There is a strange phenomenon in the second half of each January. Gyms around the world start to empty out. Caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol purchases scale back up. TV binge-watching reaches previously high levels. That’s right, this is the time of year when resolutions start to slip. The best and brightest of intentions lose their luster in the harsh light of reality. Faced with the uphill battle to get healthy, save money, and be a better person, even the strongest willpower crumbles. In fact, only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.
You may be noticing resentment building around the positive, fresh, and exciting goals you had set for yourself and your business mere weeks ago. Or perhaps, after years of realizing the same failed resolution cycle, you have decided to opt out of this year’s ritual. Even if you’re one of the few still standing with the dedication to becoming the best version of yourself and taking your business to new highs, an understanding of the psychology behind goal attainment can help get you past the bumps that may arise in your journey.
First, a moment to validate the resolution concept. It’s easy to regard the resolution concept as passé. Much like a teen who faces a difficult challenge might label the activity as “dumb” to rationalize avoidance, even adults can leverage the art of the eye roll when faced with monumental efforts. However, this time-honored method of evaluation, reflection, and goal setting exists for a reason. Research shows there is something to the “fresh start effect.” There is a drive to break old habits at the beginning of a new time cycle like a new year, a new month, the beginning of a week, after our birthday, etc. Does this matter? According to researcher Katherine Milkman, it does.
Milkman says you can’t hit the home run if you don’t get up to bat. Leveraging the new year as a convenient moment to evaluate, recalibrate, and make changes really does set you up for more success in the long term. We can make the most of these new cycles in two ways. The first is to identify one-time decisions that have a huge impact (e.g. enrolling in 401(k) plans, getting a flu shot, etc.). The second is to take the opportunity to identify the habits we want to make, and leveraging temptation bundling. Let’s take a look at how your business can benefit from each method.
Here are a few one-time decisions you can make that really will have a substantial impact on your business:
- Audit your clients. An annual review of the clients that comprise your best customers and those who are a massive, unprofitable time-suck often will result in the 80/20 rule being demonstrated. It may be time to fire the clients who don’t pay on time (or at all), suck up an inordinate amount of energy and customer service, or simply don’t make sense for your business.
- Evaluate your tech. Are you at risk of a security breach? Would an investment in hardware upgrades improve your speed of business? Perhaps it’s time to dust off that old website and put a shiny new face on it.
- Review your personnel. Much like your clients, you’ll often find that 20% of your employees are contributing 80% of the productivity. Take time to reward the top performers and purge any staff not meeting your standards.
Temptation Bundling is a system to help motivate us to perform tasks we dislike. One common example is to only watch your favorite TV show while working out at the gym. Combining something you dislike with something you enjoy means you’re more likely to complete the less desirable tasks. How does this apply to your business? Here are a few ideas:
- Food pairing. Is it time to revisit your business plan or maybe start your taxes? If there are heads down tasks you keep postponing, consider treating yourself to an upscale lunch while you work. Combining your favorite flavors with some less appetizing tasks may ensure you give them the attention they need.
- Treat yourself. If you give yourself an annual bonus, consider tying that reward to the completion of a project or task. It doesn’t have to be a dollar payment. Perhaps the purchase of a new gadget or some vacation time can be leveraged as self-motivation.
So the old adage is true, you’ll never win if you never begin. Use the beginning of each new year to identify one-time decisions that will have a long-term impact, and bundle temptations to help motivate you to complete the tough tasks. Let’s make 2018 the best year yet. Cheers to health, happiness, and success in 2018 and beyond!