How to turn New Years Dreams into Resolutions

(This article was borrowed from my site. But it applies to trainers, course designers, and writers as much as it does to project managers and entrepreneurs. So I am repeating it her for you.)

It’s that time once again for reflection and resolutions.

Now reflections are okay if they’re positive. But has anyone ever known a resolution to actually be successful?

So I would like to propose to you a better way.

Let’s begin with a high level process based on a set of questions:

  1. What went well over this past year?
  2. What went poorly?
  3. Given the list from 1, what do you want to be sure to continue doing?
  4. Given the list from 2, what do you want stop doing?
  5. What new things do you want to try?
  6. How will you do each of the things in 3, 4, and 5?
  7. Is there a priority to your list?
  8. Is there anything that could stop you?
  9. How will you prevent the items in step 8 from occurring.
  10. When will you do each of the items identified in step 6 and 9?

The problem with resolutions is that they tend to be airy, fairy dreams of what you wish would happen. In short they are goals and objectives. But goals and objectives don’t achieve themselves (unfortunately). They need to have a firm project plan behind them (or in some cases an operations plan).

Item 3 consists of identifying what was most responsible for the good things happening last year. Those are the things you want to repeat. Luck by the way, tends to come to those who do everything else right.

Item 4 is the other side. There are things that you did in the past that were less than successful.  You need to identify what was most responsible for the bad things happening. Those are the things you want to stop doing. Of course, luck does have a part to play, but many bad outcomes are the result of bad activities. So don’t just answer … bad luck … and give up. Why did that happen?

Item 5 is all about improvements. These are largely the old resolutions. What do you want to do better? What do you want to improve? They will lead to the new things you are going to try doing. Some will be successful and end up in list 1 next year. Some unfortunately, will end up in next year’s list 2. That’s life.

Step 6, 7, and 10 are all about turning pie in the sky resolutions into achievements.

Step 6 is the step we tend to forget to do. Unfortunately, until we determine how to achieve we will never be able to achieve our goals.

Unfortunately, the normal state of affairs is that we have more dreams than we can possibly achieve — in one year or many. So it becomes necessary to put some form of priority to them. That way we can decide that there are too many items and deal with just what can actually be achieved. Thus step 7.

Step 8 and 9 is facing an ugly truth. Stuff happens. And usually our dreams fall off the rails. Either they are far harder to achieve than we expect or they were far easier. So the key to success is to be realistic. What could go wrong? What could happen to make us achieve faster? Don’t forget this last question. Sometimes success too quickly achieved sows its own failure.

But knowing what could go wrong (or right) isn’t enough. We need to do something about it. Step 9 is all about developing a plan to avoid the event or reduce the impact. Unless it is a positive of course. In that case we want to encourage the event and take the most advantage from it.

Now that we have a list of all the things we need to do to achieve our goals, all we need to do is put them into motion. Doing so means we first have to decide when we’ll start. That’s the point of Step 10. A task without a start date will never happen. So pick your date to start doing it and get moving.

There are many strategies beyond this, of course. You can focus on one or two items short term and get those happening. That gives you a win that helps keep your confidence up. You can identify which have the most bang for the buck and focus on those. But those are all fancy additions. This is the first and essential step that turns a pie in the sky resolution into a SMART goal.

Good luck with your resolutions.