The celebration of the New Year is one of the oldest of all holidays. It’s a celebration of the passage of time and often accompanied by a period of introspection, thoughts of self-improvement and of course the ritual of the New Year’s resolution.
My resolution in this article is to help you defy the typical New Year’s Resolution’s dismal odds of success. According to statistics, only 8% of all resolution-makers will keep their resolutions for a full year. I’m sure all of us have contributed to that unfortunate 92% at one time or another. So how can you make your 2015 resolutions go beyond mere resolutions and become deeply entrenched, effective habits?
Make Your New Year’s Resolutions on a Quarterly Basis
Most New Year’s Resolutions are destined to fail due to the very nature of the timeframe involved. This is particularly true when it comes to financial advisors. It’s been my experience as a financial advisor, branch manager and coach that most advisors have a touch of ADD, myself included. It’s just the nature of the personality.
As an advisor you are expected to excel in many different roles—rainmaker, problem solver, client service expert, psychologist, hand holder, analyst and master of all paperwork, to name just a few. Superimpose over these many diverse roles, market fluctuations, world events, and firm policies that consistently raise the bar and ADD remains alive, healthy and well. Together, these circumstances make it very difficult to focus on anything for an entire year. So what is an advisor to do?
The solution is to set your New Year’s Resolutions by the quarter rather than the year. Think of your resolutions as quarterly campaigns. Campaigns are powerful. They require you to set very specific and measureable goals and then pursue them with a laser-like focus for a specified but relatively short period of time. No matter how difficult the task may seem, most people, even those with a touch of ADD are able to focus on the task for a full quarter. A year, not so much.
By shortening a resolution’s timeframe, you increase your probability of success. In a perfect world, resolutions become habits. Over a three month timeframe, you utilize habit-forming skills but you’re able to see the payoff from forming your new habit after only three months rather than twelve.
Be Crystal Clear on Your Objectives
“If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
It’s important that you are clear on your destination before ever plotting your course. Take the time to analyze the why, how and when of your resolution in addition to the level of commitment you have to making it a success. Choose your resolution carefully. View it as a contract with yourself and choose one you’re willing to give a 100% commitment to for three months.
Identify any and all potential obstacles and stumbling blocks you’re likely to encounter over the quarter as you pursue your goal. Outline a plan of action to deal with these problems before they occur. Instead of becoming discouraged or giving up when they arise, be prepared for them. They are inevitable.
Start with the end in mind and work backward to your least common denominator. Begin by breaking your quarterly New Year’s Resolution into three monthly goals. Break these into specific activity-based tasks that are essential to the success of each month’s goal. Once you’ve identified all the tasks you must complete in order to reach a monthly goal, then segment the tasks by week.
Know exactly what you need to accomplish in terms of activity each week in order to achieve your monthly goal and ultimately a successful resolution. Finally, analyze your weekly tasks and determine the three most important tasks that you must complete each day. These are your A++ tasks—the ones you unequivocally commit to completing by the end of the day. I recommend that you stick with just three of these A++ tasks a day. This forces you to prioritize with a vengeance. This does not mean you cannot or should not complete anything else in a day. It simply means that these tasks must always be completed first.
The old 80/20 Rule is applicable not only to your business, but also to your task list. 80% of your results will come from 20% of your tasks. Choosing and committing to your three most important tasks each day forces you to focus on the tasks that will produce the most significant results. Reject the idea of completing the easy tasks first to clear time for the difficult tasks or to provide you with a quick sense of accomplishment. You can’t trick your brain. It recognizes that for the avoidance it is.
Cultivate a sense of urgency in completing your three A++ tasks each day. Use self-imposed deadlines to help foster your sense of urgency. Remember how much easier it is to sell when there’s a sense of urgency. Now is the time to create one in your own business.
As you work toward your quarterly resolution, always focus on activity rather than results. You do not have control over the markets, world events or firm policies but you always have control over your activity. Have confidence that when your activity is there, the results you seek will follow.
Visualization is Your Rehearsal for Success
Visualization prepares the mind just as any other rehearsal would. Teams practice plays, actors rehearse lines and financial advisors practice before giving seminars. Everyone performs better when they rehearse.
From this moment on, consider visualization your rehearsal for success. Once you’ve identified your three most important tasks for the day, spend just five minutes each day visualizing yourself completing the tasks and imagining how you’ll feel when your quarterly resolution is successful.
Remember to always visualize in HD using as many of your senses as possible to make it real.
You Can’t Win the Game if You Don’t Know the Score
In order to move consistently and systematically toward the success of your quarterly resolution, you must know what you’re actually doing on a day-to-day basis. What advisors think they’re doing and what they’re actually doing are often two completely different things. The only way to know what you’re actually doing is to track it.
Tracking is something most advisors do early in their career but move further away from it the longer they’re in the business. It takes a little extra time to do but it’s critical to the success of your quarterly resolution. Would Aaron Rodgers attempt to play an entire game without knowing the score? Of course not, and neither should you in your business.
Track only the results-producing activities that you directly control. This is the only way to gain clarity on how much or how little time you’re spending on the tasks that matter the most. One activity you should definitely plan on tracking is whether or not you complete your three A++ tasks each day.
Evaluate Your Progress Regularly
Taking time to evaluate your progress is just as important as tracking what you’re doing on a daily basis. As you’re setting up your tracking spreadsheet, spend some time determining a weekly goal for each activity you list. These goals should reflect the level of activity you feel is necessary to reach your weekly goals, monthly goals and ultimately your quarterly resolution.
Review your tracking every Friday. Determine how your activity measured up against your goals for the week. Adjust your activity levels as necessary. In addition to evaluating your progress on a weekly basis, follow the same evaluation steps at the end of each production month.
Take the time to review what you learned and how you grew over the past month. Determine which tasks should be modified or increased in the following month to ensure your quarterly resolution becomes a reality. Celebrate your successes on an emotional basis and evaluate your challenges from a purely analytical perspective.
In subsequent quarters, you can either continue to build on the previous quarter’s resolution or repeat the process for a new resolution. The ultimate goal by the end of the year is to transform your resolutions into the firmly entrenched, effective habits you seek.
“When it is obvious the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”