I’m skipping New Year’s resolutions this year, and trying a different approach instead, inspired by an episode of the 10xTalk podcast.

Here’s how it works…

Find a blank piece of paper, and split it into two columns:

“Energy” and “Stuff”.

Now think about the people, actions and thoughts in your life. Which of them energise you? And which of them get you down?

If it’s something that invigorates you, it’s an energy, and you should seek more of it. And if it’s something that impedes your progress, aim to have less of it in your life.

Now write 3 items under each heading.

That’s it!

My lists look like this:

+ Reading
+ Public speaking†
+ Being outside in green spaces

- Checking Twitter and emails
- Watching TV
- Overthinking my work

Simple huh? Have you written your list down yet?

Then keep reading...

Why goals suck, and what you should do instead

(Click to tweet this)

Take a moment to think back to your New Year’s resolutions from last year.

How many of them did you stick to? (I only nailed about 25% of mine!)

Now that I've thought about it, this doesn't suprise me any more. Because a New Year’s resolution often takes the form of a goal. And the problem with setting goals is that it usually sets you up for failure.

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Here’s what Scott Adams, the guy who does the Dilbert comic, says about them:

“You will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.”

Ok. Then what’s the alternative?

Instead of setting goals, aim to create habits and systems instead.

System-based mindsets have two main benefits:

  1. A system doesn’t rely exclusively on willpower (which is a finite resource).
  2. A system allow you to be happy right now, instead of if/when you reach your goal.

“Read 52 books this year” could become “Read for twenty minutes before bed” or even more simply “Read before bed”. (I try to read fiction at night, and non-fiction during the day — as my mind starts racing if I read anything about the real-world before I goto sleep).

“Save up £5000” could become a saving system where you automatically move 5% of your salary into a savings account, right after you are paid every month (Which means you’re less likely to miss the money as you never ‘see’ it).

How to create habits

Using a trigger action is a great way to create a habit, as it allows you to piggyback an already-ingrained action.

A couple of ways that I use triggers to accomplish other things:

  1. Meditating when I open the curtains in the morning
  2. Reading when I get into bed.
  3. Working for 25 minutes when I start my kitchen timer. (Something about pressing a physical button works much better than pressing a virtual one on my phone. The ugly beeping noises it make help too).

You can use any action that’s already part of your daily routine. The only proviso is that it happens at about the same time every day. Things like:

Once you’ve settled on a good trigger, simply follow it with your new habit. And be quite intentional about it… you can even say your new action out loud when you finish your trigger action for the first few weeks… “I’m going to meditate now”.

Putting it all together

What things, people and thoughts give you energy? And how can you build more of them into your life using systems?

What things, people and thoughts bog you down? How can you eliminate them from your life?

Less stuff, more energy.

Related reading:
+ Learn The “Stuff-to-Energy” Transfer Technique
+ ZenHabits: Triggers and Habits
+ Forget Goal Settings, Focus on Systems

† I spoke at the Small is Beautiful conference in Glasgow back in June 2016: my first paid public speaking gig. As an introvert it was a daunting prospect, but the more I read about giving talks, the more I realised that the fear would never go away, and that the trick is to convert it into excitement. Hopefully the video of my talk—which was on the importance of writing—will be online in the next few months. And if you're giving a talk, try saying "I'm really excited about this" instead of "I'm really scared about this", and feel how the energy flows differently. Talking to other people is a privilege, not something to be avoided.

Posted to Uncategorised in 2015.

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