It’s 2017 and we want to actually make our New Year’s resolutions happen this year. Post Christmas blues and January to-do lists can make us feel as though getting everything that we intended done was just a pipe dream before the year has even gotten started. Getting January right is one of the keys to doing 2017 right, and that can feel like a lot of pressure, especially when coffers are a little light after the holiday season and the snow keeps piling up outside. Whether we’re trying to set the tone for our new healthy lifestyle or kickstart the language-learning commitment we made to ourselves, January is a time of change. It’s also a time that can often be on the painful side for a number of reasons, not least of all the chilly weather, which sets the scene for brutal-feeling post-holiday cutbacks and frankly makes us want to hibernate until March. The beginning of the year is a time when we feel that we should be jumping into the New Year joyfully and yet there are few natural highlights to guide us on our way. It’s the crucible in which we forge our path through the adverse winter conditions on our way towards sunnier climes and the achievement of our dreams and ambitions. But what are the best ways to seize the seasonal opportunity for new beginnings and fresh starts? Here are the top tricks for cracking your ambitions for the months pre-Easter holiday, in a nutshell.
15. Get real
As we are overly aware in January, we only have a finite amount of time and a lot of things to get done. One of the most efficient life hacks for getting more out of your time is to get real about how you spend it. By getting real I mean being honest with yourself about what you want, and making decisions that support you in achieving the goals that are close to your heart. This sounds obvious but so many of us fritter away our lives by being people-pleasers, accepting situations that don’t serve our best interests and sap our energy because we want to be loved. Or it may be that we don’t believe we can have what we REALLY want, so we compromise our lives away until we’re forgotten what it was that we were trying to achieve in the first place. The only real time you’re going to get anything done is now, so go forth and slay, like our girl Beyonce.
Another simple but effective get-things-done trick is to consider what is the most important task as well as which tasks are the most expedient. Research shows that achieving ‘flow’ state, or the state in which we are the most productive, is easier when there is an element of risk involved. In other words, we are more motivated to get things done when we are aware of the time constraints and consequences of NOT getting something done. Once we decide that it is necessary for something to happen, we will very quickly engage in getting it done, which is essentially what we mean when we talk about flow state: becoming absorbed in the act of doing. For this to happen, we need to make clear decisions about what we need to accomplish and when. Prioritizing our time is the most expedient route to achievement because it helps put an end to deliberation.
13. Plan ahead
Again, this sounds obvious, but preparation is probably one of the best things you can invest in to help you succeed in your resolutions this January. Let’s say that you are trying to change your diet to a healthier one. You know that you have a tendency to snack unhealthily at 4 PM when you typically have an energy dip. So plan ahead and bake yourself some delicious energy bites that you can treat yourself with, AND stay on track with your diet. Or let’s say that you know you are organizing a work event away from the office. You know that people are going to struggle to get there, so give them no excuses by putting together a bulletproof itinerary and providing all the information they need in your communications about the event. Or you know that a particular friend always turns up late. Make sure they understand your time is precious, and build that into your own schedule. Forward planning will make you effortless.
12. Be in the moment
Staying present in the present is going to help you make the most of the time because you won’t be wasting it thinking about the past or the future. Obviously, you won’t be able to plan ahead without thinking about the future, but it’s important to stay focused on what you are doing now that will have an impact on the future. Oprah has featured self-help guru Eckhart Tolle on her show numerous times, and his book “The Power of Now” has sold thousands upon thousands of copies. One of the best quotes in the book (which pretty much sums it up) is “don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance”. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for our minds to accept that getting things done can be stupidly simple.
11. Use your passion
If you’re feeling de-motivated, it’s probably because you’re fighting your passion. You’ll have things that charge you up and get you really excited. This is a sign that you’re making good use of your time. When we truly love something, working at it actually gives us more energy, because we enjoy what we are doing. This isn’t quite the same as enjoying eating cake (although that’s good too). It’s about setting your sights on a dream that you really invest in and believe in. Something that makes you feel really alive, and like yourself. This is the opposite of instant gratification. This kind of gratification we create ourselves, which is why it’s actually way more gratifying than anything anyone else could give us. When you’re passionate about something, it becomes its own reward, and you are literally on top of the world because you’re doing YOU, regardless of what’s going on around you.
10. Dream BIGGG
When you dream huge and don’t quite make it, you’re going to have achieved an incredible amount, so set that bar high. Even higher than you think is possible, and really go for it. When you go for higher standards than you think are possible, you know you are going to grow, which will better equip you to achieve your goals this year. It actually helps to fantasize about what it is that you want, because it is this fantasy that is going to sustain you when the going gets difficult. So make sure whatever it is that you want is absolutely astoundingly amazing. When you need to dig deep to find the drive to continue, you’ll be taking your reserves from this dream, so make sure it’s enough to motivate you, even on your darkest Monday morning! Our brains can’t differentiate too well between imagination and reality, so the emotions you feel when you’re dreaming about what you want will support you as you make it happen for real.
9. Take one step every day
You know the ancient Chinese saying “the journey of ten thousand miles starts with a single step”? You do now. Breaking our big dreams down into doable daily chunks is the quickest way to get them snowballing. It’s about having the endurance to keep persisting with what you want, against all odds, that is going to bring it to you. Things can seem impossible when we think about them all at once, so like a mountaineer, give yourself manageable goals and don’t look at the summit, but what’s right in front of you. This will help you to stay focused too because you’ll realize that there is always something you can be doing right now in the moment that is going to bring you closer to your goal. You’ll feel more motivated to continue when you make progress with these stepping stone goals, knowing that all the time you are homing in on your target.
