I’m sure you all have great resolutions for the new year. And for sure you’re totally committed to reaching your new goals in 2011. We all are.
But when is that day when you’re fit and go to the gym everyday coming? You know what I’m talking about. That day when you don’t eat anymore crap; the day you quit your job for a better one; the day you’re financially comfortable and only work on what you want; the day you’re appreciated and recognized for what you do; the day you don’t waste so much time watching stupid stuff; the day you work efficiently and produce more in just a few hours than you used to achieve in weeks of procrastination; the day you launch that project you’ve been talking about; the day you take that trip you’ve been thinking of for so long. You know what day I’m talking about. When is that day coming?
The thing about new year resolutions is that they’re usually vague goals you want to reach sometime during the year. Or general things you want to change (or maintain). But before you know it you’re back to your old routine and you once again fall asleep at night to the thought of “that day” you’re dreaming of and how awesome it would be.
Why can’t we stick to our new year’s resolutions and keep up with that energy we have at the beginning of the year? What happens along the road that interferes with our good intentions? There are 2 reasons: our resolutions are too vague and our sense of time screws it all up.
Vague resolutions are hard to maintain
What does it mean to “get fit”? Even “going to the gym every day” is too vague. Commit to a specific series of workouts and you’ll have a much easier time keeping up with your commitment. Write your weekly workout schedule in detail, print it out and stick it on your door every Sunday. Concrete and specific resolutions are easier to turn into actions. They’re easier to maintain and sustain.
Our sense of time maintains the illusion that we have time
We think we have time to do this and that. We can do this at some point and that sometime later. Definitely tomorrow. Next week at the latest.
Our concept of time also distorts our appreciation of how much time things require. Here’s an example: let’s say I want to achieve a certain task, such as launching a new “reviews” page on ultimento.com. This task is a simple, actionable task towards achieving my goal which is to make my business more successful. When I estimate how much time this will take me, I say to myself that given my current work load and all the other stuff I want to get done in the next couple of weeks, I’ll need one or two days to get this done. Maximum 3 days if I take unanticipated things into account. Now I assign myself the goal of getting this done within 2 weeks – so by January 20. That’s when I start feeling that I have time. 3 days relatively to 2 weeks – I have plenty of time. Little by little these 2 weeks become just a few days, and then just one day. Finally here I am, it’s January 21 and I haven’t achieved that one small task. Sure I worked on it a bunch and I’ve made some progress. But it’s not done. Now I feel bad. But tomorrow I’ll feel that it’s ok that I didn’t get this done on time. That’s just a small thing after all. Next thing I know, it’s ok to not achieve my goals.
If we can have a better, more realistic sense of how much time things require that will help us scope out our work more intelligently and get out of the vicious cycle where goals are vague and deadlines are just there for decoration. Note that this is NOT about assigning yourself impossible milestones and being super stiff about your deadlines. That would just add more stress to your life. Quite the opposite. It’s about being flexible in regards to your expectations but committed to simple, actionable tasks towards your goals.
Also it’s important to understand that I’m talking goals you care deeply about, such as the resolutions you made this year.
Folks, no more dreaming about “that day”
Let me tell you a secret – that day is already here. That day is today. And what you do today defines what you’ll be doing tomorrow, and the next day, and next week, etc. And today is all about the concrete things you do (or don’t do) right now.
To make today “that day”, you need to ask yourself every day what are the concrete steps that you taking today to make this specific day “that day”. Start by asking yourself this question today. I mean right now.
As for myself, I decided to launch today a new series of short tips to increase productivity and get things done. The first tip is getting off email which I posted earlier today… and I’m committed to following my own advice .
On your end, start by doing the following: