Too many people fall victim to the fallacy that New Year’s resolutions work. They don’t–and for a very good reason. Many of the most important goals that people want to accomplish require regular attention. Whether you want to lose weight, improve a personal relationship, or grow your book of business, you can’t get there by making a one-time commitment.
Here are five tips for turning your new year’s resolution (or any other goal) into reality:
1. Get it on your Calendar—In my experience coaching lawyers and other professionals, the biggest mistake I come across is over reliance on a to-do list. Lists can be helpful to identify what’s on your plate, but they generally don’t help you prioritize what’s important. If you want to increase your chances of actually reaching your most important goals, work off your calendar and not a do-list. In other words, schedule time for your most important goals and treat that calendar entry like any other important appointment.
2. Breakdown Projects into Next Steps. It is not enough to add a calendar entry to your schedule. You need to know what you will do during the time you have set aside. Too many lawyers make the mistake of keeping track of entire projects rather than individual tasks. Thus, for example, if your goal is to write an article or blogpost every month, your calendar entry should identify the next step or steps for that project. Often this means that you need to set aside time on your calendar to brainstorm or research what the article or blog post will be about. Many projects never get off of the ground because lawyers don’t allocate time for brainstorming or research. Likewise lawyers err when they wait to have enough time to complete the entire project in one sitting. Realistically, we know you aren’t going to have that much spare time, so block off 15-30 minutes and calendar your next step.
3. Make your Biggest Goals your Top Priority. It’s tempting to take an incremental approach to setting goals. That’s why goals tend not to change very much from year to year. But if you want to make great strides in growing your business, focus on attaining those goals that have the largest potential impact. For many of my clients, this means devoting more time and effort to bringing in their very best clients. How about you? What do you need to do to attract your big fish?
4. Don’t Keep it a Secret. You are much more likely to commit to a goal if other people know about it and can hold you accountable. The very act of announcing your goal to others make it more real and also increases the perceived negative effects of failing to reach the goal. Many of us are motivated to not disappoint others, so use that fact to help you reach your most important goals.
5. Use Rewards and Punishments to help Reach Milestones. When your goal involves a long-term commitment to do many intermediate steps, there is a greater risk that you will lose motivation before reaching your goal. That is why it important to create and mark milestones along the way. This can take the form of rewarding yourself when you have, for example, written three blogposts on time. You can also use the pain associated with negative consequences to help you push forward. For example, you set up an account that will make an automatic contribution from your credit card to a cause you absolutely hate if you don’t reach a milestone. Imagine how you would feel if failing to write enough weekly blog posts caused your hard-earned money to be donated to a cause or political candidate you loathe. Although this sounds gimmicky, the underlying psychology is sound. Humans need help to reach goals that require ongoing effort and focus, and we are often more motivated to avoid pain and obtain pleasure.
Let this year be the year where you make audacious goals and actually reach them.