Boyd’s 4 Secrets To Achieving Resolutions
Admit it. You thought about, or actually settled upon, a new year’s resolution. Do you think it will end well? Be honest.
I’ve got some good news for you, and I’ve got some really freaking great news for you. But first, lets see what’s in the basket of most common resolutions over the past few years. Hands up if one of these belongs to you:
Lose weight, volunteer, get fit, quit smoking, quit Facebook, learn something new, be less stressed, binge-TV less, eat healthier, save money, drink less, spend more time with family, travel more.
OK, put your hands down, and relax. I have awesome news and a personal secret to share, so keep reading.
The good news: It’s not too late to give up and pretend like your resolution never happened.
The really freaking great news:
Smart people do resolutions differently.
Be a smart person. Or as my friend Blake O’Neill likes to say, “don’t be a no-talent ass-clown.” Check it out @blakewoneill
Let’s understand – once and for all – why you suck at resolutions. There are two big factors.
You have a taskload problem.
Taskload is an overarching burden on your ability to focus on your work and bring that work to a successful completion.
And it’s a significant problem because you’re never in total control of it (your boss adds to it, your clients add to it, your significant other add to it, your kids’ soccer coach adds to it), yet it directly contributes to your mental and physical fatigue. It’s a huge issue, because it creeps up on you over time and can have devastating outcomes.
Hung out to dry
When I was a military pilot we would lament high taskload (the brass called it “operational tempo”) because the quality of our work would suffer. When your work is guiding a chunk of metal through the sky with you strapped to it, you want to do quality work and avoid hitting mountains and drones and clotheslines. The frequency of taskload and fatigue on aviation safety directly influenced the framework for my PhD research examining leadership hierarchy and organizational culture. And it’s not all bad news.
Tasks are usually assigned to you by someone else (employer, client, friends), so direct conversation with that person allows you to request a taskload adjustment. The bad news is that often taskload can’t be immediately adjusted, or there’s no room to adjust because of staffing issues.
So you can influence taskload, but you don’t typically manage it.
The double whammy is your workload problem.
Workload is so important because it relates to your brain – not the busyness of your household, office or social life. Unlike taskload, workload is ALL YOU. There’s no supervisor or spouse or Standard Operating Procedure coming to protect you. They can’t.
Ivy League brains suck too
Your brain, regardless of your age, gender and education (sorry Ivy Leaguers!) is a single channel processor. You can only handle one teeny tiny dose of processing information at a time. Sure, you can handle complex tasks when you’re at your very best, but (a) you’re rarely – if ever – at your best, and (b) the complex tasks you think you’re terrific at performing (driving while talking on a cell phone, anyone?) are just a queue of small, singular processes.
Think of them as micro-decisions. And the queue can get all screwy and forgetful and potentially deadly when you’re not paying attention.
This is the brain that is going to help you deliver on a new years resolution?
Your brain needs help.
Regardless of how smart you think you are, your beautiful, healthy brain can’t give 120% (despite being begged to do so by your high school basketball coach). On most days it isn’t giving 100%. Don’t battle your brain. Instead, embrace its inherent weakness by being smart about what you choose to act on, and how you act on it. This includes resolutions.
Earlier I promised that the smart people among us make resolutions differently. So here’s the really freaking great news, with a personal secret included:
1: Resolve to avoid being arrested
Don’t make resolutions on New Year’s Eve – other than perhaps “I’m going to get through tonight without getting arrested”. Just have a good time celebrating with those you love. Kiss a stranger by all means, but leave the serious business of goal setting to another day, with fewer cocktails.
2: Make a short-term resolution, and make it EASY.
Calibrate your resolution focus and terminology on a goal ahead (like spring vacation, or the end of the month, or your birthday), not an increasingly distant date in the past. Nobody gets excited by the fading memory of December 31st. Even in January.
For example, my March Resolution is to train on my bike for 45 minutes daily. That’s a step up from 30 minutes last month. Yes, that easy. That do-able. And it allows me to jump up to 60 minutes next month, knowing that I have momentum and success behind me.
3: Never shower alone
With your March Resolution now underway, be sure to record your completion of the task each day. Use a place that is going to be unavoidable to you on any given day. Make your record plainly visible, and not electronic.
Here’s my big secret: writing on the shower glass with a colorful marker pen does the trick for me. Nothing like standing naked and wet and auditing your, um, progress.
4: The 5-second Rule
There are cool and effective tricks you can use to make meaningful changes in life’s tiny moments by forcing yourself to act positively toward a goal (something that happens rampantly when your taskload or workload are high). And you don’t need New Year’s Eve.
You have five seconds.