If there’s anyone out there not feeling dizzy after a topsy-turvy 2017, I’ll eat my hat. (Also, would you please share the secret to your serenity?) Between the debate over remote work, Facebook’s near-daily changes affecting branded content, and the fact that robots might take our jobs, we’re being pulled in a hundred different directions. Not to mention the socio-political landscape.
Times like this require mindful refocusing — especially if you’ve got big audacious goals for 2018. It’s one thing to make New Year’s resolutions, but setting yourself up to actually manifest them is quite another. To that end, try these five rituals that help you regain your focus.
1. Re-phrase your goals as outcomes
It’s no good simply resolving to go to the gym regularly. If I don’t sweat when I’m there, I’m not making any progress toward my actual goal of lowering my blood pressure.
If your top objectives for 2018 read like a glorified to-do list, take a moment to articulate them as outcomes instead of outputs of effort. Think “increase revenue by 20% through creative campaigns” vs. “run ad campaigns in six major markets”. The beauty of focusing on the outcome is that you allow yourself the liberty of getting there in whatever way suits.
Identify the result you’re ultimately after and use that as your North Star.
Take action: Use the OKRs technique to set ambitious goals and lay out how you’ll measure success.
2. Reflect on what worked this year, and what didn’t
Once a quarter, I sit down and write down what I’ve loved, loathed, longed for, and learned. From there, it’s clear what to keep doing and what to put a stop to.
The magic of this “4 Ls” technique is not letting the lists get out of hand. I don’t allow myself to add a “longed for” until I’ve removed a “loathed”. And if your “loved” is also your superpower, don’t be afraid to amplify it. Own it!
Take action: Here’s how to do a retrospective exercise using the 4Ls variation. (And yes: personal retrospectives done by yourself are totally valid.)
3. Clean up your calendar
That goes for your professional and personal calendars. It’s not just about reclaiming time to pursue your goals. It’s also about preserving the mental and emotional bandwidth to make it time well spent.
We all have a recurring commitment we dread because it never feels like a valuable use of time. Opt out. You can always get back in if you start missing it. And if you do, you’ll go back in with a renewed sense of purpose.
4. Clarify what you’re not doing (and why)
Every mission involves trade-offs, but it’s hard to make the choices that keep you focused on your goa– “Ooh look! Shiny object!”. *ahem* The most successful people I know think through their priorities in a structured, dispassionate way so they can make rational choices in the moment.
Take an hour to step through a thought exercise like the trade-off sliders workshop I run with teams. You’ll walk away knowing what’s most important in your pursuit, and just as importantly, why. Then, fend off potential distractions. Let the people around you know what you’ve decided not to do.
Take action: Use the trade-off sliders technique to visualize the relative importance of everything on your plate.
5. Invest in relationships that fuel you
There are a handful of people in our lives that stir us up, heal us, and/or just make us glad to be alive. We can safely debate ideas and expose our failures with them — in all cases, they help us learn. Draw up a list of their names, and invest more energy in those relationships while scaling back on the relationships that leave you feeling drained.
Don’t forget to be awesome
If there’s a bonus ingredient for staying focused in 2018, it’s trust. Trust that you’re pursuing the right things now, and will have the clarity to recognize if that changes. Trust the people around you to support you when they can, and step out of the way when they can’t. Trust that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and pace yourself appropriately.
Bring your full self to 2018. It’s going to be awesome.