It’s New Year’s Eve and you’re out partying with family and friends. Champagne in one hand and an artisan cocktail weiner in the other, you’re taken aback when someone asks “So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” Oh sh**, you think to yourself, I totally forgot and now I’m on the spot! You choke down the wiener and say the first thing that comes to mind – “I’m going to increase firm profits by 80%, stop eating sugar and lose fifty pounds!” Your friends and family are blown away, they cheer and clap you on the back. You finish off your champagne, grab some more hors d’oeuvres and congratulate yourself – nailed it.
Unfortunately, you’ve already set yourself up to fail. 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions every year, and we start out big: give up sugar, work out and get fit, increase firm profits quit smoking, work more efficiently and less, etc. All worthy goals, truly, but the numbers are depressing. Only 75% of resolutions are maintained through the first week, 64% through a month, 46% through six months and finally, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution throughout the year.
This year, you’re going to be in that 8 percentile. Here at Filevine, we’ve got you covered with the top five New Year’s resolutions and how to keep them.
Top 5 Resolutions for 2015
Research indicates that tracking your work raises your level of awareness, keeps you present and focused, and reduces time spent procrastinating. It boosts motivation, encourages you to work quickly and limits distractions. Tracking your time also gives you a hefty amount of data about your work life – what you are doing, when and why, how much time you’re spending on various activities, and what is distracting you
Manage Impulsivity and Interruptions
When you think of impulse control, what comes to mind? Eating an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies, splurging on a Dior suit, or even doing drugs. Me? I’m itching to check Facebook and get coffee. Impulses and interruptions will satisfy momentary pleasures, but drag you down the rabbit hole of unproductivity. Learn how to improve your impulse control and manage interruptions.
Make An Accomplishments List
At the end of every work day, at the end of each month and each year, take the time to reflect and write down 5-10 accomplishments. Writing down our accomplishments and positive thoughts at the end of our day reduces our stress levels, increases optimism and happiness, boosts self-worth and work performance. Earlier this year, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg husband passed away, and she shared that making an accomplishments list changed her life. “When I first lost Dave, I felt overwhelmed with just getting through each day,” Sandberg said. “My friend suggested that every night before bed I write down three things I did well that day. I tried to do this, although some days I had such a hard time thinking of anything I did well that I’d end up listing ‘Made a cup of tea.’ But over time, focusing on things I’d done well helped me rebuild my confidence.” For 2016, Sandberg is resolved to write down her accomplishments and joyful moments every day.
Multitasking is such bullshit, we knew we had to add it to our resolutions list for the second year running. Everyone multitasks – you’re probably doing it right now! Stop it. Seriously, you guys, we’ve got to get it together. Multitasking slows down your brain, increases error rates, lowers your IQ, and diminishes empathy, cognitive and emotional control.
There is never enough time. No matter what you accomplish today, if you’re like most lawyers, you’re going to fall in bed tonight, wonder where the time went and why you didn’t spend it better. 2016 is the year of valuing your time and being ruthless with it.
How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
Take the resolutions in the first paragraph – sure, increasing profits by 80%, cutting out sugar and losing 50lbs sounds amazing (and insanely difficult), but it’s not even the resolutions themselves that are the problem. It’s the fact that they were chosen at random, without any forethought or planning. Exactly how will you increase profits by 80%? Do you have any idea how hard it is to cut out sugar? What is your plan for losing 50lbs? Most resolutions are chosen like this, with people thinking only about the most obvious changes they want to make, but not how they want to make them. Long before New Year’s Eve, choose realistic resolutions and a design a year-long strategic plan that will get you to the finish line.
Part of planning ahead is deconstructing the systems that will prevent you from reaching your goal. You can’t just throw out a resolution and think that you can achieve it by sheer willpower. Willpower is a finite resource, so it’s time to rely on systems instead of self-control. Confront the systems that both negatively and positively impact your behavior by asking what habits get in the way of achieving your goals, what environmental constructs prevent you from making changes, what systems of support can you build? Change your environment to support your resolutions, and ask for encouragement and aid from coworkers, family and friends.
Focus on the Positive
A negative goal is something you want to stop doing, while a positive goal is an action that you want to complete. It’s great to eliminate bad behaviors, but if that’s all you focus on, you won’t grow or build new, beneficial habits. For every resolution that eliminates negative behaviors, balance it with a positive goal.
Be Kind To Yourself and Keep Trying
The numbers don’t lie – at some point, you’re going to stumble and fail at your resolutions. Failure can be devastating, and is one of the factors that discourages people from continuing to work on their resolutions, but consider failure a gift. Every resolution is a risk, and the only way to succeed is understanding that failure is just as important as success. Messing up teaches us how we can do better next time, so instead of beating yourself up when you fail, be kind to yourself. You didn’t track your work today, but you can do it tomorrow. Keep trying.