When it comes to new year planning, most people make resolutions. Resolutions that frankly fail within the first few weeks of the new year. So if you want to do new year planning the right way, I suggest you steer clear of resolutions and instead focus on these four things:
Every year I create a simple drawing. I've been doing it for decades. It's a series of concentric circles. These days I draw a horizontal and vertical line thru the center as well—breaking up my “dart board” into four quadrants.
The circles (from the smallest in the center to the largest on the outside rim) are numbered, 1-4. The quadrants (broken apart by the lines) are numbered 1-4. The circles represent how close in relationship we are. The quadrants represent life spaces—work, home, family, social (like church or soccer).
The point of this entire structure is to help me plot key relationships I have. The dots each represent someone. But that's not the exercise. The exercise is the arrow I draw connected to that dot. Am I moving people in, or moving them out?
This proactive chart helps me think primarily of which relationships I'm investing in. Getting that right takes effort and energy. But mostly it takes attention. And it rarely happens by chance.
I do this exercise every year. It helps me make sure that there's alignment between my goals, hopes and actions.
I know that some people think of resolutions as routines. And my sense is that those are the resolutions that often work. I think of routines as the brainless work I do each day.
I don't know if you've ever realized, as you pull into the parking lot at work, that you have no recollection of how you got there -that you can't recall the specific turns you took to get there.
That's your brain taking care of the routine things.
And isn't that what we want for our new resolutions? Eating healthy, working out more, reading more books, or whatever changes you want to make?
To get routines to stick, I find that the most important thing to do is to find other routines to attach them to.
- Want to start running regularly? Do it before your morning coffee.
- Want to read more? Read for 15 minutes before your morning shower.
- Want to eat better? Prepare meals in advance on the weekends, after visiting family.
You can't always predict how far these new routines will take you. I started, years ago, writing daily and not only did it create work, and revenue, but it also created a whole new set of friendships.
If you get those two things right, you'll be in a great place… until something doesn't work. And at that point, relationships and routines won't get you where you want to go. You'll need a facility for course-correcting, and that's what reflection does.
Do you take time—daily, weekly or monthly—to review your life?
For years I've used a simple planner (one I created myself) that helps me reflect on the upcoming week. I spend Sunday nights filling in my “zone” activity, highlighting my roles (and goals for each role), and writing out my “big three” things for the week.
I also do something similar, on a daily basis, to write my “big three” each day. Those are the things I will do, no matter what. It's how I determine when I can go to bed.
But the point here isn't the ability to get things done. It's the ability to reflect on the day or week, or month, and see what kinds of things you want to adjust or correct.
The last of the four is something I don't hear often enough. But just like you have a “to do” list, I find it's critical to have a “not to do” list. What things are you going to stop doing?
As you get clarity on the things you want to stop, you'll find that it frees up more time and can even change your personality (I know a friend who quit social media and as a result became a much happier person in life).
So make a list of the “restricted” items for your list to help you have a great year.
New Year Planning
As you can see, the four things aren't single objectives. I don't have that list for you because that's something only you can craft. But what I can tell you is that these four will help you get more done in 2017 than anything else.