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It’s the second day of the year and most of us have already skipped or forgotten our New Year’s resolutions.
The need to “start running everyday” or “stop drinking coffee once and for all” was so strong a few hours ago, but that seems like a lifetime ago. It’s just so yesterday. Today, oh today is all about sleeping in instead of going running and a nice venti soy milk latte.
So why make resolutions that we never intended to do?
Resolutions are goals. And life isn’t goal-oriented, it’s system-oriented. In other words: choose a goal, but focus on the system.
To make progress in your goals, you need to develop habits and track them. You may have to adjust your system — your habits — or your goals. But following these steps ensures you are a) aware of your goal and b) the actions needed to achieve it.
Here’s the step-by-step on how to have a fresh new year, every week:
Step 1: One Goal
Focus on one goal.
In your personal growth plan, you want to pick S.M.A.R.T. goals:
This will help tracking your goal. Some examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals: “Lose 5kg in the next three months”, “Save $3000 dollars in the next year” or “Read 100 books in the next 6 months”.
You can jot down all your goals but focus on pursuing and tracking one. Once you achieve it, you can move on to the next.
Step 2: Find Your “Why”
Gyms sell most of their memberships in December and January.
Have you — or somebody you know — ever joined a gym on a yearly membership only to go a couple of times?
The biggest mistake when setting goals is having a weak why. Knowing your why is key. In other words:
It doesn’t matter what you do, but it really matters why you do it.
Why do you want to go on a diet? Not weight loss, that’s the result.
I had the goal of losing 8 kilos in three months. My why? It’s not becoming leaner or feeling better about myself (although those are nice side-effects) but to have more energy for work and the things I love. My why is so strong that it’s never hard for me to eat soup (note: I used to hate soup). I know it is aligned with my why.
Figure out your strongest why and you are golden.
The rest is easy.
Step 3: One Habit
How do you intend to reach your goal? There are more ways than one to skin a cat.
To lose weight you can a) exercise more, b) switch to a healthier diet or c) try intermittent fasting.
To save more money, you can a) adjust your spending habits and consume less or b) make more money, either by b1) being promoted at your job or b2) taking a second job.
Find an activity that you can turn into a habit and do it every single day, no excuses.
Side note: if possible, go for a keystone habit: habits that lead to the development of multiple good habits.
- Lose 5kg in the next three months by doing high-intensity exercise for 20 minutes per day
- Save $3000 dollars in the next year by reducing spending on entertainment, such as drinks, eating out, and movies
- Read 100 books in the next 6 months by reading every day from 9 to 10 AM
Use this formula to write down your goals: Action + Metric + Time + by + Habit
Your habit needs to be the highest leveraging activity you can do to reach your goal. Use the 80/20 rule: what’s the number one activity you can do that will bring the biggest results?
Step 4: Scheduling
When do you intend to perform your habit?
Find time during your week and add it to your calendar. Now set up notifications to help remind you to do it.
If your goal is to lose weight by exercising every day for 20 minutes, you could schedule 20-minutes blocks just before lunchtime, or immediately after waking up.
If it’s not doing something, such as “stop drinking coffee”, set up reminders when you are most likely to do that activity. For coffee, it could be when arriving at the office or after lunch.
Putting it in the calendar and having notifications will keep you committed to your habit.
Step 5: Tracking
You need to measure to know how well you are doing in your goal.
I like to visualize both daily and weekly progress. For weight loss, I hit the scale every day and add it to my spreadsheet. I then highlight a specific day — for example, Sunday — and calculate the percentage of the goal completed to see my progress week to week.
A simple hack I use is Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain”, (I previously covered it when writing about how to measure productivity):
Put a big X on each day you do your habit. This will create a chain of X’s showing your progress. Focus on growing your chain longer and longer. Your only job is NOT to break the chain.
This productivity hack works because it helps you become more consistent with your most important skill or talent.
The second sheet has a tracker where you can use Seinfeld’s productivity technique.
Choose a day of the week to review your progress. For most people, this will either be Friday of Sunday.
On that day, go into your spreadsheet and see how many times you have done your habit. If you’re skipping many days in a row, that’s a bad sign: maybe you don’t want it enough or you need to change your habit.
This simple 5-step system is the key to developing habits and making progress on your goals.
Those very same goals you promised you were going to pursue.
And that was just two days ago…