As the New Year is coming fitness clubs will be preparing for mayhem. Early January their facilities will be packed and there won’t be enough room to swing a cat. But by the end of March everything will have gone back to normal. There will be more than enough room for everyone to exercise. Many of those who made that New Year resolution to lose weight will be back on their couches eating donuts. You do not want to be one of them, do you?
Take a look at this list of strategies that you can use for planning your long-term life and professional goals. Don’t expect too much right away and don’t use them all at once. Try using the system to find which plan and life improvement strategies work for you.
- Recycle some space — I assume that you are a pretty busy person. You don’t spend your time sitting on the couch all day long waiting for someone to call. You may have an infinite to-do-list of tasks, you may be juggling between work, kids and workouts. Your natural choice would be to start planning by ADDING new activities. But stop right there. First, you need to make some room. To define useless habits and activities take a look back at what you have been doing daily, monthly, yearly. Do you enjoy the way you spend your evenings? Is this weekly meeting something you can’t live without? Which client will you fire? Look at you calendar, at recurring tasks on your to-do-list, scan through your emails or read monthly reports. Decide on 1-3 tasks you can erase from both your schedule and mind. Do you feel the air flowing now?
- Review your company — there is a belief that you are a mix of the five people you spend the most time with. I see that it works on many levels. You are a blend of the happiness, values, interests, and wealth of the people who surround you. Select them with care and maintain the relationship hygienically (communicate openly and define expectations). Do you have an old friend who you feel attached to because you have studied together? If you don’t feel like meeting with him anymore, don’t feel obliged to stay in touch. Take a look at your work environment. It can take up 30-40% of your time every day. Don’t let a toxic boss or annoying lunch-buddies influence the way you are. Apart from friends who you love for being who they are, a rule of thumb for business relationships is to punch above your weight. By this I mean searching for people who are better then you in some field and inspire you in the areas that you want to grow. Spend more time with them and be there to offer your help in advance.
- Binge on new ideas — if you have accomplished a task or a so-called relationship diet (taking some time off from your relationships) you may have some fresh, untouched space for novelty. Don’t fill it right away, as it is possible that you will put back in something similar to what you have just removed. You need some inspiration to find new ideas. My general strategy is – try things you haven’t done before. Traveling to a new place, picking up a new hobby or reading a new book are just some ideas. I have been a fan of Tim Ferris for years. The number one reason for that is that I have got so much inspiration from his work as a writer and a podcaster. If you don’t have your inspirational idea just yet, read “Tribe of Mentors” or listen to “The Tim Ferris Show” and learn how his guests, all of whom are outstanding performers, think, behave and make decisions.
- Set a yearly theme — making a detailed plan may not work for everyone. Some, including myself, may become overwhelmed with the number of projects and ideas they have generated. Pursuing these small tasks may distract us from what we really want to achieve. We may end up marching eagerly in the wrong direction by loosing the bird’s eye view perspective. What has worked really well for me is setting a yearly theme. One or two words which will define most of my actions. The last two years I have used “balance” and “focus”. In the year of balance I started paying more attention to my wellbeing and personal life. The year of focus helped me get rid of “shiny objects” – incoming projects that seem attractive at first sight, but didn’t add benefit to my long-term goal and scattered my attention.
- Plan now — use the excitement and willpower of the moment to plan which activities to commit to. For me turning an idea into a specific event works very well. If you want to learn scuba diving – choose the beginners course, select the time, place and book it right away. Put it in your calendar and pay for it. If you postpone it – other activities will flood the empty spaces in your schedule and you may end up not scuba diving for another year. Having some fun and creative activities to look forward to empowers your motivation for dealing with mundane every day tasks. What things do I like to plan ahead for? Travel, courses, and events with family and friends.
- Understand your cravings — if only it were so simple to just know what one wants. In the world where a lot of people face unlimited opportunities the fear of missing out may lead to analysis paralysis. In other words there is so much we can do and so limited time to do it that we end up not making any decision. Where to start? How to diagnose what I really want and where to put the emphasis in my new plan? There are two tools that have worked very well for me and are commonly used in business coaching practice. The following tools can navigate you through your “needs discovery”:
- The wheel of life — mark on a scale from 0-100% how satisfied you are with each area of your life. They can include the ones listed below, but feel free to replace any field with a life sphere of your choice. In the end those marked the lowest may require the most focus. Look at them and choose one that you have the most discomfort with. What would it look like if it was a 100%? What are you going do to get there?
- The goal matrix — presented below is a simple tool for idea selection and creation. It will guide you through the whole process. Just fill in each gap with your thoughts:
You do not want to be that person who buys a yearly gym membership and shows up only twice. Take some time now, make some space and plan what you really feel like doing. Do not forget to review your goals every week or month. It is OK to readjust if you don’t feel something is right anymore. It is not less important to celebrate little achievements, so your flame of motivation keeps burning.
What I have discovered — setting your mind on the goal (eg. yearly theme) in some miraculous way leads you towards it. Even if you miss some minor checkpoints on the way, your subconscious is guiding you. At the end of the year you will realize that you have moved in the expected direction. For that solemn reason it is worth just thinking about your current situation and your dream state, finding your motivation and putting together a plan. Good luck!