How many of you have already broken your New Year’s resolutions? They’re hard right? I always find them hard and I always end up breaking them. So I gave up making them. But I love the feeling of challenging myself to achieve something. At any time of year.
I have two issues with New Year’s resolutions. The first is that on January 1st I never have a real inclination to make any change. That day is just another ‘morning after the night before’. It’s not personal to me. I am only ever successful in completing my goals when I have a personal and individual trigger to make a real change. It’s always something that only I feel connected to and something only I can change. I’m a dancer in a semi-professional dance company (think Janet Jackson circa 1990s) and when I feel like I’m the only one who can’t nail a trick, I set myself a challenge to work on it. My trigger is how I feel when I can’t land it and that drives me to dedicate time to working on it.
My second issue is that New Year’s resolutions are just too lofty. A year is a LONG time. Think about how many times your state of mind changes throughout a year – your priorities always change so your goals need to change with them. Setting yourself short-term goals for a month or six weeks means you can be more focussed. Then, once you have achieved that goal, you can set yourself a new one that is in line with your most up to date set of priorities.
I’m not against setting big, long-term or ongoing goals of ‘being more healthy’ or ‘getting a promotion’ but these goals are multi-faceted and have many moving parts. Being single minded and focussing on one goal at a time is so much more achievable.
‘Sprint Goals’ have a time frame and are much more digestible, yet still work towards my big goal
My ongoing goal is to be a better dancer but instead of trying to manage a goal with lots of components, I set short-term goals to focus on nailing a new trick in the next two weeks or increasing my stamina by running 5K in under 30 minutes within six weeks. Both of these small ‘Sprint Goals’ have a time frame and are so much more digestible, yet still work towards my big goal. They both, however, give me room for change making it iterative and personal to me. I measure how much better I’m getting when I’m selected (or not!) to perform or getting a solo in a big performance. I can evolve the short-term goals to better achieve my ongoing goal.
There are so many short, time based challenges out there on social media at the moment. For example, Inktober where artists all over the world take on the challenge of doing one ink drawing a day the entire month of October. A friend of mine has also just started the hashtag #Mouvement21 where dancers (or non-dancers) post a different freestyle on Instagram every day for 21 days. These are great goals to set yourself because they have a clear start and end.
Another reason these social media challenges work so well is because they give people a level of accountability. Not only to yourself, but to your followers or to other people completing the same challenge. And, by accountability, I don’t mean judgement, I mean support. The fact that you are doing something as a collective, with the encouragement and support of friends or peers makes it less scary. Whenever I set myself a goal, I make a conscious effort to tell as many people as possible. I’m super competitive so if I tell people it gives me that extra drive to not let those people down.
I use this short-term goal setting frame of mind in my role as a project manager. Running projects in sprints when objectives are always changing means the process is iterative and you achieve the best outcome because you are not working to out-of-date priorities. The feeling of continually getting better is always there. Sometimes your priorities change and sometimes they don’t. But having that allotted time to assess the current state of play, and in turn make necessary changes, makes things more relevant and achievable.
Sprint Goals enable you to measure what you have achieved over a period of time, and importantly help you identify how to get better for the next one. This creates a mindset for achievement and evaluation, which positively influences your productivity and sets you up for success.