It’s the time of year when people start to think about making New Year’s resolutions. But since 2020 was such a dumpster fire (someone literally invented an emoji for it), some of us are feeling the 2021 hope more than ever.
The changing of the year, it seems, is more symbolic this year.
I started 2020 with a lot of optimism. This year would be my year. I launched a company, opened a bank account, deposited consulting checks, and just generally prepared for great things.
Then the damned virus hit. And as I limp across the finish line for 2020, still standing but a lot less optimistic, I’m feeling more than ever that New Year’s resolutions this year just feel like a specific type of lie.
Next year I’m going to eat healthier.
Yeah, considering last year we ate and drank too much while confined to our houses, that’s not a huge stretch.
But 2020 wasn’t a total loss. In fact, I learned some things about myself. And the one thing that stands out the most is the power of habits. Now, that sounds like a Charles Duhigg book, but the importance of habits was driven home to me by another book I read last year: Atomic Habits.
Habits, I’ve found, are much more powerful than resolutions. Or, perhaps better put, fulfilling resolutions requires habit change. And, as James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, the smallest changes in your habits can have compounded effects.
When I was writing my thesis, I made a habit of writing 500 words a day on it. While this wasn’t much, in fact, it might only take an hour, the consistency of doing it day after day meant that I finished it and moved on with my life.
The smallest changes can have tremendous impacts. So here are 7 ideas for life changing habits that can be small steps to major transformation.
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1. Set a daily social media time
When I started to get some traction on Twitter, it was hard not to sit staring at my phone all day. I was working for the government, and I would occasionally sneak into the bathroom to spend a bit of extra time responding to people and tweeting things out.
That’s not healthy.
There are some people who need to spend more time on social media, especially LinkedIn, where building a profile and presence can transform your career.
There are some who need to spend less, especially if hours slip away from you as you scroll.
One small habit change can be to set a daily social media time, to make sure you engage during that time, but to leave it otherwise. For me, this has meant deleting the Twitter and LinkedIn apps from my phone so I can do more productive work, and even using ColdTurkey to stop me from going on during times when I should be working.
2. Create a morning routine
This is a potentially small, but life-changing habit. I do a few things in my morning routine: listen to inspirational speakers like Les Brown, write goals in a journal, and exercise.
But I built up to this. In the beginning, start really small. For example, you might write 5 things you’re thankful for. Over time, as you get used to the habit, you can add to it.
3. Connect with people who are interesting
A small habit with potentially life-changing impact, start connecting intentionally with people you find interesting. When you read an article in the media you like, follow the author or, connect with them on LinkedIn and send them a note saying you liked their article.
I’ve met so many people doing this. I expect nothing back. It’s not quid pro quo.
But everyone likes to be noticed for their work. So drop a message and connect with neat people. It only takes a minute, and it’s a great way to build a network of people doing neat things.
4. Meet one new person a month
How often do you have conversations with new people? These types of conversations open up life and career possibilities, but even more than that, they help you to find new ways of seeing the world.
Lifelong learning is more necessary than ever, so let people be your classroom! This means you’ll be building your network too, which is never a bad thing.
When you look for new people, think outside the box. Don’t only meet people who live in the space you do or who know what you know. Try to meet people who inhabit vastly different worlds.
5. Do one thing weekly that could change everything
In 2021, I challenge you to make it a habit to do one thing that could change everything for you. Work on it a bit every week.
Apply for a job that’s way out of your grasp. Or, think outside the box and send a video CV. Pitch the media outlet. Make the YouTube video. Send the book query to the agent. Write to the VC. Apply to the Accelerator. Visit the small business center.
Stop waiting for life to change, and force yourself to take small steps towards things that could transform your life.
SMALL STEPS. I really do believe that’s the key.
6. Focus on things that matter
“Most people major in minor things”- Jim Rohn.
As much as I can make a resolution for 2021, this is what I’ve realized.
There are so many things we can fill the day with. Busyness comes easy, and we wear it like a badge of honor.
In 2021, I want to focus on less. Doing more of the things I do really well, and less of the things I don’t. Focusing on the things that will drastically move the needle, and getting rid of the things that don’t.
It’s likely that 20% of the work you do in your life will create 90% of the impact to yourself and your world. So make it a habit to do more of that work, and trim the fat.
7. Watch your money
I wanted to include a money habit, because–frankly–many of us have money habits that suck. So here’s an easy one.
Look at your bank account. Weekly. See where money is going and where it’s coming from… And adjust as you see it.
I’ve gone through periods in my life where I avoid looking at my bank account like I avoid moving my couch to vacuum under it–scared of what I’ll find (okay, I don’t actually do either of these anymore. But there was a time.)
Keep an eye on it.
These are some of the small but, I think, life changing habits I’m trying to build in 2021. Some of them I started in 2020, but I need to grow them. How about you? What habits are you working on building? Reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter and tell me. Happy New Year!