The first week of the year is often a time for making resolutions. We all know the common ones: Lose weight; get in shape; spend more time with family, etc. Resolutions for our workplace might be to improve our time management, have better relationships with coworkers, or increase our productivity.
However long or short our lists, too often they fail to become reality. For many of us, follow-through on resolutions fades into the woodwork by Valentine's Day. In fact, I'd bet that by February 14th, most folks can't remember what their New Year's resolutions were.
I believe this lack of follow-through stems from three basic problems:
1) The goals are fuzzy – not clearly measurable.
2) The goals do not have a mapped out plan for success.
3) No accountability system is in place.
Let's review three keys to overcome these obstacles and turn our resolutions into reality.
Clear targets are easier to hit. Many know about the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to help write clear goals, but many do not, so now is a good time for a quick review.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-factored. Using these criteria, it's obvious that "lose more weight" is fuzzy goal. It's not measurable. Similarly, "Spend more time with the kids" is not measurable, and "Increase productivity" has the same problem.
In other words, if we don't know how much to increase our productivity, we may become frustrated and give up, even if we're making improvements.
Clarity and a sense of achievement come with specific Measurability. How much weight? How many hours per week with the kids? What percentage of productivity?
Problem: In some resolutions, measurability is hard to quantify, such as improving relationships with coworkers. But by thinking at the next level, such resolutions can be written in terms of specific behaviors that would bring them about. For example, an "improving relationships" resolution might written as follows: "Each day I will find five things my coworkers have done that are good and I will compliment them on those things."
Note that resolutions can take the form of goals (one-time milestones) or standard operating procedures (ongoing activities). Reaching a certain weight is a goal. Maintaining that weight relies on standard operating procedures. Both formats can be S.M.A.R.T., it's just that with goals the time-factor is a specific date and with standard operating procedures it's a frequency of occurrence (daily / weekly / monthly, etc.).
Resolutions should also have a specific action. Lose weight. Increase productivity. And, as indicated earlier, the fuzzy resolution "have better relationships with coworkers" is made clearer with specific actions such as "find five things…" and "compliment them on those things."
We should also make sure our resolutions are Realistic. Tripling our annual income may be an impressive goal, but it's often not reasonably possible to do it.
Another reason many resolutions fail is lack of a plan. It was probably someone with a lot of experience who said "If we fail to plan, we're planning to fail."
For resolutions to succeed we should identify all that needs to happen. Write the steps out. Map them out. Draw projected timelines. Set milestones. Not having a plan is like getting in a boat, pointing it toward Hawaii, and setting sail without any charts, food, or supplies—you could wind up sick and starving on your way to Antarctica.
3. Be Accountable
Your plans will not work. You must work your plans. And resolutions have a much better chance of becoming reality when we work with accountability partners. Many clients tell me that if it weren't for having to discuss their progress with others, they would procrastinate and not get much done.
They key here is to drop any macho John Wayne I-can-do-it-myself attitude. Executives use personal or professional business coaches for accountability. Successful athletes stay accountable to their trainers and coaches. CFO's stay accountable to CPA's. Stay on track with what you want to do by being accountable to at least one other person. More is better.
Bottom line: Resolutions have a much better chance of becoming reality if they're S.M.A.R.T., if we develop a realistic plan of action, and if we keep accountable to people who want us to succeed. Set up these conditions for success—and then on Valentine's Day you can email me about the progress on your achievements.