How I Got My 2020 Resolutions Done During A Crisis
June 8, 2021
December 21st, I was able to sign off my last objective for the year. With my ego nice and high, I took a deep lean into my couch and in the southern hemisphere’s burning, Christmas sun, I began to switch off for the year. Bliss.
I do not share that feeling with many of my friends, many of whom completed less than 30–40% of their goals for the year (both professionally and personally).
But don’t get me wrong, I’m as surprised as I am happy that I stuck to my resolutions. The planning of this didn’t happen over a few wines in December. It took a good few years to hone the skills and practice the techniques I now know work well.
Here are the four things I do to complete my resolutions.
1 — Keep them simple stupid
I wrote out about twenty resolutions in late 2019 and put them into categories of one year, three years, and five plus. This allowed me to see which ones I could work towards but allow for flexibility. There were six that remained within the one year column. Two of these appeared to be more suited to other people (which you should always avoid), the other one was a nice to have and the remaining three became solid resolutions I knew would make me happy.
My final three were:
Automate to 80% I wanted 80% of my top revenue generating channels, quarterly objectives and big time wasting tasks (like financial planning) to be automated and easily accessible.
Read 50 books My partner can read double that, but I could barely scrape ten a year. The plan was not just reading a hundred, but to enjoy the process.
Pick up two, brand new hobbies I planned to put as much time into new hobbies as I did with my work. The idea being that I had a healthy release and could build my cognitive ability with brand new challenges (the key being hobbies I was a complete novice in).
By keeping the resolutions simple, I began to notice around July, August that they were working for themselves. For example, writing blogs on the books I read, contributing to more passive income.
2 — Make your resolutions policy
Making something policy tells others it’s a blanket rule, no one is exempt.
This is important because our resolutions often take a back seat by late February, early March when external commitments begin to come with pressure and due dates, overpowering our ability to commit to something relatively new. (By the way, building new lifestyle changes takes, on average, ten weeks to become routine and second nature — so set a countdown reminder in your calendar to keep you inspired on progress).
When you set really black and white, staunch rules to keeping to your resolutions, you set expectations across work and family that no one is above.
For me, resolution three for me was picking up Disc Golf and starting Aquascaping. One comes with the requirement to leave the house, the other means keeping plants and animals alive. I don’t have to tell my clients “Hey sorry, I can’t make our meeting, my fish need cleaning out, then I need to go bang some chains”. But, I can set boundaries like finishing at 6pm on the dot, no weekend work, ensuring my hobbies are also part of my task list, and putting ‘out of office’ replies on.
306 billion emails were sent each day in 2020, so my latter point becomes even more reliable.
I have found an ‘out of office’ to be an extremely effective tool to let people know my schedule when they choose to bombard me with emails. This is what I send out, feel free to copy, paste and adapt:
Thanks for the note and apologies about this automated response.
I’ve had to turn off my emails for a few hours/days to get back on top of critical projects that have taken a backseat. Please rest assured that I am still very much accessible over the phone on [Number: make it a landline or a number a colleague will pick up] for any emergencies.
I set aside time to check my emails every Monday AM, so expect a reply then.
Thanks and I appreciate your patience in my efforts to be more efficient.
It’s a little harder to leave an ‘out of office’ on for loved ones though. I’ve found — and especially so during lockdowns — that allowing the time to concentrate on your resolutions means involving them in that decision from the get go. Don’t just set Monday to Thursday from 6pm and tell them to suck it, ask them what they think, after enquiring on what their plans are for the year too.
3 — A crisis is not an excuse, sorry
Many people found that in 2020, all bets were off, but were happy to slag off companies like Amazon who profited exponentially. But what surprised me (with minor effort) was that my three resolutions were still very much rolling ahead with a bit of adaptation.
I made a deal with colleagues and clients that during lockdown, I would work approximately six hours on the basis that office distractions, commuting and meetings were mostly off the table. It meant that I was working less hours, with the same output, freeing up time for my interests.
I know I’m the majority when I say I actually enjoyed lockdown. I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy long haul flights; the capsule of limited distractions and responsibility — all you have is what you prepare in advance. There is something weirdly nirvana about that restriction.
Yes, the difficulties of the pandemic response is tough, but when it’s not business-as-usual, it’s innovation time. Prove how exceptionally adaptive you are as a person. Make it a personal challenge and experiment in ways to get what you want done.
“Bad businesses fail during a crisis, good ones survive, the best ones thrive”.
This should be no different to you personally.
4 — Plan them ridiculously efficiently
I have a two to four step process to filling out my day, week, month and quarterly goals — all in the name of keeping to what I know is good for me.
Look at your goals and break them down into three or so core objectives. For example, if it’s to reduce $10k of debt, your four quarterly objectives might be to pay of $3.3k per quarter, research and open a good savings account, reducing grocery spend by 30%.
Add these into a project management plan (digital is better so it’s always accessible). I use Asana. 2021 looks something like this:
Set aside a couple of hours on the last weekend to set tasks for the month ahead (I prefer doing this on a Sunday as there are fewer distractions).
Categorise these into tags: Critical — the jobs you know will contribute to your resolutions. Important — tasks that (if absolutely necessary) could be moved around but still must happen this quarter. Nice to haves — tasks that are done last and if all that’s left, prove you’re own track (can usually be something less serious and fun).
I then schedule these all within the month coming month.
Look back on step three of monthly planning and see which tasks need to be done right now. Spoiler alert, it’s the ‘critical’ ones.
Schedule these across the week in your calendar as well as your project management tool. I do this every Sunday and give myself plenty of buffer for emergencies.
Set aside 15 minutes before you close your laptop each day to check in on the tasks you set on Sunday.
Are they still relevant? Move them around slightly but don’t take them out of the week, just move the cogs to make it work (see the spaces in my calendar above).
Set an alarm that’s significantly ahead of the beginning of your schedule each morning and allow your mind to open, and your body to get hydrated.
Smash those goals.
It’s easy to say resolutions are all on you, but that’s not really fair. Life gets in the way. But if we put the processes and tools in place while we’re planning out the resolutions, we can get ahead of the rush the year will present us.