I’ll be honest: I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. In Scotland, where I’m from, our New Year’s tradition is to clean the house so you’re ready for the next year, and I still try to do that (although my wife might argue that I’m slipping). But I have been hearing from a lot of friends lately about their own resolutions, which got me thinking about why these commitments so often fail, and whether there might be a business-minded solution there.
I think I’ve come up with something.
1. Stop being ruled by the calendar.
The calendar is the most inefficient way to manage your time. Here’s why: What’s due this week or this month may not be the highest-priority item on your list. Organizing your to-do list by priority first ensures that you’re always on top of what’s truly important to you. If your resolution is to work out at least three times a week, instead of slotting that workout into dates plucked at random, hoping that every week will go perfectly (you know it won’t — and the first thing to get chucked will be your workout), put that rendezvous with the gym on your priority list, and make it happen.
2. Remember that it’s more about time management than commitment.
The reason most resolutions fail isn’t because people are weak willed so much as the fact that most people aren’t great at time management. That’s probably why whatever they’ve resolved to do isn’t getting done in the first place.
So, think about your time realistically. Continuing with the workout example, do you find it easier to squeeze things into your mornings or evenings? And, if the answer is “evenings,” will you actually have the energy to work out then, or are you likely to be burnt out from work and just say forget it?
People set themselves up for failure all the time, simply by scheduling things at inconvenient times. Really look at where you might be able to make time — is lunchtime an option? Is there a task you can put off for a while so you can build up a routine around your workouts? Can you get up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later without losing much?
3. Quit separating work and ‘life. ‘
I should probably have made this No. 1 because I think it’s one of the most important things. Here’s what happens in most people’s lives: You’ve got a “work” to-do list and/or calendar, and a “life” version. You consult your work list daily and generally stay on top of it. Your life list, on the other hand? Mostly you just look at it when you’re adding yet another task that’s bound to be ignored for weeks.
But you have only one life, so you should have only one list. Otherwise, your work tasks will almost always take precedence and your life management will suffer. My priority list is a mix of business and personal items, and while it’s still heavily weighted toward work, the important life stuff is on there and getting done a whole lot more efficiently than it was when it was off in the life-list ghetto.