In making New Year’s resolutions, it might seem like you’re setting yourself up for failure. So many people underutilize gym memberships, quickly revert to old habits or never take up new hobbies they’ve been meaning to master.
For entrepreneurs, breaking resolutions might mean neglecting networking, spending money rather than saving or foregoing opportunities to learn new skills.
But this year, you’ve resolved to make a major change. To ensure that you’ll follow through with your goals, you have to do more than want to achieve them. In most cases, realizing your ambitions will require a series of lifestyle changes.
We’ve sifted through Entrepreneur’s archives to help prime you to reach your goals in 2017. Read on for some of our best advice, and keep in mind that success is a habit, not an act.
1. Make a list.
In order to achieve your goals, first you’ll have to determine exactly what they are. Don’t let this process overwhelm you — rely on instinct. Set a timer for three minutes and get all of your goals down on paper without worrying about how difficult achieving them will be. After that, go back and brainstorm what changes you’ll have to implement or lifestyle adjustments you’ll have to make in order to make your goals a reality. Whatever you do, don’t tuck your list in a drawer somewhere, but refer to it regularly.
2. Keep a clean workspace.
Clutter doesn’t just physically get in the way, it’s scientifically proven to distract you. Think of it not only as a physical mess, but a mental one. Extra objects on your desk compete for your attention, and your brain must constantly reconcile the presence of these items with the ones that are actually pertinent to your work. Speaking of presence, consider that some of the stuff that’s been sitting there awhile is likely dragging you out of the present moment. As for any items you might feel symbolically attached to, ask yourself a simple question: Is this thing inspiring me to achieve my goals, or does it serve another purpose?
3. Minimize other types of distractions.
Your desk might look like a Pinterest lover’s pristine dream, but if you fail to eliminate other distractions, your minimalist workspace will do you little good. Find ways to shut out family members (except for in an emergency), social media notifications and personal phone calls and appointments. Set a schedule for yourself and stick to it, even if no one is there to supervise you. If you’re doing professional work, look the part — or at least change out of your pajamas.
4. Wake up super early.
Sometimes, no matter how much you try to sequester yourself from daytime distractions such as kids, errands or even breaking news, it’s hard to keep focused. One solution that’s helped several prominent entrepreneurs find time to work toward their goals is waking up early. Sure, our bodies become programmed to waking up at the same time every day, and it’ll be difficult to adjust at first. Don’t expect to add three extra hours to your morning in the matter of a day. It takes preparation, patience and peace of mind to become an early riser.
5. Make the most of your weekends.
It’s important to rest and recharge during the weekend, but it’s also a smart idea to prepare yourself for the week ahead, including how you plan on achieving your goal. When you wake up on Monday morning, don’t let the sound of the alarm clock overwhelm you with the dread of mundane chores. On Sunday night, set aside some time to select your outfit for the following day or week, plan meals and organize your to-do list. You’ll rest better, minimize stress and have more time for the work you’re passionate about.
6. Stop procrastinating.
You might embark on a given task only to find yourself wandering over to the fridge, checking email or Googling symptoms of an obscure illness (we’ve all been there). While procrastination may seem inevitable, try the 15-minute rule: Set a timer for 15 minutes, and commit to working on something you’ve been putting off for ages. Who knows? You might gain some momentum and not feel like stopping once the time is up.
7. Find people to help you.
No matter how driven you are, you’d be foolish to think you can achieve success single-handedly. Even if someone else isn’t aiding you directly, it’s helpful to establish a few individuals whom you can emulate, who will inspire you to persevere or hold you accountable.
For example, a mentor can dispense valuable advice so that you won’t have to learn basic lessons the hard way. You might benefit from a sidekick or cheerleader to keep you motivated and hold you accountable. Find specific people who can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
8. Play the role.
Think about who you want to be. How will that new-and-improved version of yourself act? How will you think, speak and live? Chances are, you’ll want to portray yourself as a humble yet confident person. Sit up straight rather than slouch. Look others in the eye and listen to what they say rather than gaze into the distance or let your mind wander. Be deliberate about the words you use. If you can learn from others, make a good impression and discipline yourself to show the world your true aspirations, success will more likely follow.
9. Conduct periodic progress check-ins.
It’s not enough to incorporate new habits and ditch old ones. You have to make time to consistently evaluate yourself to make sure that you’re on track. You might do this once you’ve achieved smaller goals that will build toward a larger one, or if you’ve given yourself a deadline (say a year), schedule quarterly review sessions. During these check-ins with yourself, reflect on what you’ve been doing and determine whether it’s working or how you might revise your plan. Let what you’ve accomplished inspire you to keep going.
10. Motivate yourself with rewards.
If you plan rewards to dole out to yourself once you’ve achieved mini milestones, you’ll have an additional incentive to persevere aside from the big goal in and of itself. A milestone might take the form of reaching a certain number of followers on a social media account, getting up at 4 a.m. for the first consecutive week or saving an additional $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000. You might treat yourself to your favorite dessert, a spa treatment, new recreational gear or just a lazy day off. Whatever the case, make sure your reward system is enticing enough to motivate you to work hard, but modest enough to be sustainable in the long run.