It’s that time of year again, another new year. If you have read any popular blogs lately, seems like everyone is talking about “the time to set goals.” Even one visit to a local bookstore will remind you what you already know: “You can be better, successful, healthy, and rich, if only you’ll set goals and work toward them.”
Why is it, then, that people we all know (maybe you included) fail to achieve new year’s resolutions? Many people simply don’t even make them anymore. Perhaps the idea itself has a bad reputation. Let’s start with the word itself:
Resolution comes from the Latin word: resolvere. Break it down, and you get: "re- (expressing intensive force) + solvere ‘loosen.’”
Uh-oh, when we make a new year’s resolution, we’re actually “loosening” ourselves up to step in to something new.
What does the word resolution mean to you? To me, when I resolve to do something, I make a firm decision and declaration of intent to achieve the goal, to finish the project, to ship the product. To do that, to achieve any goal really, requires that I look around and “let go” of some things, not do as much in some areas of my work and my life, and to delegate or forget doing some of the tasks that no longer are a part of moving the mission forward.
It's simple to make a resolution (Scroll down, review the prompts below, and pick one or two that you’d like to achieve.). It isn't always easy to move from “thought to achievement” on the "big, hairy, audacious goals" that so many entrepreneurs are fond of setting.
For many entrepreneurs, life is getting only busier. At the same time, the stakes are getting higher. Managing yourself well through your year is more important than ever. One way to do that is to reduce the “friction to implementation.” Simply, make your goals easier to achieve, celebrate your achievements more often, and reset your goals to be directional instead of destination-oriented.
What’s the secret? Unlike the Nike quote where you “just sit down and do it,” actually making significant, lasting change is going come down to two concepts: Focus and Iteration.
Take for example the typical resolution of “I’m going to manage physical inventory better” or “Finally, I’m going to get organized.” Both of these are uniquely “un-doable.” Meaning, there is not a clear-cut, objective “there” you’re going to get to.
What do you do? Start by focusing on the intention underneath the resolution. Take for example the idea of managing inventory. What are seven to 10 reasons you have for wanting to take on that goal? One could be: “We want to be more responsive to customers’ needs.” Another: “We want to more effectively manage our cash flow.” Now, when you reflect back (once a week, once a month) on the “new year’s” resolution to “better manage inventory,” you have some more objective line items to which to compare your progress over time.
Which leads to the next idea of effective goal management: efficient resolution-setting. Iterative improvement is important to study, understand and work with throughout the year. One of the common misconnections of traditional goal-setting work that people do is to “assume” that once they achieve the stated goal, it will be obvious that it’s time to reset the goal, to state the next resolution.
What I know about how this works is this: As you get closer to realizing an intention, you need to already start iterating, already begin re-calibrating your focus on the “next-next” thing. This does not mean that you’re “never satisfied.” Instead, it represents your focus and responsiveness to the dynamics of the market, social shifts, changes in the way your customers operate.
It is that time of year again. Use it to your advantage. Focus on the things you see that need your attention. As an entrepreneur you know how important it is to choose what needs to be fixed. Pick your areas of opportunity, state your intention, and use focus and iteration to get more done.
Here are some ways to think about using those two concepts: Focus and iteration.
Don't "Write a book."
• Do write one story about a memory.
Don't "Get in shape."
• Do pick a 5K run to train for and complete.
Don't "Get rid of debt."
• Do pay an extra 5% of what you owe next time.
Don't "Get organized."
• Do review, purge and clean one shelf (drawer, closet).
Don’t “Manage your time better.”
• Do get used to working in blocks of 15 minutes (1% of your day).
Don’t “Become a better person.”
• Do schedule the “next” volunteer event to spend a half-day helping.
Don’t “Learn more.”
• Do invite someone you respect to meet for a coffee or lunch five times over the year.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.