Starting the New Year with a plan that will work!

In the new year it makes sense to focus on how to get the most from the year ahead, so, here are some tips for getting the most from any New Year planning and, most importantly, keeping that plan going for the whole year.

To start with, make sure that you’re getting your priorities right, so what is at the top of your list for making your year the best one for you? Is it spending more time with your family or partner or friends, is it getting a new job, changing career, going solo, is it making more time for you, going travelling? It could be any of these things or none of these things, but knowing what, for you, is an absolute must – no negotiation, no excuses.

Supercharge that priority by telling other people about it, making it a mantra, writing it down, putting it at the top of every to-do list you write, making it your wallpaper, or some picture that reminds you of it. Your subconscious is a funny thing, it tends to process statements without filtering or judging them so if you wrote down ‘Family is my #1 priority’ then when your subconscious sees that it tends to process it as truth. So, the more you see that statement, or something that reminds you of that top priority, the more likely it is to stick.

So once you’re clear on your MOST important goal that will make your year a success, making that priority an achievable goal is the next task. So for example, say you want to spend more time with your family in 2019. To make that smart, you could instead aim to have a minimum of 4 family meals a week together plus not work weekends. That way, you’re making your goal specific and measurable. Whether this is achievable is kind of down to you. If needed, you could work gradually toward achieving your goal, putting in place things that will make sure it happens. So, for example, if you want to start a podcast and release it on a Monday, but your goal is to keep your weekends free for your family, you could set out some time each Friday to avoid weekend working on it.

The ‘R’ of ‘Smarter’ goals is RELEVANT and if this goal is part of your most important priority of 2019 then it is, by definition, relevant to you. Last part of SMART is TIME-LIMITED. The important thing is to stick to the time plan. So there should be no vagueness or ‘hopefully at some point during the year’, it needs to be specific. In terms of ‘SMART-ER’ goals, which includes an additional E and R, these letters stand for Evaluated and Reviewed. So for a goal to be SMARTER, it’s worth checking in on it every now and again and making sure that it’s still relevant and important.

There’s nothing wrong with swapping out a goal with something more stretching if you feel you’ve already built the habit around that goal that you set at the start of the year. So, by mid-year, you may be saying ‘box ticked’ with regards to family meals and not working at weekends, but what about spending more time helping with the kids’ homework or watching a movie together as a family, or something else valuable. Make goals SMART but don’t be a slave to them, let them be dynamic so that you can shift them or build on them if you need to.

OK, next thing for the new plan is to build your new habits NOW. With any goal or habit, the best thing you can do is start as soon as possible, preferably right now.  That way, you’re riding the momentum of having done the thinking, made your plan, worked out your goals, told people about them, created your mantra etc…

Your brain is going to be most receptive at this point to you making a change in behaviour, partly to reduce cognitive dissonance (this idea that we the brain likes things to be aligned rather than out of sync, so if you’ve done all of the planning etc. but you haven’t shifted your behaviour yet, your brain feels that’s a ‘dissonant’ state and will want to create a ‘consonant’ one to reduce any feelings of anxiety).  So use that knowledge to start your new habits now.

Last thing is to go easy on yourself. It’s all too easy to be over-ambitious with your goals for the year. I’m going to lose 3 stone, run 2 marathons and start 4 new businesses in 2019. Are you though? Or are you going to look back at the goals you set, the plan you made at the start of 2019 and realise you’d given yourself too much to do? And spend most of the year beating yourself up about it? If so, be more realistic with your plan at this point. And even if you realise that you have been a bit OTT with what you thought you could achieve, remember that small steps are still progress, little wins are still wins, hitting 50% of your goals is better than hitting 40%. So show yourself some love and some compassion, there’s no use in being overly self-critical.

So there’s my 4 things in a nutshell for getting going in 2019:

  1. Be clear on what matters most to you
  2. Make your goals SMARTER
  3. Build new habits now
  4. Go easy on yourself

Good luck, and happy new year!

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