By John Marshall
You sang Auld Lang Syne, the ball dropped in Times Square, the fireworks exploded over London and Sydney and it is now time to think about those New Year resolutions. The ones you made about work and your career.
There is one New Year’s tradition that is common wherever new year resolutions are made and that is our collective failure to achieve them. A Scranton University study concluded that just 8% of resolution makers actually follow through with them over the course of the year – that means that a whopping 92% of folks who tuck a list of goals into their pocket and look out into 2015 with confidence and hope will never get out of the year what they hope for. Though the numbers are daunting, it is no cause for panic, but reflection and analysis. Here’s how to make 2015 the most productive year of your life.
Make a Resolution not a Wish
The easiest resolutions to break are the ones that could never be attained in the first place. Step one on the American Psychological Association’s list of ways to make your resolution stick? “Make resolutions you think you can keep.” Going from Associate to CEO, or writing the great American novel and watching it soar to the top of the best-seller list are ambitious aspirations but setting more attainable goals makes the whole process more enjoyable and realistic. Give yourself smaller goals throughout the year you will have victories to celebrate, your confidence in your ability to stick to your goals.
Understand Yourself and Prepare for Productivity
Some of us are most productive first thing in the morning, others skip lunch to squeeze all the productive juice out of the mid-afternoon, and still others find they hit their best stride in the latter hours of the day. It is important to be aware of oneself and figure out which kind of person you are. This will help you as you plan out your tasks for the day and will go a long way towards making sure that you are focusing on more demanding projects during your most productive hours.
Prepare yourself to be productive by taking some time every evening to make a to-do list for the following day. There are quite a few very well-reviewed apps for this kind of thing, but research has shown that writing things down by hand helps you remember and understand what you are writing down better than if you took the same note or composed the same to-do list on a device. So dust off a pen and pad for your nightly to-do lists and enjoy the satisfaction of checking things off as you finish them throughout the day.
Stay Out of Your Own Head
Our minds have a tendency to go wild every time we make a decision to self-improve. Guides to being more productive that can be found here and here seem to focus around the idea that if we want to see smooth and desired results in the physical world, we first need to be cognizant of how our minds are going about tackling these problems.
Make sure you focus on one big task at a time. This will help you finish, and reach that promised land of productivity where the tasks we’ve been stressing over can finally be put away and moved along from. Part of this is accepting that multi-tasking is a myth – don’t attempt to juggle too many balls or balance too many plates because the inevitable outcome is that something will drop. Lining up your bigger tasks one at a time will help you knock them down in a methodic, productive way.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Some tasks obviously require more attention, time and brainpower than others, but it is easy for our brains to get confused. Make a point to prioritize your daily tasks, assignments and goals – try ordering your to-do lists both in order of operation and level of importance. This can help you relax and understand when a task is routine that won’t demand lots of thought and when you really need to bring out the big guns.
Be Accountable to Someone
No one is more charming than ourselves. The excuses we give ourselves to explain our own lapses in productivity or responsibility need never be too elaborate, because the audience (our own conscience) is too often sympathetic. The APA recommends talking about our resolutions often and not being too timid to ask for support from our family and peers or even hire an executive coach. Be vocal about your resolutions and goals, and have someone keep you accountable and on track which can be a mentor or a sponsor at work.