselves a little slack and use this rather cold, wet month of January to properly prepare.

Setting ourselves up for a whole year of success takes time to strategise, plan and gather all the necessary resources, so that when we do get going in earnest, we can maintain the pace right through to our achievement.

Here are some steps to help make the most of this time of reflection and renewal:

1. Stock-take: I used to enjoy getting seasonal work doing the inventory in the shops after the Christmas rush. We can do the same for ourselves.

Take the time to think back to this time last year … What are all the things you have achieved since then? What goals did you set last year? What progress have you made on them?

What worked well for you? What didn’t work so well and what can you put in place this year to avoid similar issues?

Take the time to recognise and really celebrate the achievements of the last year, and congratulate yourself on your efforts.

2. Visualise: Thinking forward to this time next year … What would you really like to have happened by January 2014?

Perhaps consider the following areas of your life for any potential goals: time management, finances, physical health, emotional health, work/career, relationships, contribution, spirituality.

Give yourself time to process these ideas and ask yourself what you really want from these next 12 months.

3. Create well formed goals: various elements of goal-setting have shown to increase success with achieving them, like: stating goals in the positive, writing them down as specifically as possible, making them measurable (how will you know when you’ve achieved it?) and results oriented, putting a time limit on them, breaking them down into manageable steps etc (see previous articles for tips on good goal setting)

4. Get Excited: list all the benefits that achieving these goals will have on your life. Project forward and let the pleasure of that success entice you and motivate you towards getting it.

5. Strategise and Pace: work out the practicalities and realities of putting these goals into action. How much time will you need?

Timetable your efforts. What resources will you need to achieve these goals?

Do you need to do research/budget/seek professional advice/coordinate calendars/get others involved/create accountability etc? Work out how and when this is going to happen and factor in contingencies and backups.

6. Get going and celebrate along the way: track your progress, praise yourself and reward your hard work as you move towards your goal. Each mountain is climbed one step at a time.

This process of reviewing and regrouping is equally important in a business/professional setting. In many businesses, January can be a quieter month and strategising for the next calendar year can make the most of the downtime.

If it is not your fiscal year end, this provides a perfect opportunity to review and check how current goals are progressing, where gaps lies and where work still needs to be done.

Following the steps above will then help to create new goals in line with your mission statement.

Areas for potential goal setting might include: growth, communications, customer service, training/skills, streamlining/efficiency, team dynamics, personal performance etc.

Setting well-formed team/company goals together encourages staff buy-in and helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same desired results.

Whether personal or professional, taking the time to set ourselves up with well-defined targets and strategies of what we are striving for will help us to see our goals through to completion over the course of the year. In my option, if it takes the whole month of January to do this and get it right, so be it.

January is so named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways and transitions, endings and beginnings.

He is often represented as having faces on both sides of his head as he looks both to the past and to the future. And so let’s use his month to do the same.

Let’s celebrate our achievements, learn from our mistakes, then project, plan and prepare to make well-managed strides towards a happy, bright and successful 2013!

Happy New Year.

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Published Jan 8, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 7, 2013 at 5:00 pm)

Cut yourself a little slack on your resolutions

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