Skip New Year’s Resolutions, Focus On Goals and Habits

There’s almost no point setting New Year’s Resolutions, because the chances that you will achieve any of your resolutions are slim to none.

In 2007 the University of Bristol conducted a study on 3,000 people to see how many achieve their New Year’s resolutions. The result: not very many. Eighty-eight percent of people failed to achieve their resolutions. Even though they set their resolutions with the best of intentions, they didn’t attain them.

I’m just as guilty of this. I’ve set New Year’s resolutions, and I have failed to live by them more times than I want to acknowledge. So I said to heck with them.

In 2011 I changed my approach. I got much more deliberate on personal planning, goal setting, and developing habits for change. And I distilled everything into a one page plan that I refer to throughout the year.

The practice was a turning point for me. My performance went up. I achieved stretched goals I didn’t think I could hit. And I had more time and energy to do the things I wanted.

My process is straightforward.

One Big Goal

Every year I set one Big Goal. It’s my whale that I’m chasing.

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For 2014 my Big Goal was to write Sticky Branding. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. (The image at the top of this post pretty much sums up 2014 for me.)

The Big Goal sets the theme for my year, and it’s something I work on consistently every week.

What’s your Big Goal for the New Year? What’s that one big, hairy, audacious goal that will transform your business or life?

Three to Five Goals

Alongside the Big Goal, I set out three to five secondary goals. These goals are very important, but not nearly as resource intensive or large as the Big Goal.

For example, one of my goals for 2015 is to get into “mountain bike shape” by the end of May.

I picked up my mountain bike for the first time in twelve years this summer, and I immediately fell back in love with the sport. (I found myself playing hooky on several afternoons this summer to hit the trails.)

I’m committed to dropping the extra weight and improving my cardio in the off season so I can hit the trails in peak performance as soon as it gets warm again.

Beyond getting lean for biking, I have three other secondary goals this year. They are all SMART goals with clear deadlines and plans. I use the Goal Setting Worksheet to write each of my goals.

What are the three to five goals you want to accomplish in the New Year? Go beyond work or diet. What are the goals you need to focus on to make the New Year your best year ever.

Prioritize the Big Rocks

What are the habits or systems you need to put in place to achieve your goals?

Stephen Covey described these habits as “Big Rocks.” They are the most important tasks or projects you should do before anything else.

Implementing (or changing) the right habits is the most important part of accomplishing your goals. Writing down your goals is important, but to achieve them takes hard work and commitment.

task-listFor me, I am purposeful on identifying the tasks and projects I need to accomplish weekly to move towards my goals. I keep them front and center above my computer on a series of sticky notes.

The top row represents my priorities, and they are color coded into my Big Rocks (at present): book launch, platform, business development, health, and clients. The sticky notes below the first row are the tasks or projects associated with each priority.

This is basically my task management system. I’ve tried lots of digital solutions, but this one works best for me. It’s in my face, and I can see what I need to accomplish every week.

What are the Big Rocks you need to focus on to achieve your goals? How will you focus your time and resources to ensure you work on your Big Rocks week after week?

Make the New Year your best year ever

The New Year is a time for renewal and planning. It’s your opportunity to take a step back and assess where you are today, where you want to go, and how you will get there.

  1. What is your Big Goal for the New Year?
  2. What are your three to five secondary goals?
  3. What are your Big Rocks — your priorities — you need to focus on to achieve your goals?

Have a very happy and profitable New Year. I hope it’s your best year ever.