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Two Hours and Done: The Easiest Resolution You Can Make This Year

Instead of putting off making a change until you’re in a confetti-strewn hangover on New Year’s Day, why not use December to find a little resolution?
by Ben Hughes | Dec 2 2019

What if I told you that there’s a high-impact New Year’s resolution that you can complete in one sitting, without any of the gruelling habit-forging that dooms most resolutions? And that, even better, you can get it done in December already, enabling you to coast into the new year with a giddiness and lightness that only a resolution already completed can bring?

Enter the Old Year’s resolution.

Let’s begin with the boring stuff. Imagine you’re starting an important, year-long project at work. Would you dive right into action, with no semblance of a plan, just kind of doing whatever came up day to day for the entire year?

Of course not. You’d probably want to start with some serious research and planning. You’d go at that whiteboard like a Picasso of middle-management, defining the exact purpose and scope of the project, and clearly delineating what success would look like. You’d then plot a likely path to get there and set up a process to follow it over the year. And when it was all over, you’d definitely want to devote time to a retrospective, analyzing the key results and learnings.

And yet, when it comes to the project of life, all too often we approach it like it was our email inbox: we just deal with whatever comes up each day and repeat until death finally clears our inboxes once and for all. But that short-sighted approach is likely to be just as unsuccessful and unfulfilling in life as it would be at work.

Conveniently, the turn of the year presents an opportunity to zoom out a bit and examine the big picture. But for many of us, December is mostly about tying up loose ends before the holidays, with little or no time devoted to reflection and planning. As a result, all we tend to do is set a one-off, usually untenable New Year’s resolution right before we go off on another turn of the solar carousel.

So this year, why not try something different? Rather than making a New Year’s resolution, join me in an Old Year’s resolution in December. I hope it will prove much more impactful than anything you might attempt in January.

Here’s the deal: Block a two-hour slot in your calendar during one of the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. You’ll use this time to reflect on the past year and think about what you want out of the next one.

Start the session by skimming your calendar, notes and sent emails from the past year. If you have a journal, be sure to look through that, too. You don’t need to wade too deep, as the purpose is just to remind yourself about what was top of mind for you over the course of the past year. This research should span both your personal and professional life, with the goal of answering the following questions:

  • What were your greatest successes, and what contributed to them?
  • What were your biggest failures, and what contributed to them?
  • What were the most impactful things you learned?
  • If you had to give a theme to the past year, what would it be?

Next, turn your attention to the coming year:

  • What big projects in your life can you already foresee?
  • What behaviors or thought patterns would you like to change, and why?
  • What will success in the above two items look like, and what will it require?
  • What do you hope to have learned this time next year?
  • If you had to give a theme to the coming year, what would it be?

For bonus points, since the decade is over, challenge yourself to look at the big, BIG picture: Where were you in life ten years ago? What was important to you back then? If the past ten years were a chapter in your life story, what would its theme be?

And what about the coming decade? Where do you wish to be in life in 2030? Flying on jetpacks? Evading the roaming mutant hordes of The Waste Lands, Quadrant 4? Or will you simply have established yourself as a thought leader in your field?

Even if you only take this as a thought exercise, the long-term glimpse you can uncover is already enlightening, and very interesting to review come December 2020.

And if you want to go a bit further and turn your goals into real-life actions, I highly recommend David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity system, which can help turn ideas into projects and actions. To get started, be sure to check out our Blinks to Allen’s book.

So to really start 2020 with resolve, take a moment to pause and look around you. You may find that seen from afar, the path behind you looks very different than when you were trudging along it one day at a time. And the path ahead may well become clearer and much easier to shape, too.

Good luck, and happy Old Year!

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