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!