New Year’s Resolutions: What will you focus on?
- Posted by Liz Gooster
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- goal setting, goals, new year, new year's resolutions, objectives
I recognise that the start of a year is a somewhat arbitrary divide between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, based on the social construction of the calendar. Yet I’ve always been fond of the opportunity it gives to reflect back on what’s happened in the last 12 months, to review any change, continuity, achievements, and then to look ahead to the coming year and what it may bring. As a coach, I’m very partial to goal-setting and so I’m now even more drawn to the idea of setting and capturing annual objectives that will stretch us, enable us to grow, and help us to achieve the things that are meaningful to us.
But what’s most likely to be effective? What about the traditional list of New Year’s Resolutions? Well, I had one of those last year. I could only manage to find the list itself a few times, so there was definitely room for improvement in my tracking and measuring system! But by New Year’s Eve, I’d made reasonable progress on 6 or 7 of the 10 items on there. Because I’d written my list down, rather than keeping it in my head, and because most of the things on there were genuinely important to me, it was fairly embedded and ‘real’. Yet I can’t help feeling it could have been a much more powerful tool.
So this year I’m intrigued by a book by Peter Bregman, called 18 Minutes: Find your focus, master distraction and get the right things done. It’s partly a time management/productivity guide, an alternative to books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog. It’s also – and for me, this is the most interesting part – about defining your focus in the first place, before you charge ahead ticking things off your to-do list and working out how to be more efficient so you can get more things done. Bregman recommends pausing, hovering above your world, to see where you are now and where you want to go. He describes this as the equivalent of pressing the ‘Find Me’ button in the Google Earth app. In other words, take a look at the big picture and decide what it is you’re actually trying to achieve.
In 18 Minutes, Bregman advises that for each year we identify five areas of focus, split between business and personal, and that we aim to spend 95% of our time in these five areas. His overarching mantra is ‘leverage your strengths, embrace your weaknesses, assert your differences and pursue your passions’ and ideally, your areas of focus should be at the intersection of these four elements. The focus areas need only be very ‘headline’: if you choose, you can break each area out into more specific objectives and measurable goals, but the key is to have a simple, easy-to-remember list of your priorities. This will make it easier to decide what projects to take on and which tasks to spend time on, and will maximise your chances of doing the things that really matter to you.
While in places I found the book’s folksy style a little grating, it contains some valuable ideas. As a result of reading this book and picking out the nuggets I’m drawn to, my new year’s resolutions for this year are very different. I have a list of just five areas of focus, one-liners that I know I’ll remember – even if I can’t find the piece of paper they’re written on! In addition, I have some concrete goals for each of the five areas. One of my areas involves writing regularly for my blogs. So publishing this post means I’ve already made good progress!
I wish you all every success with your own goals for the coming year, whatever form they take. I’d love to hear different approaches that work for you, or that you’ve come across and would like to share. And now I need to fly: I’ve got things to tick off lists!
If you liked this, you might like …
- My review of David Allen’s Getting Things Done
- My review of Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog!
- My 2012 post on getting the year off to a great start
- My post on achieving what you want
- My post on reflecting on the year just gone
- Peter Bregman’s post on *not* setting goals!
- David Allen’s post on not making new year’s resolutions!
I like to describe myself as happily ‘At Large’ in an independent portfolio career, balancing coaching, leadership development, coach training and being a mum to my young daughter. Positive psychology is a big influence on my work and I’ve recently gained an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology from the University of East London. My interests include reading, writing, travel, yoga, Zumba, coffee and wine! Connect with me on LinkedIn and sign up for my newsletter, Positive Intentions.