planning

Goals and the Rise of the Resistance

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January 1

It's the happy new year day and, I'm not gonna lie, I LOVE THE VIBE. The first day of the year has a distinct, awesome feel. It's rolling in possibilities. It's soaked in optimism. It's unencumbered by past failures. It's forward facing and promising. And people are wishing each other happiness. I mean, WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE about the first day of the year? 

And yet, I know some of you smart people may want to object to this kind of new year's naiveté. I mean, after all, it's just another day. Still has those 24 hours. The sun still rises and sets like all the other days. There's nothing to see here. Move along. 

While this may be a compelling argument, there is a difference. This difference is, in a word: perspective. Somehow, we've conspired to organize time into these (perhaps arbitrary) units of 365 (or 366) days. And when you're at the start of a unit (perspective), it feels good, expansive, hopeful. Yes, it's a mind game. But mind games matter. 

And as I've been partying with the possibility vibe, I've been thinking about goals. Today, my Instagram feed reflects basically two sides of the goal coin.

There is pretty post after post after post about resolutions and goals. People are posting their word for the year. Or their theme. Everyone and their cousin are offering courses on goal-setting. There are more planners than you could shake a stick at. And some planners have stickers. (Again, what's not to love?)

Then, there are those few posts that disparage the futility of resolutions and declare goals are dead (or something akin). 

Perhaps trying to distinguish themselves amongst the crowd of new year's goal-getters, there are those who strike a maverick, rebellious tone. One person posted that they are not a Resolution Person. They are more of a Choices Person. Whatever it takes . . . 🥳🤗Some posts use sad statistics about the likelihood you will not fulfill your new year's resolutions and goals as scare tactics - perhaps so more people join the ranks of the jaded. 

This is why I love Instagram. Especially at the beginning of the year when we're all basically taking about the same thing (which again, tells me the beginning of the new year has some power. Just sayin')

So here are my two cents. Goals have become so commonplace in the modern lexicon that they almost seem passé. But the truth is, when you really think about it: goals are radical. Goals are the language of the hero, of the creator, of the maker. I would even say, of the maverick.

Goals are imagining - conjuring up - a new reality and then deliberately taking actions to make it happen. Goals are a sneaky, little way to disrupt the status quo. Goals = Change. You cannot pursue goals while clutching your current reality. 

Goals are a sneaky, little way to disrupt the status quo. Goals = Change. You cannot pursue goals while clutching your current reality. 

And here's where the story of goals gets super tricky. Goals are, by nature, a commitment to change. And so, they are inevitably met with resistance. 

We are wired to secure our safety at every turn. Change is unknown, risky. There could be mistakes or failure involved. And so the prospect of change - however positively it is spun (such as a goal you want to achieve) - still makes some secret part of your psyche a little, well, uncomfortable, triggering a whole stealth army of defenses. 

You get bored. Or sidetracked. Or doubtful. Or confused. Or distracted. Competing rationales arise out of nowhere. Business as usual takes over and you forget. Or you decide that goals are so 2018. This is the resistance at work. Goals are revolutionary. Goals change life (or work) as you know it - in ways small or large. And there are no guarantees. 

So when thinking about goals, it's important to get smart to the resistance it will inevitably stir - either from others or, more insidiously, from yourself. 

And this is why goals are the language of the hero. The hero must anticipate and meet the challenges of the journey. The hero is not daunted by resistance but fueled by it. Challenged by it. 

Goals = Change. And this change is not only in creating a new measurable reality. The change is in you. To create something new - to achieve a goal - however material it may be - inevitably requires trading the security of autopilot with the demands of presence and responsbility.

And this may be the greatest feature of goals. While creating the change, the creator changes. 

As you cook up your goals for 2019, consider how you will meet the resistance. What might the resistance look like? And what will you do when you come face to face with it? What will you change and how will you change?

Oh, and
Happy New Year! 


PS If you would like to test out ways to make progress on your goals (and disarm the resistance), consider joining me and some other goal-getters in the online Power Start program that beings the week of January 14. You can get information here: https://productivity-power.teachable.com/p/power-start

How Will You Make the Most of This Year?

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The confetti is cleaned up, the holiday decorations are put away, the resolutions are made. The celebrations are over, and now it’s getting real. The festive pause and optimism of the holiday season gives way to the cold truth that time waits for no one.  

So the existential question we face once again as we look toward a new year is: how will I make the most of my time?

The answer is simple: Get a plan. Without a plan, you may meander your way to achievement. But it will be unintentional, and most likely, not nearly as satisfying or impactful.

Creating a plan is the first step to harnessing the clarity, focus, and aspiration you need to create something out of nothing, to make your own "dent in the universe" as that dreamer and doer Steve Jobs called it.

Creating a plan is the first step to harnessing the clarity, focus, and aspiration you need to create something out of nothing, to make your own “dent in the universe” as that dreamer and doer Steve Jobs called it.

 

A plan is power. It is fuel. A true plan is not a perfunctory, bureaucratic exercise.  Rather, it is a living map for progress and accomplishment. What do you want to achieve by end of of the year? Your plan sets this vital, creative conversation in motion.

