Don’t Waste Your Time On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time! Most of the resolutions don’t last beyond the end of January. They are bound to fail. Resolutions are often not thought out, have no action steps and are rarely written down. They often lack specificity.

I want to lose 20 pounds by summer
NOT I want to lose weight

I want to earn $12,000 more each year by December
NOT I want to earn more

I will spend every Friday on a date night with my wife
NOT I want to spend more time with my wife

Did you know many gyms sell about 30% more memberships than the capacity of the gym? They know many people are not going to follow through on their desire for fitness.

There is – however – a way to achieve and exceed your goals.

Write them down

When I was young, I had goals and dreams like everybody else, but I didn’t write them down. For some reason, when we write our goals and take actionable steps, we are more likely to achieve them. I have goals in seven areas of my life:

Spiritual

Physical

Financial

Intellectual

Work/Career

Family

Social

Goals give you a starting point and destination. They are going to change as you grow and as you figure out what’s important in your life.

John Acuff, in his book Start, talks about how he has been able to write several books and also help build two schools in Vietnam. He didn’t write that down on a whiteboard several years ago, but as he progressed through his goals those opportunities became available.

Five years ago, I would have never believed I could be writing my fourth book.

What are some of your goals? Would you like to schedule 20 gigs in the next year? Would you like to finish your master’s degree in the next three years? Do you want to find a spouse and be married with kids in a couple of years? Do you want to move to a better job that fits your skills and talents? These are attainable and will be different for everyone.

EVERYTHING you’ve done – even things you didn’t like – have made you who you are today. For me, the military band was a great experience. It is where I developed my chops. It was my music education. Being self-employed was difficult, but it helped make me who I am today. I learned a lot about marketing, about pricing, about what my audience needs and wants…all things that help me even in teaching.

There are many good books about setting goals. One of my favorites is Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love. My seven goals are adapted from his book. Get a copy of Dan’s book and work through the goal-setting process. Also read anything you can find by Zig Ziglar on goals.

In late November or early December, I create my goals for the following year. These big but specific and measurable goals are then translated into action items. I create a to-do list on my iPad mini and prioritize the items – always remembering to leave margin in my life.

Most people use a daily to do list. I am a much more global, big-picture thinker and find that a weekly list works better for me. On the iPad, I am able to reprioritize the items quickly each morning as needs and urgency change. Some people like to write their items on a list. Others use their phones. Whatever system you use, find something that works for you.

EVEN WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, I begin to tackle items on my list. Sometimes just starting a task is the hardest part. Sometimes just getting started practicing is the hardest part. Sometimes starting a resume’ is the hardest part.

JUST START!

Put away all distractions. Turn off your email notification. Turn off your phone so you are not distracted by every text message that comes in.

Multi-Tasking

Did you know that multi-tasking is a myth? We work at only 80% of capacity or less when trying to multi-task. When it’s time to book some gigs, write some music, practice, prepare my lessons or another important task, I turn off my cell phone, close my internet browser, shut down my email, get off of social media and get some focused work in. My rhythm – maybe because I am a public school teacher – seems to be about 45 minutes; then I need to take a short break and stretch or get some water. Others find that two-hour blocks work for them. Others prefer to work in intense 20-minute bursts. Find your rhythm.

Think of the short and long term goals as being a plan for your life. For example, if you want to lose 6 pounds in six months, that’s the big goal. The to-do list becomes the action steps necessary to meet that goal. In this example, you might get up thirty minutes earlier to exercise, prepare your lunch before you go to work so you’re not tempted to eat out, and buy some exercise shoes. Those are your action steps.

The goals that work best are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

If you can’t reach the goal, you will only become discouraged. If you are 200 pounds overweight, to lose that much weight in one year is probably not attainable. If you had zero gigs this year, deciding you want 300 in the next year is probably not attainable. If you have no college education, setting a goal of finishing your master’s in 18 months is probably not attainable. Here are some examples of good goals:

  • I want to lose five pounds in the next six months.
  • I will call five venues this week and every week.
  • I will book five events this summer paying $200 each.
  • I will save $2,000 this year by saving $200 per month.
  • I will save $50 a month to purchase that new instrument in 20 months.

What are your three-month goals? Six months? One year? Five year? Spend some time writing them down. Sometimes I set aside a half day Thanksgiving weekend to develop my goals for the next year. When I have acquired an early start, sometimes I have accomplished 10% or more of my goals before the New Year even begins.

