Aaaah, the beginning of a new year. Filled with promise, opportunities and (so far at least) mistake free. It’s no wonder people find this time of year so invigorating.
However, promises can quickly turn to frustration if you don’t act purposefully and effectively. As I’ve shared in a previous webinar, at least 1/3rd of your year is gone before it’s even started. The question is what are you going to do with the 2/3rds that remain?
Over the years, I’ve gained some insights into getting your year off to a strong start, and more importantly, maintaining it. Here are my five favorites:
Win the week
Back when I coached baseball, before each game I would remind the players to forget about “winning the game.” Their goal instead should be to “win the inning.”
One of the biggest challenges in achieving and maintaining top performance is not letting your emotions carry you away. Whether you’re on a hot streak or in a slump, the key is to maintain focus and remember the only thing you have any control or influence over is what you’re doing right now.
Like many, I look at the year as a game with four distinct quarters. In my planning I treat each quarter like a game (for fast growth businesses, a quarter behaves a lot like a year). I further break each game (or quarter) into 13 weeks (or innings). I’ll be sitting with my team tomorrow reminding everyone that we’ve got 13 weeks to win our first game, and if we win most of the weeks, we’ll most likely win the game.
Identify your most important activities
When’s the last time you sat down and really thought about the importance of all of your activities. It’s easy to get beaten down and busy with all of the demands that are put on our time.
However, all activities are not created equally. Take the time this week (if you haven’t already done so) to identify the 3 – 5 (and please, absolutely no more than 5) activities that have the biggest impact on your desired results. Then keep track of how much time you spend on those activities. You’ll quickly see that as you spend higher percentages of time on those activities your results will improve…and you’ll get less busy.
Topgrade your activities
Make sure your highest impact activities down, you’ll want to look back on them in the future. Additionally, make it a goal to identify 1 – 3 activities that you’re going to stop doing. I’ve found that the “stop doing” list is usually more powerful that your “to do” list.
Then, make it a goal every quarter to get higher value activities on each list.
Block your time…by days
Some of the most powerful advice I’ve ever gotten came from Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach, was the Entrepreneurial Time Management System.
The basic idea was to group certain activities together and allocate them to specific days rather than doing a little bit of everything every day. For example, I’ll take my list of highest value activities and block them to specific days. This allows me to really focus and get into a flow for my most important actions.
He also had a term he calls “Buffer Days.” These are the days you clean things up and prepare for great high value days. By blocking your time in such a manner you get more done with a higher quality of output, which has the benefit of giving you more free time.
Set intermediate goals
Annual and quarterly goals aren’t good enough. By the time you reach them (or fail too) it’s too late. Additionally, people are not naturally designed to delay gratification. Set intermediate targets that allow course correction and/or rewards.
Plus (and this is a BIG plus), when you’ve set your milestones, don’t overcorrect. Give yourself (and your team) the time needed to have impact. There’s nothing worse than someone who sets the goal today and starts course correcting and judging tomorrow. When that happens (even if you’re doing it to yourself) you actually reduce engagement and decrease the likelihood of success.