The new year brings a sense of anticipation and change for the better, but often those big resolutions peter out into the same old, same old by February 1st. One of the problems is that we try to make too many big changes all at once, but committing to making just three small choices can make a huge difference by the end of the year!
- Choose ONE calendar/planner or task management tool and use it exclusively for a minimum of three months.
Too many folks are looking for the “magic bullet” that will transform their productivity, so they search and search for the next best thing: the newest paper planner, the newest project management app, the newest time management tool. They buy and download, and buy and download. A week later, they’re on to something new, because their newest toy didn’t immediately transform their lives. What they’re missing is that it takes creating a new habit and sticking with it to accomplish real change. Make a decision, pick one thing, and stop fooling around! Use it religiously every, single day for at least three months. By then, you’ll know whether it really works, if it just needs some tweaking, or if you need to move to something else. It’s not about the “stuff.” It’s about how you use it!
- Choose ONE habit to change in a very small way.
In his book Mini-Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, Stephen Guise talks about the power of small changes. The allure of New Year’s resolutions is the promise of change that will impact our lives in a major way for the better. But trying to make big changes too quickly is a recipe for failure (as demonstrated by the emptiness of the gym by the first week in February!) Guise writes that changing how you do something in just one very small way, one step at a time, is an extremely effective way of establishing a new habit and eliminating a bad one. Again, it’s a matter of picking just one thing and sticking with it. It’s setting the alarm in the morning for just 10 minutes earlier for a month, then increasing that until you’ve added that full hour to your morning routine. It’s getting outside to walk just around the block every day for three weeks, instead of trying to walk five miles all at once. It’s hanging your coat up when you walk in the door every day for two weeks, instead of trying to declutter your entire home in a weekend. Small, seemingly insignificant habits become large, consequential changes over time.
“…improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable—sometimes it isn’t even noticeable—but it can be far more meaningful, especially in the long run. The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here’s how the math works out: if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.” (James Clear, Atomic Habits)
- Choose ONE thing to accomplish by the end of the day.
Many of us start each day with the best of intentions. Our to-do list is lengthy and ambitious. Then, the phone rings, we open our email inbox to a deluge of new mail, our kid’s distance learning goes off the rails, a client texts with an “emergency” request, and before we know it, the entire day is shot to heck. At the end of the day, most of the items on the list are left unchecked and tomorrow’s list just gets longer. When this happens, it’s essential to pick JUST ONE THING to accomplish by the end of the day. Depending upon what your time is like, pick one thing and get it done. It could be something as simple as deleting a bunch of old emails, or a quick clean-up of your office space, or taking ten minutes to bookmark a couple of web pages for your current project so you have them at your fingertips when you start tomorrow. Even if it’s something minor, you will end your day with a feeling of accomplishment, no matter how small. Checking off even the tiniest task will help alleviate that feeling of, “I can’t believe it’s 6 pm and I haven’t accomplished anything!”
Forging a newly productive path into the new year doesn’t have to require blood, sweat and tears to make your way. Making these three small choices consistently will pave the way to bigger changes down the line!