January is the symbolic month of new beginnings. Empowered with a vision of a fresh start and new chances, we feel like we can rule the world. Armed with a list of New Year’s resolutions, sophisticated plan outlines and flames of motivation burning in our hearts, we feel prepared to start the battle of conquering the lands of success. However, March is usually a month of facing the truth. In most cases, the explosion of motivation which sparkled the world like a firework, quickly fades and turns to dust. Discouraged by first failures, we tend to give up, waving the white flag to our future plans and dismissing New Year’s resolutions as very silly ideas. But let’s pause and think- losing a battle does not mean we have to lose the war!
No matter what you want to achieve this year- finding an interesting internship, developing a new hobby, creating a habit of going early to bed or reading a book once a month, with a good strategy and consistency you can surely enjoy the victory at the end of this year. But which strategy to choose? Inspired by organizational successes of big firms, I prepared for you a list of a few important business strategies, translated to daily life situations. If companies use them in creating billion euros worth plans, why not apply them to succeed with our New Year’s resolutions?
“Losing a battle does not mean we have to lose the war.”
1. Overcome the (organizational) inertia
Inertia is a word taken from physical science and means: “the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed and direction”. Reluctance in changing anything is just a part of the nature and is equally cruel for objects, human beings and organizations. The first step in overcoming this problem is realizing it exists. The moment you see that your rigid strategies do not work anymore, you know that you cannot go about business as usual. Albert Einstein said that the biggest insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you want to achieve something, be prepared for a change!
2. Create a specific vision
A broad vision of every company is to deliver a value to their customers. However, this is way too vague. Only a specific vision can serve as a beginning of a structured plan. Therefore, first thing to do, is to come up with a really clear vision of what you want to achieve. Your vision is the fnishing line and more importantly, it is you succeeding. So, imagine yourself having already your dream job position, fluently speaking Spanish, holding your Cum Laude Master diploma or having your dream body. It feels good, doesn’t it? Keep in mind this visualisation and use it as a fuel on this race. It will help you be consistent in taking action and giving up short-term pleasures for long term achievements.
3. Focus on your core competences
In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve a mastery in a field. You do not necessarily have to become a master to achieve your goal but surely you have to devote some time to realize it. Since time is a scarce resource, you have to focus on just one target at the time. Select something that is crucial and give your best to it. Only then can you create an achievement which distinguishes you and becomes your thing.
4. SMART goals
Once you have a vision, plan subsequent goals which will lead you to accomplishing it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so remember to break your big vision into a few smaller steps. Your goals should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Instead of vague resolutions, SMART goal setting creates verifiable trajectories towards a certain objective, with clear milestones and an estimation of the goal’s attainability.
Benchmarking is the process of comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to industry bests or best practices from other companies. The objectives of benchmarking are to determine what and where improvements are called for and to analyse how other organizations achieve their high performance levels. Find your own guru or inspiring people and ask how they achieved success, what the pitfalls were and how they overcame them. For example, if you are struggling with your bachelor thesis subject, ask a master student how she/he made it through. When you want to go for an exchange but feel lost in all the procedures, find people who already went there and ask for some tips. Asking and being inspired can help a lot!
6. Stick to your plan but incorporate logical incrementalism
Logical incrementalism is a management philosophy which states that strategies do not come into existence based on a one time decision but rather, it exists through making small, periodically evaluated decisions. Therefore, on the way to success you have to pause and reflect back on what is achieved and what is yet to be done. Oftentimes, initial plans we made have to be modified and adjusted to current situations. Be flexible with your actions and change them if necessary!
Kaizen is a business philosophy of constantly introducing small incremental changes in a business in order to improve quality and/or efficiency. According to kaizen strategy, you have to consciously learn a way, figuring out what works best. For example, if you notice that preparing a daily “to do list” helps you make assignments faster, incorporate that in your routine. Maybe when learning a new language, listening to the music in that language makes it easier to expand your vocabulary- start doing it more often!
8. Give yourself a bonus
In order to stay focused and motivated, you have to create incentives for yourself. Therefore, try to celebrate every little achievement. You choose what it can be but remember to adjust it accurately to the significance of a success. And do not cheat by manipulating the data to get the reward- eventually you do not compete with anyone but yourself.
“The ultimate goal is growth, not perfection.”
Creating any new habit or making an important change in your life may seem overwhelming. But when you apply some efficient strategies, the whole process can become much easier. Moreover, remember two more things: 1) the ultimate goal is growth, not perfection 2) as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”