by Mike Vardy of Productivityist.com
As we head deeper into the year, many of us have seen our BIG resolutions that we made fall by the wayside. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because our energy levels dipped and we couldn’t maintain the new habits that we had adopted. Perhaps it’s because we weren’t really committed to giving them full effort in the first place and just felt that we ‘had’ to make some resolutions. Or perhaps we simply lost our focus.
No matter what the reason is, just because we’re well past January 1st doesn’t mean we can’t have the year we want. I’ll go as far to say that making resolutions at the start of the year is not the best idea anyway. We’re just getting to the end of six weeks of holiday madness, our energy levels and emotions are scattered all over the place, and we’re feeling the pressure of a new calendar year that seemingly forces us to make decisions on adopting a new way of life – decisions that we haven’t completely thought out and habits we aren’t quite ready to adopt.
If you’re feeling like you’ve let yourself down because you haven’t kept up with your resolutions, don’t fret. I propose that you can start the year you want anytime you want.
Here are 5 things you can do starting now to make that happen.
1. Take a month to reflect and recharge.
If you find your mid-month or mid-year routines spinning your wheels, take one month and simply reflect on what you’ve done in the past few months – what’s working, what isn’t, potential changes that need to be implemented, etc. Recharge your focus so that you can take on the months ahead.
Don’t start this process mid-month while you’re juggling a hundred different things; make sure you prepare yourself to start this exercise at the beginning of the next month and fully commit to it. So, if you’re reading this in mid-March and you’re looking to take one month to reflect and recharge, plan to start promptly on April 1st. Doing so will give you enough time to prepare for the month ahead in terms of lowering your workload and setting up proper expectations for both yourself and those who rely on you.
2. Theme your months.
Another clever way to ensure that you can start the year you want anytime you want is to apply a theme to each month of the year. For example, if you have a project or goal that you’ve been dying to work on, take a month of the year to make it your primary focus. This isn’t to say that you have to completely ignore everything that’s unrelated to what you’re trying to achieve during that month. Instead, by aligning that month with your specific project or goal, and making it the focal point, or theme, you are more likely to put forth the time and effort necessary to make significant progress on it. (Read The Front Nine.)
3. Classify days for heavy-lifting and light-lifting.
Use your days accordingly. There are some days where you’re going to be able to spend a significant amount of time on your goal or project, and there will be days where you simply won’t be able to at all. I use a system of ‘heavy-lifting’ and ‘light-lifting’ days to help me make measured progress on my goals and projects. By taking the days that I know I’m going to be able to spend the bulk of my time on my goal or project, I allow myself some emotional support for those days where I can’t – and don’t feel bad about taking those days off in the process.
For example, if you work a day job from Monday through Friday, perhaps Saturday and Sunday could be a heavy-lifting days for that side project you’ve been working on, and the other five days can be light-lifting ones. Or if like me, you’re a stay-at-home / work-at-home parent, you will have some days where you can work on that big goal, while others you are focusing on fulfilling your duty as a parent.
The key is to evaluate and plan your schedule enough to know which days are for heavy lifting and which days aren’t. It’s going to be different for everyone, but by classifying both types of days it helps you prioritize and emotionally separate the various kinds of work you “should be doing.” This prevents you from neglecting what you need to do for the sake of what you want to do, or from trying to do too much at once.
4. Capture and curate.
Being busy and being productive are two totally different things. For instance, rocking in a rocking chair can keep you busy, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. It’s all about figuring out how you can deliver the greatest positive impact on your projects and goals in a set amount of time.
Obviously you can’t do everything and still be productive; trying to do so is futile. This is where capturing and curating come into play. You should spend at least two weeks capturing and tracking your daily tasks on an hourly basis, or as often as you can through each day. It’s a challenging habit to adopt, but once you’ve spent some time doing it, you can then begin the selective process of curating those tasks. This involves reprioritizing, reordering, expanding, and eliminating tasks so that you really spend your time getting the right things done, instead of simply being busy just for the sake of appearing to be productive.
Again, by first tracking and capturing everything you do and then fine-tuning and curating your efforts, you give yourself the luxury of being able to accomplish more of the things that matter to you. (Read Getting Things Done.)
5. Manage your time realistically
Even after curating your tasks and time effectively, you’ll still have to give yourself the freedom to let some things go. Some of what you tracked is not immediately important and will have to go on the back burner, and some of it will have to drop off your radar altogether.
The key to having the year you want anytime you want is to accept the limited amount of time you have to do something really, really great. The value of quality over quantity is essential when it comes to how you mange your time, which in turn is essential to your long-term happiness and success. Better to do one amazing thing than ten mediocre things. Better to do one thing you really want to do, than ten things someone else wants you to do. (Read 1,000 Little Things.)
One of the most powerful ways you can change your perspective on the time you have is to get a bird’s eye view of the year ahead. A wall calendar that displays the entire year at a glance can do that for you (I use a large one-page calendar) as you can see what you’ve mapped out in the months to come and celebrate what you’ve achieved in the months gone by.
Get real with your year and you are well on your way to making it great, no matter when you decide to start it.
Mike Vardy is a husband, father, writer, podcaster, speaker, and ‘productivityist’. In addition to writing for his blog, Productivityist.com, he contributes guest articles to several online and print publications on the topic of productivity, time, and task management, and just recently published his latest book, The Front Nine.
Photo by: Cornelia Kopp