Jan 062011

Resolutions are goals – goals with a deadline of one year or less to get them done.  The beginning of a new year is magical for getting people to revisit their goals and plans for the future.

Five key steps will help you make your resolutions happen:

  1. Tell every positive, encouraging person who you respect, and whose respect you want, what your resolutions are.
    The most important people in this group are the ones that are the most positive, the ones that want you to succeed and encourage you to follow through, the confident ones that are never jealous, the optimistic few.  By telling this group, you help yourself, because your integrity is on the line.  If you value your integrity, you will nail your resolutions because you want to keep the respect of your love ones.  Avoid sharing your goals and resolutions with people that have proved to be stealth naysayers.  When someone casts doubts on your plans, it hurts your chances of success as your will power can waver.
  2. Go the extra step and write down “why” you want to accomplish this resolution.
    Why is always more inspiring than what.  Writing it down is always more powerful than thinking it alone.
  3. Make a plan, with concrete steps and milestone dates, to accomplish each resolution.
    Without a plan, many things look like elephants, too big to eat.  With a clear and detailed plan, the elephant is cut into small bite sized pieces.
  4. Get started on each in January.
    Getting started is always hard.  People often say they are not motivated.  Motivation is a by product of getting started, not the other way around.  Many times, I don’t feel like going to the gym.  But if I get in car, walk through the gym doors, my motivation for the work-out returns.
  5. Make a point of reminding everyone from step #1 above how you are doing and what progress you are making all year long.
    Put it on your calendar.  Have the conversation.  Good, positive people will help you get through the stumbles and obstacles.

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe its a great idea to make resolutions that change your habits for the better.  Habits tend to build into bigger and bigger accomplishments because they have a “sharpen the saw” effect.  It is not always best to simply saw and saw and saw to cut down trees.  It makes a lot of sense to improve yourself, to take time to sharpen your saw, because it makes cutting trees down a lot easier when your blade is razor sharp.

If you have not been setting and accomplishing New Year’s Resolutions in past years, start small this year.  Set only one or two, and make them well within reach.  Accomplishing one is better than writing down a dozen and accomplishing none.  Momentum grows when you start nailing your goals.

So, in support of Step #1, here are my resolutions for 2011, most of which are targeting positive habit change.  I am Optimism Man so I decided 10 would be a nice ambitious number — after all, I’m an optimist.

1. I will plan the one most important, strategic task I will do tomorrow every night before going to bed. This is my Strategic Big Rock (SBR) of the day. I will write it down on my daily plan for the morning.

To qualify as a ‘strategic task’ in my book, a task must pass my test of future value.  I look at any task and ask two simple questions – If I work on this task, will the result continue to produce value one month from today?  Will it continue to produce value six months from today?  A task is not strategic if the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions.

2. Work on the one SBR task as early as possible the next day, with a goal of finishing it before lunch.

Other people’s issues and urgencies tend to invade our agenda as the day goes on.  The sooner I can get focused on my SBR, the more likely real progress will be made.  Every day, I will write down in my journal exactly what happened.  In my opinion, there is no greater motivator in the world than Pale Ink, a topic of its own that is coming to OptimismMan.com soon.

3. On the fitness front, I will work out daily all of 2011, alternating between aerobic and strength training every other day.

In other words, I will lift weights on odd days and put in aerobic work on even days or vice versa.  My goal is to have a maximum of 24 days off, without a workout, in 2011.  And like everything else, I will jot down what I did daily in my journal.  Its far to easy to have selective memory if you don’t make accurate notes.

4. Start a sideline venture in partnership with my wife that is up and running, selling product to customers by July 4, 2011.

This is my only resolution that is not about changing my habits for the better but rather it is a specific project which promises to be both exciting and difficult.  More to come as the venture progresses, but, like everything else, our first job is to create a good plan with bite-sized steps before we try to eat this elephant.

5. Reduce watching useless television by half.

I really don’t watch much TV right now, but it is really hard to find value in 95% of time spent when watching the tube.  No matter how you look at it, TV is quite successful at addicting us to hours without productivity.  So, I will do three things on this front.
a. I will watch no TV for half the days of 2011.
b. I will strive to have activities planned to do while watching TV.  For example, having the TV on while folding laundry or walking on the treadmill is far better than sitting on the couch.
c. I will keep a clear log of all my TV time spent.  Pale Ink is powerful stuff.

6. Improve my diet, especially adding more portions of vegetables and fruit.

Last year, I dumped 27 pounds using the pale ink method… I wrote down everything I put in my mouth.  I used the excellent LiveStrong.com app on the iPhone that they acquired from Daily Plate.  I got away from writing it down over the last number of months, but now realize that although I’m not looking to lose a lot of weight in 2011, writing it down helps with good diet decisions every day.  The ‘cost’ is only two minutes per meal (cheap!) but offers great benefits.  So, I’m committed to writing down everything I eat and drink in LiveStrong’s application all year.

7. I will schedule two one-hour sessions per week for personal improvement activity.

I always have things I want to learn, things I want to do that are completely outside my mainstream flow of life.  For example, for years I have said that I want to learn Spanish.  I have lots of tapes and CD’s and books.  Yet, I have not ever gotten started.  I have wanted to write a few simple programs in Javascript, but have not yet learned Javascript at all.

I will change this ‘never get started’ scenario by putting sessions on the calendar for personal improvement items every week.  I may have to change locations (library or Starbucks perhaps?) just to put walls around the time, but I will do it.

8. Post to OptimismMan.com two to three times each week.

Back in 2002, I did a podcast series that was very fulfilling but time consuming.  Interestingly, the term podcast didn’t even exist then, so engineering the audio took lots of time.  OptimismMan is the next step in my underlying drive to share my thoughts and ideas in hopes of helping others.  I will stick with it.  WordPress technology makes this very easy to do so there are no excuses.

9. Eliminate all complaints.

Sounds a bit crazy I know, but I have experience.  I gave up complaining for Lent last year — it turns out to be much harder to do than giving up beer or chocolate, because you have to be conscious every waking hour.  It turns out that it can be done.  I engaged my family.  They became quite adept at spotting a complaint and telling me about it on the spot.  The trick was to put a tally application on my smartphone so that I could quickly and easily log each complaint.  The same power of pale ink, writing it down when it happens, works on this front too.

10. Change my discretionary spending habits for the better

Last year, I started jotting down (yes, in the smartphone again) every time I spent money on a discretionary item.  My definition of discretionary is not necessary, which is an interesting concept in our current age: is spending on your smartphone service ‘necessary’?  (I think it is 😉  )   A better example for discretionary for me is ‘do I need another T-shirt when I have a hundred in my closet’ but its really up to each person to define their own version.

This year, I will do two things.  First, I will get rid of impulse purchasing completely.  If I see something that I want, I will write it down in my task management software for one week minimum before returning to the scene on the crime to purchase it.  I think most things, once you think them over, wind up not getting purchased at all.  Secondly, I will continue to write down all purchases… little purchases, often small and mostly useless, tend to add up.  If you don’t write them down, its easy to forget where the money went.

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