A plan in your mind is just a nice idea. Write it down. Give it form. Writing down your goals increases the likelihood of achieving them by 42%, according to a 2015 study conducted at the University of Dominican in California. It seems foolish not to take advantage of that kind of leverage.  We all know that the days can easily fill up with a million things to do. It stands to reason that having a written plan increases your focus day to day to stay on your course.

I recommend that you build a plan in the following time blocks:

YEAR: What do you want to achieve by December 31st?

SEASON: What do you want to accomplish in 90 days?

SPRINT: What do you want to accomplish in 2 weeks?

 

The Year: The Blueprint

The year timeframe establishes the destination and a rough blueprint to get there. Below is a sequence of steps to identify your blueprint for the year. You can brainstorm answers and then refine.

 

Step 1- Vision: See it

  • It is December 31 of this year.  Write (without censoring) what you have achieved in:
    • Your professional work.
    • Your personal life.

 

STEP 2 - Focus: Structure it

  •  List the areas in your professional work that you will focus on this year.
  • List the areas in your personal life that you will focus on this year.

 

STEP 3 - Goals: Define it

  • For each area, come up with 1 to 3 goals/results for the year. Be specific. Use numbers as applicable.
  • For each goal, identify why the goal is important. This will help validate whether the goal is worth your effort and connect to it’s purpose in the larger scheme of things.

 

Step 4 - Projects/Deliverables: Map it

  • For each goal, identify the key project(s) you will initiate to achieve it.
  • Assign each project to a 90-day season(s). When will you work on this project? (e.g., January through March; April through June; July through September; October through December) This is a guestimate so that you begin to see the sequencing of activity throughout the year.

 

Step 5 - Verify: Refine it

  • Review your plan and refine it. Consider:
    • Is it ambitious enough? If not, up the ante.
    • Is it too ambitious? If yes, simplify.
    • Are you missing something? If yes, add.
    • Are you satisfied with how it addresses the parameters and expectations of your stakeholders (e.g. organization, bosses, team, clients, family, friends, etc.). If not, adjust.
    • Is the general timing right? If not, adjust.

 

Remember, your plan does not need to be perfect. It needs to be the right mix of aspirational and reasonable. Throughout the year, you will make adjustments or perhaps completely revamp it as new information and circumstances come your way. Your plan sets a broad framework for an ongoing “conversation” about your direction, progress, and tactics.

Have fun with the planning process and make it work for you. Are you a digital type? Then use Evernote, Trello, Asana or other online tools to help you create your plan. Or create a document, spreadsheet, or slides. Are you an analogue type? Then get out the stickies and markers and white board and have at it. Are you ambidextrous? Then create with stickies and white boards and document with your digital tools. 

 

The Season: 90-Day Focus

When it comes to day-to-day activity, yearly plans and goals can begin to feel abstract and irrelevant. This is why many espouse the value of 90-day goals and plans. Achievement in a 90-day window suddenly gets real. It’s imaginable. It’s in your face.

The 90-day timeframe supports you to zero in on achieving the key the results that help you progress to your goals for the year. The 90-day segments, or seasons, provide a timeframe that is long enough for tangible achievement, while short enough to generate focus and momentum.

You can divide your year into four 90-day seasons. For example:

Season 1: January through March

Season 2: April through June

Season 3: July through September

Season 4: October through December

 

Step 1 -  90-Day Goals

  • Keeping in mind the goals and projects you identified for the year, identify the key results or goals you want to achieve by the end of 90 days (the end of the season). Be specific and use numbers (quantify) when possible.

 

Step 2 - 90-Day Projects+Key Tasks

  • Identify the projects that are part of achieving those goals.
  • Identify the key tasks for each project.

 

Consider using the 90-day season to narrow your focus to make significant progress on one or a few of your goals for the year, rather than trying to make incremental progress on all of your goals. 

Your plan for the upcoming season may result in your adjusting your annual plan – as the timeframe will help you get real about what is possible and what is important. As a result, you may adjust, expand, or simplify your overall plan for the year as you work within seasons.

In your yearly plan, you approximated the season for your projects. However, you do not need to create the plan for each season at the start of the year – just the upcoming one (or the one you are in!).  What happens and what you learn in this season will impact how you plan for the next. Keep the focus on the next 90 days.

 

The Sprint: 2-Week Focus

When it gets down to day-to-day work, consider focusing in 2-week sprints. This timeframe intensifies the focus of the 90-days even further. With this immediate timeframe, you translate your goals/projects for the 90-days into concrete, day-to-day action.

 

Step 1 - 2-Week Goals + Steps

  • At the start of each sprint, identify what you want to achieve within the next two weeks to advance you toward your 90-day goal(s).
  • Identify the steps you will take and, press go! 

 

 

A plan is art and science.

The art part happens in the creative, intuitive thought that goes into projecting into the future, seeing what does not yet exist, and mixing the ingredients of time, energy, resources, skills, and environment.

The science part happens as you see each project, sprint, and season as an ongoing experiment and apply the lessons you learn from the data of day-to-day action. As you progress through the sprints, seasons, and year, you will fine-tune your plan for meaningful achievement in a real world. 

But mostly, a plan is conversation. It is an ongoing dialogue with the future. And the only reason to talk to the future is to change the present. Happy planning!

But mostly, a plan is conversation. It is an ongoing dialogue with the future. And the only reason to talk to the future is to change the present.