7 Steps for a Productive 2016

Vision, mission, goals, strategy and asctino plans

In my view, time off at Christmas and New Year is mainly about having fun with the family and catching up with old friends. However it’s also a great opportunity to reflect on the last year and to think about your approach for the year ahead. This week is a great time to kick back and have a think about what lies ahead for the New Year and everything you want to achieve.

Reflect and Project

A great place to start is with a simple exercise of reflection and projection. The Mind Chi blog has a great piece on this with mapped examples. In essence we look through the 2015 calendar and write down the significant events and achievements from the last 12 months. In parallel we build a separate list of what we would like to a achieve over the year to come.

Having built your forward-looking list for 2016 you may wish to re-read the blog I wrote last year  with a few tips about how you might increase your chances of sticking to these new goals. If you’ve completed your reflection/projection maps you’ve already completed one of the 7 tips!

Categorize your Work

Another angle is to think about your various roles that you perform (eg parent and partner at home, or leader, manager and employee at work). In fact your categories may emerge naturally from the reflection/projection process that you started with. In the work context, I find it useful to get clear on how I intend to spend my weeks and group that into categories. There are things you do already that you wish you did more of, while there are other aspects that you would be delighted if they disappeared altogether.

An easy approach to this that I often recommend to my clients is to  note down everything that you do over a couple of days or a week and then sort those tasks into the appropriate categories. Your list will be different from mine below but whatever you come up with, try to limit the yourself to four or five groupings.

As a self-employed marketing consultant, the four main areas I focus on are:

  • Client work: This is the bread and butter of my business, doing a good job for clients and making sure I provide a high quality service for their own ventures to thrive. This generates my income so I should want to spend as much time on this as possible.
  • My business development: I want my business to grow and need to build strategies to bring more clients on board, maybe add some new services as well. This doesn’t generate income today but is stuff related to my pipeline of potential future paying clients or new services and as such is important area to invest time.
  • Administration: No business survives without focusing on admin such as bookkeeping, invoicing and all those everyday tasks that keep you motoring along. I view these tasks as necessary evils – they can’t be ignored but my intention is to invest no more time than necessary. Personally I include processing email in this admistration category as well.
  • Balance: I don’t want to be working every hour that God sends – I want a balance between the office, my clients, and my home life. This category I use for those activities during the day that are an investment in myself – going for a swim, having lunch with my wife, or having a break and doing an hour’s gardening.
  • Distractions: This isn’t really a focus area at all, but a category for all the time wasting stuff that I try to minimise. Sometimes I find the very fact that I label activities as a distraction is sufficient for me to do something else more meaningful.

How Much Time are you Going to Spend on Each Category?

Once you have your categories and goals, the next step is to decide how much time you are going to devote to them each month in order to achieve your goals. Some areas will be more important than others but you still need to be realistic here rather than over optimistic. You will probably want to spend less time on the admin side of things and focus more on client activities and business growth that make a difference but you still want have enough time to devote to each category.

Measuring the ACTUAL Time you Spend on your Categories and Making Adjustments

Despite our best intentions, we don’t live in a perfect world and your initial plan may not work out as you hoped – in fact it will be a miracle if it does. During the first month, keep track of how your goal setting behaves by making notes on a regular basis or using a time tracking app like Toggl. Not only does this kind of monitoring help keep you on track, it also ensures you manage to improve your work-life balance spot.
Making the effort to align your goals with just a few main work categories will mean that in 2016 your efforts are more focused and more productive. While it involves a degree of thought and planning, the benefits should soon become apparent if you perservere. Developing a firm plan and committing to carrying it out could be the key to your success this coming year.

So in summary the steps are simple

  1. Reflect on the last year to allow yourself to be grateful for all the good things in your life
  2. Project forwards to think about the few things that you would like to achieve over the coming year
  3. Categorise the things that make up your day/week
  4. Choose what the right balance should be for YOU across the categories you selected
  5. Measure  and reflect upon your progress.
  6. Adjust your behaviour accordingly
  7. Celebrate your successes

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s hope it’s a great one for all of us.

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