In a few days, millions of people will start down the path of a new year’s resolution, determined to be better, smarter, trimmer, or more organized in 2012. But a year is a very long road to walk. By next January, only a handful will even remember their resolutions for the year. But a few will succeed.
As a time management coach, I’ve seen the successful ones, and I know how they do it. They have five simple keys that anybody (including you) can use:
- Simple but meaningful goals.
- Start right.
- Plan ahead.
- Connect with habits daily.
- Fail without giving up.
Simple but Meaningful
People who succeed with their resolutions for change work on a few simple goals. They are more interested in success than they are in the thrill of contemplating success. They aren’t looking to become perfect overnight and aren’t charmed into the thrill of perfect living for two weeks. They choose a simple, believable goal, leaving other goals for a later date. Knowing they can succeed, they also know that they will have more opportunities to meet goals. Simple.
Meaningful resolutions are also important. Half of America will exercise on January 1st (or 2nd), but the soon-to-be bride will still be exercising in March. Why? Most people resolve to exercise, because they know they should. In contrast, the bride is thinking, “I’ll fit in my wedding dress if it kills me.” When our goals are meaningful, we look beyond the goal to something we want more than anything else.
Successful people get it right the first time. They know how important their initial excitement is in making a change, and so they make sure their first efforts are good efforts, so they will stay excited. Research, plan the details, get advice, know what you’re doing before you begin. People who show up at the gym January 1st without a game plan don’t last very long.
When you aren’t sure how to start right, get professional help. Personal trainers, dieticians, time management coaches, they know exactly how to start right. They help you make a plan and stick to it. Starting with the right plan makes habits easier, because you don’t need to tweak your behavior, searching for the right way to do things.
Successful people take the time to succeed. Planning that time is the only way to ensure you get the time. Without a plan, something else will inevitably try to steal your time away.
Get a calendar. Use your calendar. Budget your time the way you budget money. Account for the hours in your week. If you will spend an hour working on a project, plan that in the calendar. This is the only way you will be able to know when other concerns are trying to steal time from accomplishing your resolution. It’s the only way you’ll know when to start saying no.
Connect with Habits Daily
Successful people build habits. They know the importance of habits and the dangers of breaking them, and so they pay daily homage to their habits, new and old. Even when they don’t have time, they at least connect with important habits. “Connecting” means doing part of the habit instead of the whole thing.
This January, many people will exercise daily and feel great about it, until the day they miss one day. Every day thereafter, they will struggle to continue. As it becomes easier to skip days, the habits they are trying to form will fall apart. Instead of skipping a day, you can connect with your habit: dress in your exercise clothes, run for ten minutes, and then continue your day. They habit is preserved, and so is your resolution.
Never Give Up
Successful people know that they will have setbacks on the road to change. They also know that today’s failure does not prevent tomorrow’s success. Even when things go wrong, keep a positive attitude. If you were already good at exercising daily, you wouldn’t have set a goal to improve. Five days out of seven is an improvement. Pay more attention to the direction you are headed than whether or not you’ve already met the goal.
That is my golden advice for your new year. What have you found helpful as you’ve tried to make changes?