Blue Monday is reported to be the most depressing day of the year, falling on the third Monday in January.  First conceived as part of a 2005 press release from a British holiday company, the pseudoscience has entered the mainstream consciousness since then.

Whether you follow the premise, the short, dark, cold days of January can make the celebrations and excesses of the end of the year seem a long way away.  This is compounded by the fact that many of us set unrealistic targets to lose weight, get promoted, write our memoirs and other admirable goals that we have little hope of achieving.

So, what can you do to alleviate the blues?  Here’s my tried and tested advice to help you achieve your new year goals.

1. SMART Goals

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If you’ve worked for a large structured organisation or a smaller one with great managers, you will know all about SMART goals;

Specific
Measurable
Agreed
Realistic
Timely

Make sure your goals are SMART!  There’s a nice template from Project Smart at https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php.

I want to lose weight is not a SMART goal!  How much do you weigh now?  How much do you want to weigh?  How will you know if achieve it?

An example of a SMART goal to lose weight could be I want to lose 2 stone (13kg) before my holiday in July.  2 stone in 6 months- sounds achievable to me (I didn’t say easy, I said achievable!).  You can measure it and there’s a specific date.  Great start!

2. Break It Down

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Imagine setting a goal at age 5 to pass your GCSEs.  Or on the first day of your new job to double sales.  You would think there is no way can I do that!  But I can start to read words and count at 5.  I can make my first sale at my new job. A common mistake business and individuals make is to set goals that are too big and scary which don’t get met.

Losing 13 kg sounds daunting. Losing 1kg less so.  I will lose 1kg 13 times weeks is much simpler to comprehend.

3. Estimate

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Business and software projects often run beyond their due date or are over budget because they are not estimated properly or progress is not monitored effectively.  Far too often I see business set goals based on the management reporting cycle rather than the level of work required.  1 month deadline so we can show success at our next board meeting.  Miss the deadline?  It better be done next month!

All your detailed plans and projects are worth nothing if you cannot provide an accurate estimate (not a guess).

Continuing our weight loss example above, I want to lose 13 kg in 26 weeks, or 0.5kg per week.  That’s a good start.  But factor in the things which could hamper this.  Late Christmas get together with absent family last week of January?  You are probably not going to make much progress.  Dry January challenge accepted (you can sponsor me here btw!) then you may be slightly ahead.  And don’t forget the more weight you lose the harder it becomes.  Maybe our realistic estimate should be 1 kg per week in the first 4 weeks of January, 0 in week 5 then 0.5 from February onwards. This would mean I achieve my goal in early June, 3 weeks ahead of my deadline.  It also gives me a little contingency if a dessert is a little too tempting when I’m out for a friends birthday!

4. Make A Plan

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How are you going to achieve your objective?  Make a project plan, discuss your software feature with your developers, acquire the labour and materials you need.  Without a plan, you will be constantly reacting to circumstances rather than driving your project.  They don’t have to be written in detail necessarily and plans can change, but there must be one!

Weight loss plan:

  • I will take 1 piece of fruit to work with me which I’ll eat instead of chocolate when I’m hungry
  • I’ll go to the gym/run/swim [insert sport here] 3 times a week

5. Monitor Progress

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Monthly (weekly) management reports, progress updates, board meetings.  They’re not there because senior management love meetings (although some masochists may do!).  They are there because business leaders need to see what is happening in their organisation and change direction or make corrections if they are needed.

I’ll weigh myself Sunday mornings and write down my weight.  Seeing progress is incredibly powerful.  I may not have lost 13kg and be at my target weight, but I have lost 1, 2, 3kg and I’m heading in the right directions.

What if I haven’t met this week’s goal?

6. Adapt

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Remember I mentioned flexible plans?  No matter how accurate your estimates and assumptions something will change.  Guaranteed.  You have a plan; you can see changes and what you need to do to adapt to this.  You can see this each week when minor corrections can be made rather than after 6 months when you’re nowhere near!

Maybe I need to spend longer at the gym, drink less alcohol or make some other adjustment to my plan to make sure it’s achievable.  A small change over a long time can have a big impact.

Summary

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  1. Set SMART goals
  2. Break these down into smaller bits
  3. Estimate the time and effort required
  4. Make a plan – and stick to it!
  5. Monitor your progress against your plan
  6. Adapt and update your plan if necessary

Do you have any other suggestions?  I’d love to hear your comments and learn about your progress.  Why not add your goal to comments and come back and see your progress!

Octopus Blue will help you to achieve your goals for 2017, with consultancy and advisory services to help define and monitor your company vision and goals, and mentoring services to assist you and your team achieve them.

Contact andy.bailey@octopusblueuk.com 07974 717713 to discuss further.

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