7 mini-resolutions that will make 2019 your most productive year ever

I won’t lie. I love the idea of New Year’s resolutions. In particular, I like a grand transformation story as much as anyone. However, for most of us, I think the best approach to long-term habit change is to make our goals very, very small. So small we feel no resistance! Because small things, done repeatedly, add up.

With that in mind, here are 7 ideas for mini-resolutions. None are particularly difficult. But if you do any of them, consistently, you just might have your most productive year yet!

1. Go outside for 20 minutes a day. Fresh air is energizing. More energy means you can get more done. People living in San Diego would have no trouble clocking this, but for the rest of us living in lands of sleet and darkness, good options include 2 10-minute breaks during the work day, or maybe walking the kids to the bus stop and doing one errand on foot. A well-planned jolt of fresh air can ward off that 3 p.m. slump that sends you down a 45-minute internet rabbit hole.

2. Reach out to one person a day. I love this method of low-key networking that I learned from Molly Beck. Send 5 emails per week seeking to establish ties or maintain old ones. Not everyone responds, but some people will, and I’m all in favor of networking processes that don’t involve awkward small talk at cocktail parties. A bigger network means more opportunities, and probably more fun too!

3. Quit the snooze button. Snooze time is pretty much wasted time. You’re not getting deep, restorative sleep, but you’re not getting up and starting your day either. The best way to quit the snooze button is to make it irrelevant: you wake up before your alarm. This is doable if you learn how much sleep you need and make a point of getting in bed about that much time before you need to wake up. I know that’s challenging, so here’s the easier method: Move your alarm clock to the other side of your bedroom from where you sleep, so you have to get up to turn it off. If you find the snooze function really tempting, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock (i.e. not your phone) that doesn’t have such a button. Or just do this: be honest with yourself. Set your alarm for the time you actually intend to get out of bed and enjoy every last minute of sleep until then.

4. Use bits of time to read. Save articles about your industry on your phone and read those when you’re waiting for the train. Or read books: fiction or non-fiction. (The Libby app lets you borrow ebooks from your local library). If you read for 3 5-minute chunks during the day, and then read for 15 minutes before bed, that’s 2.5 hours per workweek. Add another 2.5 hours over the weekend and you can easily be reading a book a week. Even if you can only swing 20 minutes a day on average, though, that’s 10 hours a month, or 120 hours a year which, according to some calculations, is enough to read the entire Harry Potter series twice! (Though trust me, if you’re reading books like Harry Potter, you’ll magically find more than 20 minutes a day to read because you’ll want to find out what happens next.)

5. Set three intentions each day. If nothing else happened, what would make today a success? Before each day starts, figure out what those things should be. Figure out when you’ll do them. At the end of the day, check to make sure you’ve done them. Yes, stuff comes up, and yes, emergencies happen, but committing to this more days than not is the key to getting things done.

6. Make Monday morning count. Carve out 90 minutes before cleaning out your inbox to tackle projects in the “important but not urgent” category, and to think about your long-term career development. Your inbox will still be there at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, but using 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. for career-building stuff means that stuff gets done. If your job has a very specific start time, or requires very specific activities, just shift these 90 minutes before your start. You can tell yourself you’ll do these things on Friday afternoon with whatever time is left over…but you won’t.

7. Plan something fun for Sunday evening. This way you spend Sunday afternoon looking forward to your fun, rather than thinking about Monday morning. When you have more relaxing, enjoyable weekends, you hit Monday with more energy. That’s how you start the week right.

Have you ever made a mini-resolution? Did you keep it? My running streak is really about committing to exercise for 12 minutes a day. Just 12 minutes!

10 thoughts on “7 mini-resolutions that will make 2019 your most productive year ever

  1. Scribd is an app I recently discovered. For $8 a month I can download to read or listen to a wide variety of current books. I love Libby but sometimes my library has restrictions on how many users can download a book each day. Thanks to Scribd I was able to read 4 books and listen to 1 audiobook over the holidays!

  2. I have missed your monthly posts of “Books I Read This Month”! Any chance those will make a reappearance in 2019? Hope so! Happy New Year!

    1. @Kate – I hope to get back to them. October I read a ton of books for a “best of the year” business book round up for the WSJ…and I kind of didn’t want to specifically list the books that were contenders but did NOT make the list. Then in November I didn’t read much because I was doing NaNoWriMo. In December…I just kind of let it slide. So! Hopefully back to the reading soon.

  3. These are great ones. I notice a lot of them are daily habits. It reminds me of Ben Franklin’s daily checklist. I am curious as to what counts as “reaching out” for networking purposes. I send a lot of work emails in a day, but I’m guessing those don’t count as relationship building emails. I guess I’ll have to read the book, but I’m curious. This is something I want to work on for the new year.

    1. @EB – I would think that it would be an email you were sending (not in response to something the other person sent) primarily for the purpose of establishing or deepening ties. So maybe emailing someone you just met at a conference, or someone a colleague mentioned you should get to know, or a former colleague you haven’t spoken with in a whole, or someone in your industry you saw quoted in an article and thought they made an interesting point.

      1. Yes, this is 100% correct! A Reach Out email is a message that is not in response to something, but helps you create relationships or nurture connections that nudge you closer to your career goals.

  4. I started the kindle app on my phone (instead of Facebook) a few years ago and it helps me read so much more. I am going to try the first one this year- I do walk to and from the train but this is a great idea for the middle of the day. Thanks for the list and Happy New Year!

  5. Love the idea of mini-resolutions to break down yearlong (and often daunting) goals. Especially since it’s so easy to forget long term goals…this is why I also started doing monthly + weekly reviews.

    Really like the idea of reaching out to one person per day, I’ll add that to my personal project for Feb. Thanks for this list Laura!

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