8. Put yourself first
We’ve all been taught to put others first and that it’s selfish to be your own number one. But when you feel really good, you have way more to give other people. And if you don’t look after yourself, you’ll end up having to rely on other people more too. So treat yourself as you wish others would treat you. Shower yourself with gifts, believe every compliment you receive, create an almost crazy positive self-image and life for yourself. Life is tough at times, and we all need a little fluffing up, so do this for yourself and you’ll glide past problems because you’ll be so focused on everything that’s great about you and your life. Bring yourself up, be your own hype (wo)man, and remind yourself that you’re an utter goddess at every possible opportunity. This could be in the subtlest of ways, like wearing super cute matching underwear even when you’re not seeing boo, or winking at yourself in the mirror. Date yourself, and you’ll have so much more energy for getting things done.
7. Get creative
There may not be an immediately obvious solution to the circumstances that present themselves. This can often mean that the time has come for a game-change. If it seems like you’re stuck in a rut then it may be that a different approach will be more expedient. You’re still sticking with your goals, but it might be that the best way to achieve them is by taking another route. Can you move geographically to pursue your dream? Do you know anyone in the field you’re trying to break into? Have you exhausted the networking opportunities? Why not give something a bit different a try? You might even find you start counting down the days until your next boxing class! Another shortcut to increased productivity is expressing yourself creatively. Whatever your method might be – singing or writing a letter to your local government representative, it’s often through taking action (rather than over thinking) that we realize what our next right step is going to be.
6. Have fun
We sometimes demote having fun on our list of priorities when we are trying to focus on achieving our goals. But having fun has been proven in a number of scientific studies to be the closest state to flow state, the state in which you’re most productive. Lots of companies (see Google, Pixar, Apple) have caught on to this, and noticed numerous benefits, from increased profitability to lower numbers of sick days overall, when employees are happier. If you love what you do you will achieve far more than if your energy is diminished by drudgery and resentment. OK so being in flow is not the same as practicing the hedonism most of us have succumbed to throughout the holidays. But getting things done is by nature satisfying, especially when those things are closely allied to our interests and dreams. So get things done by focusing on what’s really important to you, which will help you enter the ‘flow’ state. Maintaining maximum flow in your life requires you to go at a pace that stimulates you but doesn’t overburden you too, so building fun into your day will help you sustain flow!
Making decisions is the shortest route to getting things done. That doesn’t mean you have to rush, but once you’re clear about what it is that you want, go for it! So often, we allow ourselves to waver in our determination to achieve a certain something. But when we do so we are frittering away our personal power. You’ll feel so good about yourself and your life when YOU know that you are staying true to your own sense of purpose. This will mean saying no to things that are not in line with our goals. That’s OK, because when you know what you want, those other things weren’t going to cut it anyway. When you are your own best friend in this way, you’ll feel amazing. And when things don’t go your way, you’ll know that there was nothing you could have done to change that. So don’t second guess yourself, go get it!
4. Courage is key
African-American writer and all-around wise woman Maya Angelou said that courage is the most important virtue because you need it to implement all other virtues consistently. Which is what you’ll need to do if you are going to bring about the success that you desire. Courage is about having a sense of yourself that keeps you going when the going gets tough. It is the essence of overcoming obstacles and requires that you believe you are going to succeed, despite any temporary setback. The good news is that being courageous is a totally different skill from the underdeveloped one that you are trying to progress with. So, however, tremulous your first attempts at something are, or how scary it might feel to do things differently from other people, remember that working your courage muscle is about keeping your eyes on the prize. See the big picture, and little problems will eat your dust.
3. Pause before acting
It’s tempting to pounce on a problem and get stuck in it, but often a really brief pause before we begin something gives us time to recalibrate. Then when we do act, we act in an even smarter way that will accomplish what we wanted to achieve much more directly. Or, you might even realize that the action you were about to take is not the most expedient choice. Pausing between actions gives us space in which our natural problem-solving intelligence can show up, which it can’t when we’re bogged down in the detail of working something out. Often, when we step back from a problem, or ‘sleep on it’, as the saying goes, we more easily make connections between things. We are able to see things more objectively, which means we can think and take action in a much less constrained way. So don’t be afraid to give yourself a break!
2. Take control
As Jim Carrey said in a 2014 commencement address, so often we avoid taking a chance on taking action on our top priorities through “fear disguised as practicality”. It’s SUPER easy to procrastinate about the things that we actually value most out of fear of one kind or another, whether it be fear of failure or fear of being our authentic selves. We are REALLY talented at selling ourselves all kinds of excuses for not taking control of our schedules, especially when it comes to the things we value the most. Because sometimes it’s scary to take a stand for what we value, especially if our partner/friends/colleagues/culture doesn’t validate those choices, or we think they don’t. But the fact is that 2017 is all yours to live as you want, and that’s really exciting. So get behind the wheel of your own life and make sure that you’re living it.
1. Do what you love
This is so much easier said than done. But then again, if we don’t commit to doing what we love, we are wasting our time by default. The best way to get more done in life is to go in the right direction, and as tired as we might be of hearing it, that means following your heart. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what that means for us, and there are no hard and fast answers. It’s part of the adventure of being alive to understand that for ourselves, and most of us will spend our entire lives figuring out the answer. So don’t worry if you don’t feel like you have it all together – that’s life! But if you know what you love, you’re a giant leap towards getting more done in 2017. And when you fall in love with your life there’ll be no stopping you!