Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
With the first quarter of the year out of the way, how are you settling into 2019? Are the New Year resolutions already broken or did you not set any in the first place? Whilst the first half of the year can feel like the natural point at which to look ahead to the rest of the year in reality it doesn’t matter when you take action, what’s more important is how you go about setting yourself up for success.
Before you start thinking about the future there are important lessons to be learned from the past. What went well? What didn’t go so well? Use your observations to build on the things that have proved successful and avoid future pitfalls.
Now think about the one thing you need to address over the coming months. What is the weak spot in all the things you tried to achieve in the past? Look for patterns and trends.
Maybe you under-estimated how long tasks would take so you never got to the bottom of your to-do list or felt in control of it. Or maybe you struggled to focus on getting your tasks completed because you didn’t create the right conditions for action.
Pick one thing that will be the most useful for you to change in the coming months in order to achieve your goals.
You’re more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. Then go one better and put your goals somewhere prominent. That could be a mirror or a journal. Put them somewhere where you’ll see them every day and make it a habit to look at them, read them and reflect on them.
You’ve set your goal, but how will you achieve it? Writing down your goal is only one step in the process. What you need is a system to get you to the goal. Putting your energy into the system (the process) rather than the goal (outcome) is the smart way to work.
For example, if you want to save more money set up a direct debit (the system) to take care of your money each month. This simple system will ensure the outcome takes care of itself.
For bigger and more complex goals you’re going to need to chunk things down.
For example, want to get a promotion?
Dedicate time in your calendar each day to take action on what you need to do to get you there. Then decide what you need to do during those chunks of time. You might start with having an informal conversation with your line manager to discuss what skills you need to develop.
When thinking about the system you will use be realistic about what resources you have available to you. For example, if you want to lose weight you might initially think about joining a gym, but if your nearest gym is 5 miles away and very expensive then you might be unlikely to go or even sign up. So think about what system will be simple and sustainable. Maybe signing up to a local sports club is more likely to motivate you because you will have external accountability and you can get there on foot.
However, don’t be afraid of trying a system and then refining. Sometimes the best ideas in theory don’t work in practice. Play around with your system until it meets your needs.
Your calendar is another system you can use to help you reach your goals. Use your calendar to block out chunks of time for different types of activity rather than individual tasks.
For example, my calendar uses colour coded blocks to show me: deep work, shallow work, calls and meeting people. I plan deep work for the morning when I am most alert. Once I’ve done my planning I can easily see the shape of my week. I even have a colour block for taking action on my goals.
Learn to trust your calendar – what goes in it needs to happen. Treat it as a friend that you don’t want to let down. By doing so you’ll create one of the most powerful tools in your toolkit for success.
If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.
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