18 Simple Ways To Make 2018 A Better Year

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By the time many of you are reading this blog, you will have already broken one or more of your resolutions for the new year. You didn't mean to... it was just so hard to keep that major commitment. While I do believe in setting worthwhile and measurable goals for a new year, I prefer identifying small changes I can sustain throughout the year as opposed to vague or emotionally-driven resolutions. For example, using the quote, "Do creative work first, reactive work second" was a small yet powerful change I made in my daily plan for 2017, and served me much more effectively than saying something like, "I resolve to be happier."

With that frame of mind, I offer you the following 18 suggestions as you start 2018:

1. Plan for all three rings of your circus.
In case you’re new to my work, I co-authored a book called Juggling Elephants, which suggests you need to manage your life like it’s a circus. At the heart of the model is that you have three rings: Work, Self, and Relationships. The question that always tells the tale is, “Which ring do you neglect most often?” We somehow believe that we can be our best at work by consistently sacrificing our personal wellness and relationships with others. Sound familiar? For more about managing your life in circus mode, read Balance, Blend, or Blur: Keep Your Eyes On The Big 3.

What is one activity you should start doing to improve your personal wellness?

2. Find a perspective keeper.
Every few days I have the privilege of caring for my 93-year-old aunt. I can have a million things running through my head and feel like I am truly juggling elephants, but when I sit down with her all those “first world problems” just seem to not be so important.

Who do you (or will you) have in your life this year who will help you keep a healthy perspective on your work and life?

3. Spend more time “becoming” instead of simply “doing.”
When we’re busy, we shift into maintenance mode and just try to meet the daily demands on our time, falsely believing we will have more time in the future for the “becoming?” Let me know when you find that future time… I’d like to know your secret.

What’s one item on your calendar each day that represents an activity that will help you become more of the person you want to be?

4. Ask for help more often. As Les Brown says, “Ask for help, not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong.” To learn 11 other good reasons you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for guidance, check out my article, 12 Really Good Reasons To Ask For Help.

Who do you need to seek out for guidance or direction?

5. Use “won’t” more and “can’t” less. Can’t implies that the resources aren’t available or it’s so difficult it’s almost impossible. “Won’t” reminds us that we too often don’t want to make ourselves or others uncomfortable to make something happen. For a deeper dive into this concept, read my blog, What’s The One Word That’s Really Holding You Back?

What’s one area of your life where you are holding yourself back because you won’t do something?

6. Intentionally invest in at least one person each day.
Building capacity in those around you helps ensure you have the team you need to accomplish your professional and personal goals. Remember the African Proverb which says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Who are three people you want to invest in this week?

7. Be a fanatic about finishing.
We so cripple our brain’s ability to think clearly because we imprint so many possibilities on it, and leave it to work on all of them. Before taking on any task, ask yourself, “What’s does finished look like?” and allow yourself enough time to complete the task when scheduling it. If you can’t finish it, at least schedule time on your calendar when you will come back and get it done. Your brain will thank you.

What are two tasks you need to finish that would free up your brain’s resources for other things?

8. Pre and Post Quantify Any Task.
As Marshall Goldsmith writes in his powerful book, Triggers, “We chronically underestimate the time it takes to get anything done.” I am constantly amazed in my coaching sessions when people can’t tell me how long they spend on basic tasks at work or even at home. If they ever want to improve professionally or personally, they have to be able to determine how much time they have to invest on making those improvements.

What tasks do you need to more closely quantify to see how much time they are taking up in your day?

9. Stop trying to control everything.
It’s exhausting, and leaves little or no room for creativity or fostering deeper relationships with others. To see the “big three” for me, read Three Things You Need To Stop Trying To Control.

What’s one thing you need to reduce your desire to control?

10. Seek feedback AND really listen to it.
While uncomfortable, it’s an incredibly effective way for us to improve at almost anything. We have so many blind spots that others can help us identify. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. Just start the conversation by saying, “In 2018, I’d really like to improve on ________________. Do you have a couple of insights on how I can do better?”

What’s an area of your life where you have been avoiding feedback?

11. Set boundaries.
Whether it’s on how long you have for a work conversation, number of times you will check your email per day, the number of notifications you allow on your smartphone, or how available you are to others, know AND communicate those boundaries. Too many times we are so accessible in the moment that we are inaccessible to the deeper work that needs to be done. An illuminating read on the subject of boundaries is, Boundaries For Leaders.

Where would established boundaries help you better focus on other tasks?

12. Deliver a more educational “No” when needed.
When people make requests of your time, don’t miss the chance to educate them on your priorities, commitments, or obligations causing you to say no. It helps them more clearly understand your motives, conditions that might cause you to say yes, and possible availability in the future.

Who needs more than a simple "No" from you?

13. Start with “being” instead of “doing.”
In his enlightening book, Meaningful Work, Shawn Askinosie shares his experiences of spending time with monks and how he learned to use his insights to create his own rhythms for work and life. He highlights how monks move from “being” to “doing” and then back to “being,” while we so often we start from “doing” and rarely take time to “be.” I see this play out in how most people handle their mornings. Instead of using those first few minutes of the day to reflect and nourish their body and soul, they spend it in a hurried rush to get to work and the next task. In 2018, challenge yourself to use the first and last ten minutes of the day to simple be in the moment, not focused on getting something done, but on the person you are and who you want to become.

How will you spend the first ten minutes of your day? Being or Doing?

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14. Be passionately present in every conversation.
Getting face-to-face time with people (or even phone calls) is more rare than ever. However, it’s these moments that often tell us volumes more about a person’s thoughts, feelings, and fears than we could extract from a hundred emails or a thousand text messages. Make it a personal goal to remove or minimize any distractions to having a deeper conversation. Reflect on everything from your body language, voice tone, ability to listen, and even putting down that electronic device that is normally glued to your hand. For more about being a better listener, read Strong Leaders Need To Be Level 3 Listeners.

What are some of your self-induced barriers to being present in a conversation?

15. Manage your minutes as intensely as you do your hours.
What are the small time ticks draining the life blood out of your day? We tend to discount the value of five minutes here or there in a day, but over the course of a year, five minutes a day adds up to over 30 hours!

What is one activity in your day that is consistently taking more time than it should?

16. Be Boring.
Develop routines for everything from choosing what to wear to the food you have for breakfast to free up mental (and physical) time for more important things. Make every Tuesday dinner at your house “Taco Tuesday.” The goal is to minimize the time spent on the less important stuff so you can focus on the bigger picture.

Where would a consistent routine help you with your time management?

17. Have three “Its” per day.
Its are “important things” as described in my book, Getting to It. As you plan your day, always identify your three “Its.” They may be three work Its, or a combination of work and personal Its. Discover them by saying to yourself, “If I only get three things done today, they would be ….” This helps you focus your energy for the day and ensure you go to bed that night with less regrets. You may get more done than three, but you know what HAS to be done.

What’s an It for you tomorrow? This week?

18. Be soil... not dirt.
As Kelly the gardener says in my book, Always Growing, “Dirt is what you get on your pants.” In horticultural terms, soil provides the structure and nutrients to help seeds and plants grow. As a leader, you have a similar opportunity to help those around you grow. And while formal training courses and job assignments are a part of that process, nothing has a greater impact than your day-to-day engagement with your team. What type of environment are you creating as a leader?

How can you help your team members grow this year by the way you work with them?

Happy New Year!



Jones Loflin