Getting Started…The Only New Year’s Resolution Left

By Lauren Lee Anderson

Remember that day almost three months ago when you resolved to work harder? Give up bacon and cigarettes? Run three miles a day? New Year’s Resolutions are great, but without follow-through and execution they remain just empty commitments. Useless lists that nag at our subconscious.

According to the International Health Club Association, 90% of people who join health and fitness clubs will stop going within the first 3 months. Come on, it’s the end of Q1, time to renew that gym membership that you’re never going to use again. The same percentage of failure exists with business strategies. No matter how focused or resolved we are, bad habits have a way of creeping back in.

Why is executing so difficult? We know what our goals are, we desire financial growth and personal fulfillment. Implementing the right strategy is critical to ensuring your personal and professional success.

Putting Out Fires

Every Sunday evening I create a weekly plan. I look at it and cherish it, admiring it’s simple elegance. I want to climb the nearest building and shout, “ With this plan, revenue will grow and every person in the company will be successful. I have just 5 things to do to take this company to the next level!!” Then Monday morning comes along.

Suddenly, there is a technical problem with the blog, a contributing author decides to rebrand and asks me to postpone their piece (which is already scheduled for publication tomorrow), and a new hire needs at least two hours of my day to get up to speed on a project. My beautiful plan crumbles before my eyes, and I begin shifting initiatives down towards the end of the week as I get swept into seemingly urgent tasks.

Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. But doesn’t this sound familiar? I want to spend my day joyfully performing pre-ordained tasks, not putting out fires and preventing others from starting. I have discovered and developed 5 key strategies to be more effective and proactive and execute the goals that I set for myself and for my team:

1) Focus on what you want

The approach that we use is inextricably bound to the goals that we set. Stop formulating goals around  trying to avoid an outcome. For example, if you interact with employees because you don’t want them to quit, that is very different than interacting with them from a place of desire for them to excel. When you change the framing that you use, it becomes easier to align with what you want.

2) Wake up productive

Eben Pagan developed his Wake Up Productive program to help people to work more effectively by taking care of their physical, mental, and emotional health. One of the first steps is creating what he calls a morning success ritual. This is the most valuable element to executing my intentions because after performing the ritual for 30 continuous days, I had formulated healthy habits to replace the bad ones.

Instead of rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee, and checking email (and Facebook) on my iPhone, I start each day setting myself up for success. I remedy the dehydration of sleep by drinking a pint of water the moment I awaken. I invigorate my body with some yoga and light exercise. Then I sit silently for 15 minutes while focusing on my breath. Finally I eat a healthy breakfast and read at least one article to get my mind warmed up for the day.

By developing healthier and more sustainable habits, my body and mind are operating at optimal levels of performance. Starting out with stillness and focus always trumps a day onslaught with multitasking and distraction. And the very act of committing to what we know is best for us begins the process of living into our intentions on a daily basis. As Mariel Hemingway said, “A daily ritual is a way of saying I’m voting for myself.”

3) Protect your own time

So many of us hop out of bed, rush to work and go hard all day long including during break times. (Yes, answering emails at lunch is still work). We use stimulants to keep moving and indiscriminately hop from one project to another. This strategy — if you want to call it that — is completely ignorant of human physiology and psychology.

It turns out that our waking rhythm works much the same as our sleep rhythms. We drop into several 90-120 minute cycles of deep sleep with several “breaks” of light sleep. When we work we also have 90-120 minute periods of solid productivity and focus, after which the body and mind need some time to recover. The trick is to use these windows of time to our advantage.

4) Find the leverage

The rarest and most precious form of human energy is willpower. According to Pagan, effective work depends on learning how to harness willpower and preserve it for the highest leverage activities. Pagan advises the development of 50 minute blocks of time during the day for uninterrupted work, punctuated by 10 minute breaks. After each 120 minute cycle, take a 30 minute break to eat a small meal and rest. While this sounds like a waste of time, we are actually following our natural rhythms to work more sustainably.

This means producing better work in a shorter amount of time without taxing ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Instead of multitasking, try working for a completely uninterrupted 50 minutes on just one project today, that time window will seem infinite (yes, that means closing all tabs and setting your phone to “do not disturb”). And if there is a fire to put out, you will have more time to handle it without falling too far off the true track.

5) Transparency & Accountability

Transformation is hard for individuals, but our communities support us to live in integrity with our intentions. We have created a company culture around transparency and accountability. By making performance visible, we hold our peers accountable for results.

For others to hold us accountable, they must know where we are struggling. In our weekly 15Fives, employees answer questions to provide regular feedback about themselves, the company, and team performance. We are all transparent about the tough stuff — our challenges and failures — so we get the help that we need. And knowing that we have to share keeps us accountable. The community offers cheers when triumphs are shared and helpful feedback when we fall off target.

January 1 might be the first day of the calendar year, but as a catalyst for change that day is as arbitrary as any other.  Set a new intention today and be committed to seeing it through. It will take you several weeks to break free of your bad habits and commit to healthy ones. Stick with it, enroll others in your cause, and you will discover a whole new and productive way to work.

Photo Credit (edited image): CrossfitPaleoDietFitnessClass

What is one New Year’s resolution that you’ve just completely nailed? We’re happy to hear about a miserably failed one too.

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Human Resources Today