Only one at a time

So it’s a new year, and all those “new year resolution” posts have gone out. You’ve made resolutions or actually ignored the whole parade and went on with life. If you made your resolutions, it was either a long list with everything you ever wanted to change, or a few big ones. If you ignored the parade, then you just ignored any changes you wanted to make on the background of daily life – maybe because they feel to difficult to address, or because you are just scared that you won’t stick to the work necessary to achieve the goals. I’ve been all of these for years, but if you’ve been following i’ve made an annual plan for 2016. There is one critical characteristic of that plan that makes it realistic and achievable – it builds up on the 2015 annual review. I.e., if you read both you will realise that the plan for 2016 makes small adjustments based on what I think worked and didn’t work in 2015.

“Aaaaa EVERYTHING is wrong! I want it all changed!!!”

That’s how I felt for years and it put me off from doing anything. This is normally how we feel at the end of the week, the month and the year, because as humans we tend to forget the good things that happen and we naturally add more importance to the negatives. And that’s why you need to review, and track what you do and how it performs.

Review

It is very, very simple. Right now, write a short list of the 10 things that happened in 2015 that you didn’t like – from the top of your mind, don’t put more than two mins into it.

Now write the 10 things that you think worked out OK or were great in 2015. Again, be quick, don’t overthink it.

That’s it, there is your review for the year. You can make it more detailed, but this is what I did for my review. Then I wrote a small paragraph with why I thought each of these went either way.

Ten things are too many for you? Write five. Don’t have excuses. This should take you not more than 3-4 minutes! And now you have things you can be happy with and some you know you need to work on.

One at a time

From all “negatives” list choose only one thing to work on. And as we saw in the article last week, make sure it is the slowest/most-painful one. I know it is not easy, but use your gut feeling as to what you know is the most important thing – the one that if you work on, will make everything else easier. This is critical! You should prove that you can tackle this one thing, put all your energy and focus into it and get it moving. Establish a habit and make tackling that thing easy. Once you’re done, you can add another one and go through the whole list. But start with one!

This step is probably one that I have failed most at. I would always tell myself I cannot just do one thing, because if it’s not all of them then it’s none. If I worked on one, then the guild creeps in telling me I am ignoring another 90% of problems and am in fact doing nothing. That’s BS, that’s just giving reasons to prevent doing something that puts you in a better position.

Break it down

As mentioned before, once you have a problem at hand, you must break it down into mini goals/milestones and give them a specific time to work and achieve each of them.

For example, if you have always wanted to learn Spanish, but never knew where to start, how to stick to it – it was all a very dense fog in your mind. Think of all the steps you need to go through to actually achieve the goal and also define what “achieving the goal” means.

Specific goal: I want to be able to read “The little prince” in Spanish and write an email to a Spanish friend.

Tasks:

  • Research courses in my area by [X] date
  • Commit to doing a weekly one by [X] date and sign up for it
  • Include the class in my schedule and make sure I don’t miss any of them (i.e. has the highest priority). Mark them on the calendar as completed (measuring progress)
  • Buy “The little prince” in Spanish
  • Talk to my Spanish class teacher and tell them what my goal is. Ask them for help with words that are difficult and best approaches in achieving the goal.
  • At the end of each month review my progress – mark the review day on the calendar, otherwise it will never get done.
  • Even better, find someone else who wants to learn the language and review your progress with them weekly

You can do this with any goal you have. Break it down into specific steps and make sure they are a) specific, b) have a deadline, c) you can measure progress.

Summary

Without reviewing (3-4 mins) where you are, you cannot make progress because you don’t know what needs improving and what worked. Once you do it, choose the hardest thing that gives you the most trouble/dissatisfaction and commit to working only on that. Break it down into actionable, specific steps with clear deadlines and track your progress. Throw away the “new years resolutions” if you did any and if you didn’t sit down and go through this process. It should not take more than 10 minutes and it will change your whole year. If you have any problems, just write me an email! Most importantly, focus on one thing, the most difficult one!

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