The Only Resolution You Need This Year
Instead of setting resolutions that will be forgotten, consider a personal system to set yourself up for success.
One way to achieve this mindset is to create a personal system that reduces obstacles and supports effective habits. A personal system will not only help you achieve resolutions, it will set you up for success throughout your career. Here are a few simple tips to consider when creating your system.
1. Set Expectations
There is not a one-size-fits-all system. Some may like hand-writing to-do lists in a journal each day or keeping every paper business receipt. The objective is to find a set of tools and processes that works for you. Whatever you employ should make your life simpler and create more "space," in terms of time and energy, for you to focus on achieving goals.
Pro tip: If your system takes more time and energy to maintain than it creates, then it is not working.
2. Create Effective Action Lists
To effectively make progress toward goals, you first need to know what actions are needed. Creating effective action lists, or to-do lists, is a process by itself.
Step One: Break down big goals into smaller, incremental actions. Each action should meet SMART criteria, specifically that it can be measured and has a due date (so you know when it is done). Sort all actions by due date and importance to help create a big picture of your needs.
Step Two: Maintaining your action list is important, but hand-writing it each day is inefficient. There are many to-do list applications, and I have found Todoist to be an easy and affordable way to manage personal and business lists. You can also use Excel or Google Sheets, which allow you to sort by date and priority.
Step Three: Plan-Prioritize-Perform. Each day, spend 15 minutes reviewing your action list for needed adjustments. Adjust accordingly and identify the high priority actions for the day, then focus on them.
Pro tip: Prioritize three actions each day that you will get done without fail. These should not be urgent actions, which will get done regardless, but smaller incremental actions that help you get to or maintain long-term goals. Do these first so you can create a sense of proactive progress.
Pro tip: Review your action list at the end of the day rather than the morning. Reconcile and recognize the items that were accomplished or need to be postponed, then prepare the list for the next day. This allows you to relax at the end of the day — as best an entrepreneur can — and relieves stress the next morning.
3. Use a Digital File System
These days, there is really no reason to keep paper documents. Instead, invest in a cloud-storage service and make it a point to save your files here. Services like Google Drive offer 15 GB of storage free, which is plenty if you are only storing documents. Another good service is DropBox, which offers affordable plans starting at 2 TB of storage.
An important part of a digital file system is a scanning app. The DropBox app offers a scanning feature, as does Google Drive (only photo capabilities). Personally, I purchased an app called GeniusScan that offers additional capabilities, including text scan, which allows me to search documents by content.
Pro tip: Save all documents to the main folder in your cloud storage, then reconcile and file all digital copies to their respective folders periodically during the week. Also, save less important documents in black and white PDF format to conserve space.
5. Manage Your Email
More than likely, you live out of your email inbox. A cluttered inbox can be incredibly distracting, so set up folders and filters to move incoming emails to folders that you can then prioritize and check.
Pro tip: At a minimum, set up an email filter that filters any message with the word "Unsubscribe" in the email. This will eliminate all newsletters and spam from your inbox.
6. Leverage Your Calendar
Create blocks of time in your calendar that are focused on completing actions items. These blocks of time should not be "free" or contingent, meaning they should not be used to fill emergency or unexpected urgent matters — an entrepreneur's entire day consists of these. Instead, dedicate a little time each day to do nothing else but the task you have identified.
Pro tip: Block time for checking and responding to email or direct messages, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and only check during these times. This helps to avoid being dragged into the never-ending stream of "urgently" needed responses.
7. Reflect on Your System
Lastly, make sure that you set aside time periodically to reflect on your progress, personally and professionally. Use this time to understand what is working and what is not, and adjust your system accordingly.
Most important, make sure to recognize progress and celebrate your achievements. This, after all, is why we make resolutions.
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