It is common in our culture to use the phrase “Yin and Yang of life” to mean that there is balance, for every uphill there is a downhill on the other side. However, the true meaning is that one is part of another and that to be whole they must be ingrained; for example, the yin of an ocean wave is the trough as it builds speed to the yang which is the crest of the wave before it crashes - you can not have one without the other or else it is merely water. To apply yin and yang to the New Year, we have goal setting and habits to set in place during the slow January as our yin, if we want to reap the benefits and enjoy the hustle of December which is our yang. It is difficult to not have one without the other, and if we fail to set up our positive habits in January then we are setting ourselves up for a less prosperous year. So, how do we take advantage of a slow January…?
First of all, if you have been following my emailer you know that there is no such thing as New Year’s resolutions, we don’t do them as they set us up to fail. Instead we set up our one goal to achieve this year (it is a good idea to set up personal and professional) and then the activities to obtain that one goal. Therefore, January becomes the time to set up the activities you believe will help you reach your goal and then start setting up the productive habits. So, for example, if your goal is to get a 5% raise at work and you believe by getting to work 30 minutes early, volunteering to run a difficult project per month, and tracking your weekly productivity will help you get that raise then January is the best time to put those habits into place. Sounds easy right...well...good. If you need to wake up 30 minutes earlier, set the alarm sooner, in fact you can even put your television on a timer to shut off at a certain time in the evening - a stern reminder that the zombie box is not as important as getting to work early. Then a checklist of what activities you need to complete first thing in the morning when arriving to work, as I doubt getting there early is all it takes for that raise, you need to do something with your time. Therefore, we are going to spend time this January setting up our alarm, the television timer, and the checklist of morning activities - creating the habits we need to achieve our one goal (similar process for the other activities- set them up, how are they done, create habit steps with physical reminders). Boom, done.
Some humble tips to creating the habits we need: incorporate technology to automate as much as possible. Your phone has an alarm, your television has a timer, and your computer has apps and calendars to make checklists. I take it one step further with calendar ticks: putting reminders in my checklist app to do an activity at a certain time of day with a loud bell reminder, then if the task can not be done at that moment, it stays on my checklist until it gets completed. Keep it simple: do not make the activities so arduous that it is easy to talk yourself out of doing them, it should not take a lot of effort to achieve your one goal...setting up a television timer takes three minutes, then once it turns off, go to bed. Give yourself cheat days: if you remain consistent, stick to the plan, even the strongest willed people slip. So set up times, like Saturday and Sunday, to sleep in a bit, finish watching that show, whatever you choose to miss can be made up. Under the same category, things come up in life, a friend visits from out of town, your parents invite you to dinner, PLEASE attend your kid’s baseball game, there is a play you really want to see - do it. You will have the systems in place to get right back into the habits that you believe will make you successful - your alarm is still set, the checklist is still at work, get on it. Remember that success is a choice.
Mid-way through January at this point, do not fret if you have not made the goal clear, if you have not set up the habits and activities yet - yesterday is the best day to start something, next best day is today. Again, start simple, make the activities that support your goal routine, which will give you the opportunity to build on them later. There is absolutely no reason to sit around January waiting for St. Patrick’s Day to roll around before you start becoming productive. One goal, activities to support it, and what habits do you need to act - done - start. Enjoy your week, stay successful.