zenhabits : breathe

7 Essential Tips to Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. - Eleanor Roosevelt

As I reflected on this past year, I realized that 2007 has been perhaps my best year ever. It’s funny, because that’s what I thought about 2006, but my years seem to be getting better and better.

And so I reflected on what made these past two years so great, and how I could leverage these successes for even further improvement. I’d like to share some things I’ve learned about the past two (very great) years, and how you might be able to use them to make this next year your greatest year yet.

1. One goal. This will sound crazy to many of you who have so many goals you’d like to accomplish. And trust me, I know how that feels. I started out 2007 with a whole bunch of goals, but I only accomplished about half of them. I didn’t realize how things would change for me during the year, and anyway, 9 goals is too many.

I’ve said this before, but it’s so important I’m going to repeat it: you’re at your most powerful if you focus on one thing at a time. If you have 10 goals, you’ll spread your focus thinly. But if you have one goal, you’ll be able to focus you energy and attention completely on that one goal. And that’s one of the secrets of success.

You might have 10 goals to achieve for your lifetime. If so, choose just one to accomplish this year. And focus completely on that this year. You might have shorter-term sub-goals to achieve in a month or two, but those should lead to your One Goal for 2008.

Put your goal on your wall, on you computer desktop. Make it your mantra. Keep it your focus for 2008, and you’ll not only achieve it, but you’ll feel great for doing so.

2. Create a new habit. In 2006, when my goal was to run a marathon, I built up the daily habit of running. That habit led to my goal. When my goal became to grow my blog in 2007, I developed the daily habit of blogging. Goals are achieved by habits. What habit can you develop this month to help achieve your One Goal for this year?

Once you’ve identified that goal, you’ll need to commit yourself, hold yourself accountable to a group of people, and focus completely on that habit for a month. I recommend the Zen Habits January Challenge. It’s the perfect way to create a habit and lead to the achievement of your One Goal.

I also plan to write more about creating habits in the next week or two, so stay tuned.

The journey of thousand miles starts with a single step. – Chinese Proverb

3. Take action now. It’s all good and well to set goals or resolutions, but the best plans are worthless if you don’t act on them. Action is everything. Take action today to make your goal come true. Tomorrow, take another action. In fact, take one action toward your One Goal every day, first thing in the day, and make it the most important thing you do every day. If you do that, there’s almost no way that you won’t achieve that goal.

The actions can be small things: making a list, making a call, doing some research (“find five possible venues for the conference”). But take action.

4. Simplify. As you might have figured out by now, I’m all about simplicity. So this will sound redundant. But if you take the time to simplify your life, in some way, this month, your year will be much better. When we have too much going on in our lives, it overwhelms us. It spreads us thin. It makes us ineffective. Simplifying things helps keep us sane, and makes us more powerful. Take some time to identify the 4-5 things that are most important in your life, then simplify your commitments (and goals and to-do list) so that they fall in line with those 4-5 priorities. More.

5. Focus on happiness. It sounds corny, but if you make your happiness become your focus, you’ll be happier. It’s really that simple (or at least, it has been for me). What makes you happy? That should be the focus of your life. This year, make happiness be your priority. Then do the things necessary to make it a reality. Some tips.

6. Schedule time for you, and your loved ones. If these two things are in your top 4-5 important things (see above), you might consider revising the list. At least one thing on your short list of 4-5 things should be something you love to do. At least one other should be spending time in some way with people you love to spend time with. For me, that’s my wife and kids, and running and reading and writing. Actually, that sentence describes my entire short list: spend time with family, read, write, and run. Everything else is superfluous.

Spending time with yourself, doing something you love to do, will give you time for reflection. It will make you happier, and give you time to decompress. Don’t have time? Make time.

Spending time with loved ones, connecting with them, is in my opinion absolutely essential to happiness. Make it a priority.

7. Learn to focus. This goes back to what was said above about One Goal and simplifying, but it’s important not only on those macro levels, but on a day-to-day basis as well. It’s easy to get caught up in things that come our way, in the daily crises that derail our plans, in distractions and email and phone calls and Twitter. Very easy. If you allow yourself to lose focus, you’ll have a very difficult time accomplishing your goals.

To make this your best year ever, learn to focus. Make it one of your monthly habits. Start by identifying your One Goal and your 4-5 priorities. Then, every day, focus yourself on those things. Each morning (or the night before), make a list of the 3 Most Important Things (MITs) that you want to accomplish today. Then start on the first one, first thing, instead of getting distracted by email or any of the other things that take away your attention. Shut everything off except what you need for that task. Clear your desk and turn off the phone and any notifications on your computer. Then focus on that one thing, trying your utmost to complete the task.

When you’re done, take a break and reward yourself. Then focus on the next task. Working like this, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. - Oscar Wilde

More great posts elsewhere on making this year great:

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