The Working With… Podcast

How To Start The Year Off On The Right Foot

January 6, 2020

So, 2020 has finally started and today most of you will be back at work and back into your daily routines, The question is, how can you make your planned 2020 changes stick now that your regular daily life is back?


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Episode 114

Hello and welcome to episode 114 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, I want to help you start the year off on the right foot. So, there is no question this week except for the question I ask which is, how can I make my new year plans and goals stick? 

It’s very easy to make plans for the new year while we are on a break, the difficulty comes when we return to our normal routines and our normal daily life. No matter how determined we might be to make this year the year we stick to our goals and plans for the new year, once we go back to our daily life, the same work, the same workplace, the same colleagues and bosses the same commute, it is so easy to slip back into the habits of old and before long find ourselves back where we were before the holidays or break and out carefully laid plans.

So how do you prevent this from happening?

Well, the first step is to anticipate possible areas of weakness. An example of this would be a smoker trying to give up. If you have always smoked a cigarette when you had a coffee, then temporarily stop drinking coffee. Instead, drink tea or another hot beverage. It’s the simple changes that will make all the difference in developing new habits. 

Another example would be if you wanted to replace mindlessly scrolling through your social media feeds with reading a book or listening to a personal development podcast. The best way to do this is to remove the social media apps on your phone or tablet and replace them with your reading or podcast apps—in the exact same place. This way if you mindlessly tap on the area your social media apps used to be, you would open up your reading or podcast apps instead. That would normally be enough to bring you back on to your desired goal. 

If you do have social media addiction really bad, then I would suggest you set some time each day for social media. Give yourself thirty to sixty minutes each day dedicated to social media and stick to it. Remove all opportunities to look at social media outside of these times. 

To begin embedding new habits you may need to turn to your to-do list managers to help you here. One trick I have used that has worked in the past is to create daily recurring tasks that will pop up from time to time to remind me to do simple things. It could be a reminder to drink some water or to get up and move. You can create anything here. This also works for if you want to start the day with a morning ritual. This year, I want to start being more consistent with my morning routines. I have been experimenting over the last couple of years and finally developed a morning routine that works for me. From this week, I will dedicate my energy and attention to make sure I complete this every morning. 

For this, I will use a combination of my to-do list manager and calendar. This way every time I look at my to-do list or calendar I will be reminded of my intention to turn my morning routine into a habit. My intention is to do this every morning and not just weekdays and when I am at home. I want to deeply embed it so I do this routine every morning. So from the moment I wake up, I will begin my routine. This helps on those days when I am not waking up early or I am waking up earlier than usual. Wake up, drink a glass of water, get out of bed and begin my stretching exercises. Just follow the same pattern every morning until it is embedded. 

And that leads me to the next crucial part of this. Focus only on one area at a time. Let me give you a personal example of this. 

For me, my first priority this year is to remove sugar and refined carbohydrates from my diet completely. This might seem a simple objective at first, but this involves researching the foods I currently eat to make sure there are no hidden sugars or refined carbohydrates it also means I will have to resist temptations—these are all around us. For the first three months of 2020, this will be my sole health goal. I do not need to worry about my exercise as this is already baked into my daily routines, but I have been known to find it difficult to say no to adding sugar to my tea or coffee and to enjoying a pizza and a couple of bags of chocolate on weekends. Sugar has been a part of my life for a very long time, so I want to have the mental space to focus on eliminating it. Once not adding sugar to my tea and coffee, not eating chocolate and pizza on weekend has been baked into my daily life I can then look at my other health goals. 

The key is to do one thing at a time. Bake it in and then move on to the next goal.

You have to be patient, but it’s worth it. By focusing on one goal at a time you maximise your chances of success. Most people fail to achieve their goals because they focus on too many things and spread their focus too thin. Be patient. 

By putting all your energy and focus into achieving one goal at a time, you build what I like to call “success momentum”. That means the more successes you have the more energy and determination to succeed you experience. This is a self-propelling way to build up your successes.

It’s like when you lose your first 5 pounds or 5 kilograms. It gives you a real belief in yourself. That belief fuels you to push harder to succeed. But if you have multiple goals going on at the same time, you will succeed at some and fail at others and this prevents you from creating a “success momentum”. Without that success momentum, you start to lose faith and belief in yourself. 

Another reason to only focus on one goal at a time is when things don't go according to plan you need to put your focus onto fixing what is going wrong so you can get back on track quickly. If you are trying to focus on multiple goals at the same time and just one or two begin to go wrong, you will soon find yourself losing your enthusiasm for change and will quickly fall back into your old habits and routines. 

So, focus on one thing at a time. It simplifies things and helps maintain your focus. 

Now there are a few exceptions here—there always are—Let's say you have a health goal and a financial goal. The health goal is to get fit and lose weight (these two can be done together) and the financial goal is to put $250 away into a savings account every month. The savings goal is easy. Just add a task or a calendar event on a given day each month and put the money into your savings account. It’s one task per month goal. For something like this, you can add the two objectives. 

Another similar goal would be if you decided to spend one whole evening per week working on a hobby or a side business. Again, this is a one task per week goal that can be scheduled each week. There’s very little that can go wrong here and if it does—ie you skip your regular day—then you can easily rectify it by switching days. 

What you do not want to be doing is having more than one goal that involves daily focus and attention, that’s when things go wrong. For example, if you want to get fit and lose weight and spend more time with your friends. These goals potentially cause conflict. To get fit and lose weight you need to stay focused on not only what you eat but also how frequently you exercise. To spend more time with your friends and family, you will need to go out more often. Going out potentially involves dining out and drinking and a lot of time that is likely to take you away from your exercise time. 

Achieving your goals is easy if you take the long-term view. Remember, you do not have to do everything all at once. Life is not a sprint and to make lasting positive change is going to take time, probably longer than you expect. As long as you accept this and allow yourself time to bake in the necessary changes both lifestyle and routines to make sure you achieve your goals. 

I hope this episode has added some value and motivation to your plans for 2020. If want to learn more I shall be writing on my blog and posting videos on my YouTube channel to help you turn 2020 into the best year of your life.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode. It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.