Did you know that the “real” new year starts in September? Let me explain. I spent 37 years of my life either attending a school or teaching at one. My father was a high school principal for my entire childhood, which meant that our family life and vacations revolved around the academic calendar. Whether I was a student or a professor, the phrase “starting a new year” usually meant returning to school at the end of the summer.
For better or worse, the American school calendar affects everyone – even those who don’t have a direct connection to a school. People tend to take vacations in the summertime, and businesses slow down because they are not fully staffed. Many businesses even struggle to maintain their “survival mode” and only focus on the necessities that must get done.
Whether you are looking to start a new project or re-commit to your personal goals, you are in luck. Labor Day is only a few weeks away, marking the “real” start to the new year. The weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving are an ideal time to start and make significant progress on a new project. Those 11 weeks are a critical time because you will likely have consistent access to your co-workers and your target audience. Put another way, most of the country is in “work mode” instead of “vacation mode” during this time.
To help you make the most of the start of the “new year,” here are my four tips.
1. Set a Deadline
The tech company 37 Signals does all of its planning in six-week increments. They have found that six weeks is enough time to make substantial progress on a worthwhile goal. But six weeks is also short enough to help you stay focused.
By setting a clear deadline, you can avoid “analysis paralysis” and motivate yourself to make tough decisions and get started. The other benefit of a six-week timeline is that the project has a set end date. While the project may not be your favorite, you can rest assured that you won’t be working on it forever. So, whether you plan the project for six weeks or set a goal of “before Thanksgiving,” give yourself a clear deadline.
2. Create a System
In our Finding Resilience email community, I have shared some tips from Atomic Habits by James Clear. One of the best quotes from Clear’s book is, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” Goals are important, but our excitement over a new goal has a limited shelf-life. To make progress, we need to have a clear, step-by-step plan for how we will achieve that goal. As you prepare for your “new year,” take the next few weeks to set your goals and develop a daily or weekly system for achieving them.
3. No Excuses
Let’s face it: Covid may be sticking around for a while. By this time, most of us have settled into a routine that feels comfortable for us. While I encourage you to be as safe as reasonably possible, we also need to figure out how we will live in a world with Covid. I believe that we can no longer put new projects and initiatives on hold. Instead, we should try new approaches to starting and implementing projects or goals without making excuses.
4. Stay Focused
The last step is to keep your eye on the prize. Over the Fall season, you may face many distractions; the challenge is not allowing them to derail your progress. For example, you can be an informed voter in the mid-term elections without following the hourly “breaking news” updates from the networks. You can enjoy your favorite sports team without listening to hours of game predictions and post-game analysis. You can stay connected to friends without spending hours on social media. The best strategy is to set clear goals, create and follow your systems to meet those goals and then reward yourself.
The new year is upon us. Whether your goal is to reach new preneed prospects, create a new marketing campaign or hold three community seminars, now is the time to prepare for making massive progress towards your goals. I wish you the best of success in the “new year.”
For more stories and insights written especially for funeral professionals, I invite you to join the free Finding Resilience email program. Each week, I share practical advice about preventing funeral professional burnout, from prioritizing goals for your funeral home business to finding work-life balance and much more.