You probably don't need science to tell you that most resolutions go down in flames shortly after the ball drops. Personal experience is enough to make that clear for most of us, but if you had any doubt, a raft of research can confirm your suspicions -- the vast majority of New Year's resolutions fail.
So what can you do to ensure that you're in the tiny minority of folks who actually succeed in reaching their goals in the year ahead? Sir Richard Branson, a man who clearly knows plenty about achieving extraordinary things, has some ideas, which he shared recently on his Virgin.com blog.
The basic principle behind his advice is head-slappingly simple -- just write it down -- but as he elaborates in the post, getting from daydream to reality requires a little more doing than simply putting pen to paper. Sir Richard offers this step-by-step process for actually reaching your goals, which he swears works for him.
- Write down every single idea you have. No idea is too small, and no idea is too big.
- Always carry a notebook. You need somewhere to write your ideas down, and while using a folder on your phone is better than nothing, a piece of paper is far more memorable.
- Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts--what suits you best? I find a combination of short phrases and scribbled pictures works best for me.
- Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day. Cut your day up into chunks, and you'll get lots more done.
- Mark off every completed task. There are few more satisfying things than ticking off a job well done.
- Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working. There's no point setting targets if you don't know whether you are hitting them.
- Set far off, outlandish goals. Resolutions shouldn't have just short-term endpoints. What do you want to have achieved in five years? How about in 50 years?
- Include personal goals in your lists, not just business goals. There's no real separation between work and life--it's all just living. The same goes for lists.
- Share your goals with others. You can help motivate one another and hold each other to account. But remember that, in the end, you are doing this for yourself.
- Celebrate your successes, and then make new lists of new goals. The cycle should continue as you make more and more progress. I have boxes and boxes of old notes, filled with old lists, and I'm busy making more.
If you're a regular reader of productivity advice, nothing on this list will come as too much of a shock to you. Lots of experts suggest you break your time into chunks, for instance, while several prominent VCs and founders swear by keeping a "done list" rather than a to-do list. What makes Branson's advice special is not only that he pulls these good ideas together into one step-by-step plan, but also that he personally endorses it.
If someone as incredibly successful as Branson claims the system work, then it's at least worth a little consideration, right?
Do you write down your goals each year? Do you find it makes a difference to whether you reach them?