PRODUCTIVITY

Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

Making warm and fuzzy promises to yourself doesn't work. Here's what does.
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Every year around this time you can find gazillions of articles about New Year’s resolutions and planning. They usually take one of five forms:

1. Some inspirational feel-good stuff that lulls you into a euphoric sense that everything’s going to be just fine without you having to lift a finger.

2. Some self-important person’s resolutions, which you should care about because, well, because he’s a very, very important man.

3. What someone’s crystal ball says you should do next year because it’ll make you happy, prosperous, or both.

4. A “how to” guide for coming up with the top 10 world’s greatest best ever resolutions of all time that are guaranteed to work.

5. Why you’re dumb for even thinking about it.

As you might have guessed, I don’t think any of that’s a very good idea. Want to know what I think? Okay, but here’s a heads up. It’s got nothing to do with personal productivity, personal branding, social media, or trendy diets. And there’s no conventional wisdom, myths to bust, or catchy sound bites either.

Still with me? Great.

What I think you should do is this. I think you should do what every successful company does. Pick a time of year, any time of year, it really doesn’t matter when, and do some planning. Doing it annually is a good idea, annually with quarterly updates is even better.

What should you plan?

It’s a little bit different depending on whether you run a sizeable company, a small business, or just yourself, but it’s not that different. You can even call it whatever you want, but here’s more or less what it should consist of:

- Goals

- Strategies you’re going to employ to achieve your goals

- Budget plan

- Implementation plan (optional)

That’s it. No more, no less. Of course, to come up with this stuff, you’ve got to do some homework first. I usually recommend that companies take a look at the big picture first. It’s always best to plan within the context of market trends, competitive intelligence, and of course, that all-important capital picture.

In other words, how can you possibly know what goals are reasonable; which strategies are likely to bear fruit; or what your expenses, profit margins, revenues, and cash flow are likely to be unless you take that stuff into account? That’s right, you can’t.

See how easy that is? Now, if you run a company I’m sure none of this is news to you. If it is, then hang on. I’ll come back to you in a minute.

If you’re a small business owner, there’s probably a 50-50 chance you’ve seen this sort of thing before. Not sure if you have to do it? Got it all in your head? Okay, fine. Go ahead and wing it. Roll the dice. If that works for you, great. If not, you might want to bookmark this URL -- you may need to refer to it next year.

If it’s just you and you’re wondering how this relates to you personally, that’s easy. Everyone should have goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, I guarantee you’re not going to get there. And you’re not going to achieve anything without at least having some idea of how you’re going to go about doing it. Lastly, of course, nothing’s free. If everyone did at least basic level budgeting, nobody would be in financial trouble. Really.    

Other than that, you’re pretty much on your own. Oh yeah, almost forgot. If you run a company and all this planning stuff is like a foreign language, then you, my friend, need to get some help. I’m sure there are plenty of books you can read or business consultants out there who would be happy to guide you. Find one. Now.

While nobody has a crystal ball that can tell you how things will turn out next year, there’s one thing I can tell you for sure. If you don’t do some basic annual planning, sooner or later, you’re not going to have to worry about running a business anymore because you’re not going to have one. No kidding.

Almost forgot. Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Last updated: Dec 27, 2012

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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