Like music, the world around you has a repetitive rhythm. Weeks, years, or seasons change regularly. In this article, you will learn how you can use it to build habits and implement your plans.
Imagine that you want to learn Spanish. It won’t be easy, but you decide to try. Where will you start? From tomorrow? From Monday? Or better in a week? The decision of when to start a new project is not easy. Fortunately, habit scientists decided to see if there is a rule that will tell you when is the best time to start with a new resolution.
The researchers decided to use Google. But don’t worry, they didn’t come up with the obvious way you think – enter the question into the search box. Instead, they turned to Google Insights and pulled up an enormous database of search results for the word diet.
The analysis from several years has shown that people most often enter this keyword at the beginning of new periods. So, more people are looking for information on proper nutrition on Monday than Friday. The same goes for months and years. Diet interests us the most at the beginning of the quarter, year, etc.
Further research showed that similar conclusions can be drawn from the analysis of other words related to resolutions, such as gym. These milestone dates inspire us. Something new is starting around us, and we also want to use this moment for new plans.
A new opening: the Effect of a Fresh Start
This phenomenon has been called The Fresh Start Effect. It results from the boundary we set ourselves: we need a specific date that separates the imperfect past from a better future full of changes and improvements. The beginning of the year or week is an ideal opportunity to build a “new me”. It is, in a sense, a cycle of transformation that is natural for humans in many areas.
We like cycles. Once, before the creation of the first civilizations, people lived in cycles of nature. Now we also observe various changes around us every day. Some are large and slow, such as seasons or business cycles in the economy, but there are also many small and fast ones related to sleep phases or times of the day.
The world works based on regularly repeated stages, and we also, often subconsciously, feel the need to link our plans with the beginning of some broader changes. We want to join the mainstream.
Time for summaries
There is nothing wrong with this love of starting. The problem is that it often ends as soon as it starts. One of the reasons is the lack of regular summaries. And here again, repeating cycles play the first fiddle. As new plans like breakthrough dates, effective implementation of resolutions requires frequent checking of how we are doing.
So it’s not enough that you decide to go on a diet. You must learn to evaluate how well you are doing with this plan. It is best to do it following the natural rhythm of the environment, i.e., every seven days. Therefore, the beginning of the week should be a moment not only to make new plans but also to verify how you are dealing with the previous ones.
If you’re not already doing this, I’m sure getting into the habit of checking regularly will help you a lot. In this way, you significantly increase your chances of sticking to your assumptions and handling the situation.
Example of the self-control system
I am a perfect example of the Fresh Start Effect because I love breakthrough moments; they help me in keeping the right rhythm. I will tell you a little about how I approach such verification at different times.
Strategic planning: The Year
At the beginning of the year, I set big goals that I would like to achieve. It is the moment to look long-term – both forward and backward. I start with an evaluation of the past year. I assess how the implementation of my plans went: did I meet my goals? What was the biggest problem? Do I see negative or positive signals in the statistics in any part of the year?
I try to find the reason for my successes and failures to avoid or repeat them this year. Then it’s time to look to the future. I plan in general and don’t worry too much about specifics. I set milestones that I will try to reach later. Some people call it New Year’s resolutions, but for me, it’s just a great and natural opportunity for strategic planning.
Strategic Control Points: The Quarters
It is a three-month cycle in which I can check whether my approach brings me closer to the assumed goals. It is also an accurate time to review strategic goals, whether they are still valid or require adjustments. At this point, I set myself more specific tasks for the next three months.
Operational planning: a month or a week
For many, a month is an operational period to plan their operational goals and run their campaigns from 1st to 1st. New month, a new opening. For me, the month doesn’t matter that much; this is just a control period.
Very often, the end of the month is a motivation to work more intensively to get a better grade. At the end of the month, I don’t revise my plans or change my goals. It’s just an evaluation period that can motivate me to work harder.
The week is my operational unit in my calendar. I start Monday by designing my control system, which I will use for the next seven days. Here, I specify in great detail what I will be doing and strictly evaluate progress on an ongoing basis to motivate myself. It is the weekly grades that are most important in my control system.
Daily work: a day
It is a natural period. There is no planning here, solely work. Based on weekly goals, I set specific tasks for the day. I do it at night, before going to sleep but reserve the space to change if unusual circumstances arise. For each day, I have four levels of work intensity, ranging from the total minimum I need to do per day to the maximum I can give without risking overwork or burnout.
Working beyond capacity is not effective in the long term because it will lead us to such exhaustion that rest will last longer than usual and overall effectiveness will decrease. Life is not a 100-meter sprint, it’s a marathon.
How to go about it
My system is complicated, but that’s because I love to plan. It is my passion, and I have developed my systems of work, goal setting, and control with great meticulousness. I have been using it for ten years. However, I don’t recommend copying it because everyone should create or select a system individually. According to their own needs, beliefs, capabilities, and professional situation.
Then you can also set your moments. Consider the rituals that prevail in your part of the world, culture, country, region, or even family. Each of us lives in a different environment. I can give you some tips on how to carry out periodic inspections, though. It is a kind of examination of conscience, so it’s worth planning what this ritual should look like.
Change the environment
Sure – it’s enough if you sit with a coffee at the computer, but it doesn’t hurt to take it a step further. It is crucial for quarterly and annual planning. It’s nice to go somewhere, break away from the everyday environment and look at everything from a distance.
What’s more, it is worth adding more seriousness and aura to the longer periods of planning. Weekly operational planning should be fairly ordinary, but the annual evaluation and target setting should be the preeminent event.
Maybe it’s worth going to the other end of the country or even the world? Beautiful areas, inspiring people, a completely new environment. There you will arrange many plans in your head, the effects of which you will be able to see in the coming months.
Making plans in a distinctive, memorable place will also serve as motivation later in hard times. When you lose your sense, you will be able to remember the solemn moment on the Caribbean Sea when you made plans for the year. It will be a beacon in the dark that will guide you to safe areas of comfortable and regular work.
Clear your head
Another primary purpose of the summaries, especially the weekly ones, is to reset. You must clear the head, ergonomic desk, and boxes and order the task lists. In other words, you need to get over the mess that builds up every day and start the coming week with a clear vision of what you want to do.
Reply to overdue e-mails, check what items you couldn’t pick up last week, and arrange your activities for the next few days. If a task is a problem for you, why not break it down into smaller ones or give up on it? Unfulfilled tasks demotivate during everyday work.
It is essential to prevent mess and unfinished business from building up and losing to chaos.
Summaries are a superb opportunity to look for errors and various problems you have encountered. During the day, there is no time for such analysis because you should focus on the current task. It is not the time to think too long about why and how to avoid problems in the future.
Such a time is the moment of evaluation – weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual. It’s worth a stop sometimes. Research shows that the key to success in developing any skill is not talent or the amount of training but how effectively we learn from our mistakes. This approach is called deliberate practice.
In one of the experiments, call center employees who made short summaries at the end of each day achieved results even several dozen percent better than their colleagues who came home after work.
It doesn’t matter if you want to form a new habit or manage a growing list of duties – practically everything around you works based on regular cycles, and you can take advantage of it too. The natural rhythm boosts motivation, but it also helps to maintain regularity. Find time for regular breaks for planning and summarizing, and you will notice much less chaos around you.
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