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It's that time of year again for resolutions, also known as goals, which are almost sure to be forgotten by the end of the month.
I have never spoken out in favor of resolutions, instead I have continuously created personal goals in the form of a personal action plan that encourages and motivates you to continuously improve.
One way to achieve this mindset is to create a personal system that breaks down barriers and supports effective habits. Having a personal system not only helps you achieve resolutions, it also prepares you for success throughout your career. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when building your system.
1. Set expectations
There is no single system. Some may like to hand-write to-do lists in a journal each day or keep every paper business receipt. The goal is to find a set of tools and processes that will work for you. Whatever you do should make your life easier and should create more "space" in terms of time and energy so you can focus on achieving goals.
Pro Tip: If your system takes more time and energy to maintain than it generates, it won't work.
Related: The Only New Years Resolution Entrepreneurs Should Make This Year
2. Create effective action lists
To make effective progress towards goals, you must first understand what action is required. Creating effective action lists or to-do lists is a stand-alone process.
Step one: break big goals down into smaller, incremental actions. Any action should meet SMART criteria, specifically that it can be measured and has a due date (so you know when it is complete). Sort all actions by due date and importance to get a complete picture of your needs.
Step 2: Maintaining your Action List is important, but handwriting it every day is inefficient. There are many to do list applications out there, and I've found Todoist to be an easy and inexpensive way to manage personal and business lists. You can also use Excel or Google Sheets which allow you to sort by date and priority.
Step three: plan-prioritize-carry out. Review your Action List for 15 minutes each day for any adjustments you need. Adjust them accordingly, identify the high priority actions for the day, and then focus on them.
Pro tip: Prioritize three things you absolutely need to do every day. These shouldn't be urgent actions taken independently, but rather smaller incremental actions that you can use to achieve or maintain long-term goals. Do this first so you can develop a sense of proactive progress.
Pro tip: Check your action list at the end of the day, not in the morning. Reconcile and recognize the points that have been reached or need to be postponed, then prepare the list for the next day. So you can relax at the end of the day – as best an entrepreneur can – and reduce stress the next morning.
3. Use a digital file system
Nowadays there is really no need to keep paper documents. Instead, invest in a cloud storage service and store your files here. Services like Google Drive offer 15 GB of free space. This is sufficient if you are only saving documents. Another good service is DropBox, which offers cheap tariffs from 2 TB of storage space.
An important part of a digital file system is a scanning app. The DropBox app offers a scan function, as does Google Drive (photo functions only). Personally, I bought an app called GeniusScan which has additional features including text scanning that I can use to search documents for content.
Pro tip: Store all documents in the main folder of your cloud storage, and then regularly reconcile and place all digital copies in their respective folders throughout the week. Also, save less important documents in black and white PDF format to save space.
5. Manage your email
Most likely, you live outside of your email inbox. A crowded inbox can be incredibly distracting. So set up folders and filters to move incoming emails to folders that you can then prioritize and review.
Pro tip: set up at least one email filter that will filter all messages with the word "unsubscribe" in the email. This will remove all newsletters and spam emails from your inbox.
6. Use your calendar
Create blocks of time on your calendar that focus on completing action items. These blocks of time should not be “free” or conditional, meaning they should not be used to resolve emergencies or unexpected urgent matters – an entrepreneur's entire day is made up of these. Instead, take a little time each day to do nothing other than the task you have identified.
Pro tip: block the time for checking and replying to email or direct messages once in the morning and once in the afternoon and only check during those times. This helps avoid getting dragged into the never-ending stream of "badly" needed answers.
See also: Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk broke wealth records in 2020
7. Think about your system
Finally, make sure you schedule time to reflect on your personal and professional progress. Use this time to understand what works and what doesn't and adjust your system accordingly.
The most important thing is to see progress and celebrate your achievements. For this reason we finally decide.