1. Stop Setting Vague Goals
A lot of people start the year with big, admirable-sounding goals like lose weight, exercise more or save more money. The problem is that keeping it general diminishes your ability to succeed because you haven’t thought through the process of making that goal a reality each day. Drop the vagueness and get more specific instead. James Clear, the bestselling author of Atomic Habits, recommends setting a clear goal that includes your plan of action. He developed this simple sentence formula for people to fill out for any behavior you are trying to change, drop or adopt – “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].” So, if you’d like to exercise more, bring that goal to life with specific intentions. Think about the desired action and add the how, when and where factor, like “running three days a week before work at the gym,” “taking a Yoga class at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the studio two blocks from our office,” etc.
2. Stop Skimping on Sleep
I spent the first 20 years of my career skimping on sleep. Thought it gave me more time for work, socializing and morning exercise. But as time passed by, it actually hurt me because sleep is essential for effective brain functioning. In their February 2016 Harvard Business Review article: There’s a proven link between effective leadership and getting enough sleep, authors Nick van Dam and Els van der Helm note that “sleep deprivation impairs the ability to focus attention selectively. After roughly 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness (say, at 11 PM or 1 AM for someone who got up at 6 AM), individual performance on a range of tasks is equivalent to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. That’s the legal drinking limit in many countries.” The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which directs what psychologists call executive functioning, doesn’t cope well with little sleep. Some of the most successful leaders praise the powers of getting plenty of sleep, like Jeff Bezos, Arianna Huffington, Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Gates. Check out these 5 ways to get a better night of sleep to get more consistent shut eye.
3. Stop Apologizing for No Reason
Ever find yourself apologizing when you haven’t done anything wrong? You know, like leading with an apologetic or self-deprecating comment in a meeting or exchange to diffuse tension, avoid being disliked or make peace with others? This problem is particularly prevalent with women. It’s no surprise that a study from the University of Waterloo in Canada found that females apologize more frequently than men; their hypothesis is that women tend to have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior. As noted in this NBC News article, Maja Jovanovic, Ph.D., sociology professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and author of “Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing and Other Career Mistakes Women Make,” attributes a woman’s tendency to apologize to being “socialized into a passive mindset” and “people pleasing behavior” from an early age. “Apologies have become our de-facto way of communicating, a way of filling the silence and keeping the peace when interacting with others,” she says in this story. Whatever the cause, apologizing for no reason hurts your career. It diminishes the value of your ideas and accomplishments. Appearing wishy-washy isn’t going to help you get a promotion or that corner office. Plus, it hurts your self-esteem and well-being. Here’s my story of breaking that long-time habit.
Dropping these behaviors – setting vague goals, skimping on sleep and apologizing for no reason – can bring all sorts of goodness into your life. What do you plan to stop doing in 2020?