As the last post in our series on starting a new year, I wanted to end by encouraging you to think about the future more, not less. The previous posts on planning for the new year may have sounded precautionary or even pessimistic, but that was not the intention. I wanted to offer a different perspective to what can be an overly optimistic and “head in the sky” type mentality around the new year and resolutions.
The fact is, the ability to imagine and plan for the future is one of the unique human characteristics that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. So we should absolutely take advantage of it. The interesting thing about planning for the future is that not all of us do it in the same way, or to the same degree. Some of us think about the future as colorful images. Others plan for the future as a set of steps to follow or processes to perform. Some of us think about a future that is far off while others think about the closer future, which is fast approaching.
As you begin the new year and strive to reach your personal and professional goals, I want to offer you a few tips on how you can plan and imagine your future differently.
New Year…New Beginnings!
So far this month, LTAW has encouraged you to make your new year’s resolutions more practical; and therefore more achievable. We did this by encouraging you to examine what is already working and has worked in the past before ditching it for something new. And we suggested that when you think about reaching your new goals for this year you replace your idealistic and long-term goals for shorter and more practical ones. In the same vein, I want to urge you to match your resolutions with an actionable plan. Ask any successful person their “secret” and they’re bound to start by telling you about their plan. As we’ve said before, having a goal and achieving it are totally different things. This is why so many of us fail to achieve our resolutions and goals.
So today I want to challenge to not only think about what new goals you’d like to accomplish this year, but also the plan or system you have to reach them. Because having a goal without a plan is like wanting to bake a cake without an oven (or if you’re me, a recipe). The problem with deciding on what plan or strategy you will use to help you accomplish your goals is the wide range of theories and systems available. Here is a helpful blog summarizing some of the most popular and useful techniques for being more productive.
My personal favorites are the Pomodoro Technique and Getting Things Done (GTD). Probably the most popular is the Pomodoro Technique, which is a system of timed work “slots” that are separated by periods of rest. The advantage is increased focus, single tasking, and applied use of the brain’s natural need for rest. Getting Things Done’s main idea is that goals should be taken “out of the head” and put on to paper. Tasks should be broken down into their smaller parts and prioritized according to necessity and level of difficulty. As anyone who has been overwhelmed by multiple projects and deadlines can tell you, the ability to prioritize and manage several tasks is a work necessity.
What you may not hear as often, especially from staunch proponents of the various techniques, is that these methods are not one-size-fits-all. It is important as you search for an organization method, that you find one that works for you. Or better yet, you may find a combination of several techniques that meets your personal work style and personality. There is nothing wrong with trying out different techniques on for size until you find one that fits. In fact, you may even want to give a new method a try just to switch things up. Your current system of productivity may be helping you get by, but is it helping you excel?
As we begin the new year, I want to encourage you to get as excited about a new system or plan of action as you do about your new goals and resolutions. At the end of the day, they are the recipes that guide us to success.