The New Year is a time for resolving to do things differently and/or better, or to stop doing certain things altogether. By February our resolve has often faded and we are back to our old, familiar bad habits.
I think part of the problem with resolutions is that we tend resolve to change in a big way. Whilst such change may be desirable, and even necessary, having too great a challenge can lead us to fail.
This applies to business resolutions as well as personal ones so it is helpful to go back to the good old SMART way of setting goals and measuring success.
Be Specific about the goal you are hoping to achieve. For example, if you have resolved to update your business plan, a sensible way forward might be to choose the section which needs updating most urgently – say marketing – and start there. Then resolve to work on the marketing section for just 15 minutes each day.
The goal should then be Measurable so that you know whether or not you are moving forward. In the business plan scenario you might resolve to finish the marketing section by the end of January. If you have worked on it for 15 minutes each working day, by the end of January you would have spent 5 1/2 hours on it!
If your goal is not Achievable you will fall at the first hurdle as you will already have a subconscious excuse for failing. That is why spending a small amount of time regularly can be a great way to break down a task into achievable chunks whilst still getting the job done.
But a goal must be Realistic as well as achievable. Any accountant who is involved in the annual madness of January tax return season will tell you that it is absolutely not realistic for them to start looking at resolving anything until 1st Feb at the earliest. If you are in this boat have February resolutions instead of January ones – you probably feel as if February is the start of the new year anyway!
Finally, goals should be Timebound. Assigning a timescale to your goal is the key to achieving it. Firstly, it keeps you focused and secondly, if you arrive at the cut off date and you have achieved your goal you can take a couple of moments to congratulate yourself. Conversely, you will know you need to focus more on the goal in the future, if it has not been achieved by the cut off date – if it is still important to you.
And that is the critical thing – it is vital that you take the time to re-assess whether a goal is still important enough to you for you to continue working on it. If it is, set yourself a new timescale. If it is not, understand why your priorities have changed and make sure it really isn’t important (and you have not just lost interest) before letting it drop.