Make New Year's resolutions stick

hoffmandavidLR.jpg January is the time of new beginnings. This is the hopeful time of great resolve when the health clubs are full, when the sale of nicotine patches soar and when office desks tops are tidy and polished. We are now in that short sweet season when we really do believe that the garage will actually be cleaned up, that the kids will learn how to have all of their weekend homework done by Saturday noon and that those extra 20 pounds will certainly melt away.

Using resolutions the right way

It is in this season of optimism and hope when many of us are setting to the task of writing New Year’s resolutions. I believe that writing specific goals for the year is a good thing, although it can be a miserable task if we approach it with the wrong attitude.

The trick to resolutions is to use them as a gauge of our wins and not as a record of our losses. Resolution writing and resolution tracking need to become a ritual of celebration and fun. It shouldn’t become a dreary and burdensome task that awakens a negative inner voice that tells us that we are losers.

My trick to resolution writing has been to keep it short and sweet. In January 1996, I made a list of two resolutions that I carried around in my appointment book until I finally accomplished both of them in 2000. With those accomplished, I embarked on a more extensive list last year.

A wise friend of mine uses a word or a short phrase to summarize what he wants to accomplish during the year rather than a long list of hard and fast goals. His theory is that a goal is only valuable if you can remember it at all times. He supplements his phrase with a list of wishes rather than a list of resolutions. He says that having wishes is a lot more fun than having resolutions. I like his approach.

Another friend works on his resolutions by running off to a resort for a weekend getaway with his wife. The whole process becomes characterized by fun and collaboration. This is especially important when writing our personal goals.

Developing meaningful goals at work

We typically approach our work-related goals with greater seriousness than our personal goals. The key to developing meaningful goals at work is to focus on tangible outcomes rather than simply on activities. At my business, an outcome goal would be something like "close three new loans per month" while an activity goal would be something like "network with business leaders." The activity may contribute to the tangible outcome, but in itself it is not a tangible accomplishment.

In writing our annual goals at work, we always need to focus in on the tangible outcomes. It is the responsibility of the leader of the business to make sure that the workers clearly understand what tangible outcomes are needed to assure success. Clearly articulated tangible goals foster a sense of accountability and responsibility among all employees.

A focus on tangible outcomes broadens the perspective of employees and helps them to focus on the needs of others -- specifically the customer. Activity goals tend to foster more of an inward focus.

For many of us, our most important annual business goals are encapsulated in our annual budgets. Most individual goals should ultimately tie somehow into bottom-line profits.

The key to profits is typically the revenue section of the budget. Each employee should focus each day on how he or she can contribute to revenues. Revenue is the ultimate tangible outcome. Too often employees focus on the expense section of the budget rather than the revenue section. Expenses are typically the responsibility of the supervisor, whereas revenues should be the responsibility of every employee in the company.

January is the time of year for setting new goals for ourselves at home and at the office. We are at that wonderful time of year when 2002 is all hope and no history. We need to make the most of this season of optimism and hope by taking time to write down what we really want to accomplish this year.

In our personal lives, we need to make reasonable goals that can bring us a sense of accomplishment rather than failure. At the office we need to establish outcome goals that will generate tangible benefits for the company rather than activity goals that simply measure motion and not results.

David Hoffman is president and chief executive of Alaska Growth Capital. He can be reached in Anchorage at 907-349-4904 or via e-mail at ([email protected]).

01/21/2002 - 8:00pm