It’s January 4th. Now that the hangover has subsided, you’re experiencing the incredibly relieving ability of being able to form sentences again. Better yet, the headache that you hit you like a semi-truck yesterday morning disappeared and you can finally think clearly. I practically took down an entire case of Emergen-C yesterday, how’d you cope? In a majority of people, the start of a new year (combined with your regained intellectual abilities) creates an inclination to clarify a sense of direction, most often through the form of goal setting. Despite our good intentions, the problem is only 8% of Americans are ever successful at hitting these goals (Forbes). Let’s beef this statistic up, are you in?
Start With Why
If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s Start With Why TED Talk, stop reading this and watch it now. In 18 minutes, you will understand and learn one of the most useful communication frameworks. Plus, it has 25 million views. That means 25 million people know something profoundly useful that you don’t know yet, but you can easily learn. Here is the big takeaway specifically related to this section:
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. “
This concept helps global companies like Apple gain an entirely new level of buy-in and commitment from their consumers, as explained in the video. Similarly, this structured approach can help you gain the buy-in and commitment needed from yourself to execute on your goals. When we understand WHY we want to achieve Goal X and we resonate with our reasoning, you’re more likely to see these goals through to fruition. You’ll also save time by eliminating those goals not worth pursuing (i.e. goals based on expectations from your family, friends, or society that don’t resonate with you). Now that you’re clear about why you’re doing what you’re setting out to do, set yourself up for success by implementing a sustainable system.
Getting Past February
Gaining clarity into your WHY is one thing, but sustaining your efforts for longer than two months is a long and tough road. Have you started something with what seemed to be an incredible amount of enthusiasm, only for it to fizzle away a couple of weeks later? What could you have accomplished if you kept persisting? To avoid fizzling out in 2016, leverage the theory of backward induction to your advantage.
Put simply, backward induction is the process of reasoning backwards in time, from the end of a situation, to determine a sequence of optimal actions (thanks, Wikipedia). Here’s how backward induction applies to your ability in achieving your goals:
Are you starting to get the picture? Identify what your yearly goals are; identify what you need to accomplish each quarter to hit your yearly goals; identify what you need to accomplish each month to reach your quarterly milestones to hit your yearly goals; identify what you need to accomplish each week to meet your monthly deliverables to reach your quarterly milestones to hit your yearly goals (see Gary Keller’s One Thing). Whew. Take a breath, only a little bit more.
The issue is now figuring out how to put this all together. How much or how little of your time is needed to execute and follow through? Here’s a recommended breakdown of how often reflection and planning is needed to stay on course. In regards to time invested per session, this is entirely contingent on how well you know yourself, your aim, etc. Note: These are recommendations based on books I’ve read, programs I’ve followed and personal experience (I’ve included links to these at the bottom of this post):
- Yearly Goals Planning: x1 per year
- Quarterly Milestones Planning: x4 per year (a session would consist of reflecting on the previous quarter and planning for the next quarter)
- Monthly Deliverables Planning: x12 per year (a session would consist of reflecting on the previous month and planning for the next month)
- Weekly Outcomes Planning: x52 per year (a session would consist of reflecting on the previous week and planning for the next week)
Are you feeling overwhelmed? You shouldn’t be, you should actually feel excited because there’s good news. Here’s the beautiful thing about this strategy: the work you put in builds on itself. Although this looks like a lot of sessions, they aren’t mutually exclusive. While I’m planning my next quarter, I’m simultaneously knocking out a high-level vision of what the approaching month should look like, and all I’ll need to do then is drill in the details… and so-on.
Personally, I invest around an hour-and-a-half every Sunday in my Weekly Outcomes Planning, and about 30 extra minutes for Monthly Deliverables and Quarterly Milestones planning. You can actually sustain this process quite easily, it isn’t impossible.
The content of these sessions is up to you. Here are the two resources that have been fundamental in the development of this system:
- Live Your Legend’s Weekly Planning Guide (for figuring out the framework used DURING the planning sessions)
- The ONE Thing (for figuring out what matters when it comes to taking action AFTER the planning sessions)
Now, go kill it.
It’s my genuine hope you can rest easy knowing how to stay productive and on track in 2016. Begin by clarifying your WHY, and follow up your efforts with a sustainable planning system you can easily integrate into your life. If you have any questions, please comment below. If you have any feedback on how we can make this better, please feel free to reach out.