Follow these 7 tips for an extra 7 hours this week

About 5 years ago, my son was on the wrestling team at the school I teach at. Practice ran until 6:30 every night. Since we lived a half hour away, I thought I could get a lot done and catch up on my to-do list. Even though I was spending an extra four hours a day working, I still didn’t get everything done. It’s not about time spent, but spending the time you do have wisely, and spending it on the right things!

Here are some tips to help you save seven hours each week.

1. Limit Media Time

Many people spend hours upon hours mindlessly researching things on the web or scrolling through their facebook feed. I’m not saying to eliminate those things…just be more deliberate in how and when you do them. Set a time limit on web research. Have a specific goal in mind. Want to watch tv? DVR the show. You’ll save 20 minutes in a one hour show. Set a certain time to look at facebook rather than letting the ding of the notification control you.

2. Touch email messages once

I once had a coworker who had over 1200 email messages in her inbox. They were there to remind her of things she needed to get done. Guess what? She never got any of them done and spent much time scrolling through the emails to find the information she needed.

I read an email one time and strive to keep my inbox empty. I have created many folders in my email program. Some examples are: Save, Admin, Reservations, Kudos, Bookings. When I read an email, if it’s something I can do or answer quickly, I do it and delete it. If it’s some important info I need to keep, I file it in the appropriate folder. If it’s meant for someone else (something I have to delegate), I immediately send it to the person who can do it, or I respond that I am not the one who handles that. Have set times to check email. Many people have notifications on and are checking email 50+ times a day. Some people need to be this accessible, but most of us just need to check it 2-3x a day.

3. Follow the 2-minute rule

If you can complete a task in 2 minutes, do it! I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in charge of a music event and needed info from other directors. All I need to know is how many students someone is bringing because I am responsible for ordering pizza. No response! It takes 3 seconds to respond! Do it and get it over with.

Don’t even add the item to your to do list if it takes less than 2 minutes. At school, the lady in charge of IEPs often needs a feedback form from a student’s teachers reporting on how they are doing. When I see the form in my inbox, I fill it out right away and return it.

4. Control your meetings if possible

Do you need to disseminate some information at a meeting but are otherwise not involved? Ask to be at the beginning of the meeting so you don’t have to wait through it all. I taught at a school where I was responsible for renting the sound system at graduation. I sat through two years of meetings where when it came to be my turn, the headmaster asked “Do you have the sound system rented and details taken care of?” I quickly learned that was the only reason I was at the meeting. I began to contact the headmaster a few days before, let him know I had the details taken care of, including the time and expense. I would then ask “Do you need me to be at the meeting?” He always answered “No.”

5. Schedule time to get work done

I was finding myself continually being interrupted during my plan time as a teacher by students who needed help, or sometimes they were just hanging out because they had a free period. I love my students, but I have a lot to get done if I want to be an effective teacher. I started being more deliberate about that time. That time is for lesson prep. I kindly ask the students to leave (even having them around being quiet is a distraction, and they often ask just a “quick” question, which gets me off task). I get a lot more done this way.

6. Consider your mission

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Focus on your strengths! Know when to say no (I call that my Know No rule). If you are a helping person, you naturally want to help everyone, but you shouldn’t if something isn’t your mission. For me to help the football coach would be a “good” thing, but I would be missing out on the “great.”

7. Look at the big picture

Often our schedule revolves around “Well, I don’t have anything else going on, so sure I’ll do such and such.” This attitude is not deliberate enough. What if we take a look at our calendar for a year and “fill in” things that are important to us before other things crowd the important things out? For example, I’ve already filled in my anniversary weekend, so if someone calls me with a speaking or performing opportunity, I will answer that I already have something scheduled.

I do have some flexibility. If the person calling me were to offer a great honorarium, I would present the opportunity to my wife and say “How about if I take this and we celebrate the following weekend, but instead of a weekend in Denver we get to take a cruise?”

Plan each week, month and year of your life so trivial things don’t fill your schedule. Make sure to include off time too. If you are teaching a 2 week class, block off four days or even a week afterwards so you can relax, hike, visit the grandkids, whatever you like to do.

If each of these tips saved you one hour a week, you would have seven extra hours a week to exercise, cook, hike, read, practice, sew, take karate or whatever you like to do, maybe even sleep!

James is a music educator, musician, speaker and podcaster. He enjoys hiking, biking, and spending time with his wife and family. He also enjoys long walks on the beach, but these are usually either solitary or with his wife. He is the author of “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested” and “40 Ways To Make Money In Music.”

Contact James today if you need a speaker at your next event.