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January 1, 2014

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

According to the University of Scranton, approximately 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions but only 8% of these are successful in their resolution. Those can be depressing statistics – especially if you’re one of the folks who makes New Year’s resolutions. If you don’t make a New Year’s resolution, like me, you likely still find yourself saddled with business goals and objectives that you’re expected to meet.

The Secrets to Success

There are many reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail. Some are too lofty and others too vague. Let’s take a look at how you can get better success with your New Year’s resolution.

Get the Goal Right

Sometimes just how you look at the problem can make it easier – or harder to solve. You may define your goal as training your users. With that definition you may find yourself thinking about how you’ll stand up and train all of the users of the organization one classroom at a time. Defined differently, you may find that your real goal is for folks to make productive use of the technology. In that context you have more options than just instructor-led training. You might think about job aids and templates to make employees more effective at their work. This has the side benefit of keeping them working on their job and out of a training room.

Get Small Wins

Big changes come from small wins. Your favorite ball team doesn’t win the season from one game – no matter how important the playoff game is. They won the chance to get there through a series of individual games that were won by a series of plays. Each of the plays were successful because of the skills of the players. The players honed their skills one practice session at a time.

One key is to find a small thing that you can do (and see) which will lead you down the path you want to be on.

Get Started

A journey that you never start can never be finished. If your New Year’s resolution is to be more organized, block off an hour on your calendar for organization and planning each week. Use the first hour to build a backlog of the things you’re going to do to get organized. Getting started is sometimes half the battle.

Get a Measurement

Some goals are hard to measure. Measuring whether you have less stress or more happiness in your life is going to be subjective. So while having a happier life may be a good goal, it will be hard to do if you can’t come up with specific criteria for what will make your life happier. In this case, psychology tells us that people are generally happier based on their connectivity to other humans. You might measure (or guess at) your time spent with friends and family or perhaps the number of people that you’ve connected with in a given day.

By measuring these specifics, you’re able to make progress towards your goal of a happier life by daily – or perhaps weekly – progress.

Get Specific

Broad sweeping New Year’s resolutions like reducing your help desk calls by 10% is good, however, how do you do that? One approach is to identify what types of calls you’re getting, identify those that you can find a specific way to reduce, and then do it. Once you’ve reduced the first type as much as you think is practical, you can move on to the next type of help desk call. Each type of call you reduce may only impact the overall call volume by 1% — but do this once a month, and you’ll have reduced call volume by 12% over the year.

Get Practical

New Year’s resolutions can be Big Hairy Audacious Goals but they should be goals that you have control over. Having a New Year’s resolution to win the lottery doesn’t make much sense because you’re not in control. Similarly, making a New Year’s resolution to become a rock star doesn’t work. You need to make sure that your resolution is something that you can do, be, or learn.

Business or Personal

Typically we think of New Year’s resolutions as things we do personally, however, they’ve just got a different name in business. They’re called goals. They’re business objectives. They’re management by objectives. Business goals aren’t fundamentally different than personal goals. They’re just directed in another area.

Putting a Bow on It

While the success statistics on New Year’s resolutions may not be great, there are ways to be successful in your goals – personal or professional. With the above advice, don’t forget to consider the need to engage emotions. As I mentioned in my book review of Switch and The Happiness Hypothesis intellectual arguments will only get you so far.

Now that you’re armed with the tools that you need – both in terms of practical ways to get your New Year’s Resolutions done and an emotional context for being successful – you’re ready to go out there and make some. Maybe I’ll even make a New Years’ Resolution this year – to not make any resolution – and to start meeting my goals.

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