Do you make resolutions or set annual goals for your business and personal life? With the holidays past and a bit of New Year reflection, it’s the time of year when we think about how to make the coming year great. Or at least try to shed some pounds, yell less, or be more diligent in our businesses.
I don’t like resolutions. People largely expect to fail at keeping them, just track gym usage and you will see what I mean. Can’t get a machine in January, ghost town by March.
For years though, I’ve been setting goals, reviewing my personal mission, and checking my actions against my values. I started on an annual cycle, but absent a superhuman level of self-awareness and self-control, there is pretty good data out there to suggest that doesn’t work. Annual cycles are too long. Small business (and life) changes to quickly. Most people can’t focus on an objective more than about 12 weeks away, so my longest goals are usually quarterly. Anything farther out than that is more of a vision than a goal. I’ve also found that monthly and weekly goals are even more effective, so I incorporate those to help me reach the bigger goals and to make sure I am addressing other important stuff, like health and family, along the way. And yes, I use nearly daily check-ins to try to stay on target.
So, with this well-tuned system, why do I still miss so many goals, both business and personal?
Part of the reason is that life is crazy. Just like it is unrealistic to try to predict life a year out, it’s actually pretty hard to predict how the week or even the day is going to go for most people. Trying to schedule every minute is a recipe for frustration. I know. I’ve tried.
But I think I’ve found a solution and it’s been right in front of me for a long time.
Focus on your core values and center yourself on them every day.
This isn’t new. It’s really the whole point of writing down your values in the first place. You want to use them to align your daily activities. And keeping them in mind helps you better judge the shifting priorities and circumstances the day brings.
Understand Your Failures
In just a few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about why I fail to meet many business goals. Some of them are objectively unrealistic. But more often they are getting bumped by other priorities, especially family and health. I need to be better about planning for non-work interruptions and appreciating their importance.
Put First Things First
It also helps me see when I am prioritizing the wrong stuff. We all know we should do the most important stuff first. But most mornings it seems like it is the loudest stuff that comes first. Checking in with your core values can really help turn down the noise and help prioritize better.
Improve Your Motivation
Why matters. Your values help you connect with why you are doing what you do. That is incredibly motivating. I’m not immune to wasting time or craving distraction. I have definitely felt a productivity increase from checking my core. It’s a simple technique to help avoid being pulled off course.
So, what did I actually do to make this change?
It’s going to sound a little hokey and too simple to work, but it was really only three steps. Now, admittedly, I have a set of written core values I’ve been maintaining for close to a decade. If you don’t actually know what your core values are, then you have some work to do.
- Simplify your core values into a short phrase, list, or mantra. Three words is ideal. If you can come up with a clever way to connect and remember them, that’s great. For example, I’m using:
Inspire. Inform. Interconnect. (3 “I” makes it catchy)
- Write it out on a sign or big PostIt and put it somewhere you will see it every day and, ideally, throughout the day.
- Read it. Early and often. When you feel your motivation fading. When you aren’t sure what to do. When you are frustrated or challenged. Read it. Saying it out loud can help to if you work situation allows.
Too simple, right? But it’s been amazing so far and I wish I had started it earlier. I’ve heard it a million times from various business, productivity, and self-improvement coaches and books, but never followed through on it before. My mistake. Don’t make it yours.
Let’s make this the best year ever for living and working to our core values and reaching our business goals.