6 Reasons You Can't Stay Productive

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: July 29, 2013

Are Your New Year's Resolutions Not So New (or Resolved)?

It’s March. Raise your hand if you remember the resolutions you made on New Year’s Eve. Anyone? C’mon now. Just one.

Hmmm. That’s what I thought. New year’s resolutions are for new years. Once the year has lost its newness, March rolls around along with streets full of icky, melted snow and we tend to lose the fresh-faced, "bring on the change!" attitude we had back in January.

What happened to all that enthusiasm? Productivity guru David Allen wisely pointed out making resolutions at the end of the year may not be such a good idea. Why? Because inevitably we end up looking at all the things we did wrong last year (botched Project X, worked too much, etc.) and make a long list of all the behaviors we will correct in the new year.

In other words, we make a grocery list of all our failures and then berate ourselves for not keeping to resolutions. Ouch. A couple years of that and you just do what everyone else does: forget about them. Or don’t make them at all. So here's what I suggest as an alternative.

6. Focus on the Positive

Start by giving yourself some encouragement. What did you accomplish last year that rocked the pants off your boss and colleagues? Which projects had you jumping out of bed all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning? Set goals that bring more of that into your life, as opposed to focusing on all the bad things about yourself and your work that you have to "fix."

5. Buy Into the Hype

Make your goals what David Allen calls "51% believable."

If you've had the same resolutions for years, it may be time to downsize. Embrace positivity, but set goals you can at least visualize into reality. If it seems impossible, it just may be -- for now. Bring your goals into the realm of the possible and watch them come alive.

4. Focus on the Journey

"We almost never achieve our goals," says Allen. "By the time I’m halfway to it I’m already more mature, more experienced and I have better data."

You’ll find other goals on the way, more interesting paths to follow. It's hardly ever a bad thing when you evolve and head down other paths with outcomes that are more appealing. Yes you want to be drive, but you also have to be adaptable. So just go with it.

3. Manage Your Goals Regularly

In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau recommends an easy goal management system that will keep you on track all year long.

Start by making three lists: 1-year, 5-year and lifetime resolutions. The first can be reviewed monthly, the second semi-annually and the third annually. Be ready to move things around as they become more achievable. The important things is that you review them regularly and keep them optimized.

2. Get Your List Off Paper & Into Real Life

I know this sounds a little strange, but just trust me OK?

Pick one goal and write in on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. Write another on a post-it and stick it to your computer at work. It's easy to scoff at this simple suggestion, but the fact is files are too easy to delete and paper too easy to lose. A list in a drawer or deep in the recesses of your desktop is much easier to ignore or forget about than one that is staring you in the face on a daily basis.

1. Baby Steps

Be like Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob? Baby steps.

A paranoid hypochondriac, he didn’t just hop on a bus to Lake Winnipesaukee. First he packed his bag, then he bought the ticket, they he got on the bus...you get the picture. He took it one tiny step at a time. Then another. And then another.

It’s the smaller, slower, everyday efforts that produce the biggest results. Be like Bob. Bite off a little and chew. Then repeat until you reach the final goal.

Amy Knapp is a freelance copywriter specializing in career management strategy.

Let Salary.com Help You

Is one of your goals to learn how to better negotiate your salary in order to receive what you're worth? If not it should be. And Salary.com can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.