Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions! A note to my team…

It doesn’t matter how many blogs I read telling me that new year’s resolutions aren’t worth the thinking time spent on them, I’ll still attempt to make one and I’ll still be consoling myself when I’ve inevitably not made it to the end of January with my resolution intact.

I decided last year that it would be the last time I make a new year’s resolution. Guess what? That resolution didn’t work. So this year when someone asked me what my new year’s resolution is, I decided not to make my speech about why resolutions are ridiculous and instead pass on one of the best pieces of advice I had in 2015. It’s all about micro-actions!

Size is the problem. Resolutions are huge. They build up in front of you — mountains made of commitments, contracts with infinite possibilities all culminating in the promise that if you get there, if you achieve this thing, the person on the other side will be awesome, new, fixed.

And I really think it’s the root of lots of productivity problems at work, too. The same instinct that makes us want to resolve to join the gym or give up foods beginning with R seeps into making resolutions about work. We resolve to be better, to get our entire to-do list done. To stop doing this and start doing that. In making the statement in that way, you render it difficult to achieve, no matter how realistic it was in the first place. It’s asking for trouble. Failure, here we come.

I don’t believe in making grand sweeping statements about how you’re going to be in the future, both at work and at home. But I’m not suggesting resolving to be better is rubbish. There’s nothing inherently wrong with noticing something that you want to change and to set goals for achieving it. But there is another way of doing it.

Give 10 or 15 minutes a day to something that you want to change — maybe to create, research or learn — and make it about the doing and the practical, rather than theoretically making promises that’ll be hard to keep. You’ll find you actually get things done that over time impact on the general, long-term stuff, rather than building them up and then getting anxious about the things you didn’t achieve or change. Avoid the kind of phrases that are doomed like “moving forward” and “from next week” and do something that makes you feel really useful — right now. Tasks won’t become mammoth and overwhelming and you won’t feel like you’ve messed up. Think gentle nudges rather than painful arm twists.

Because letting yourself down is one of the worst feelings, managing the expectations you have for yourself is so important. Small wins soon make up big changes. And if this particular hour/day/week didn’t go so well, don’t worry! Failure is part of success.

The advice is to look at the micro. What are the small steps that will get you there? Be micro-ambitious. Focus on small targets rather than big ones and you’re much more likely to make progress.

In 2015 I was introduced to an app called YOU. I could not recommend it enough. YOU is fun, easy to use and doesn’t take itself too seriously but at its core is a serious message: small steps to a better you. The thing I love most about it is that it doesn’t make you feel bad for lacking commitment to it. It’s OK to neglect your resolutions for a couple of days. No pressure. No letting anyone down. It’s like the perfect partner for changing your life.

So instead of making a new year’s resolution, let’s being inspired by YOU and celebrate the positive stuff one step at a time. Let’s start small but dream big.

Happy 2016!