Podcast Ep. 58: How to Get Past the Two-Week Shelf Life of Your New Year’s Resolution

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Episode Description:

In today’s episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, host Dan Neumann figured it’d be the perfect time to discuss New Year’s resolutions. Most people set New Year’s resolutions, but the problem is: they don’t keep them. Some research even says that only 8% of people actually achieve the goal they’ve set out for. Many of these goals don’t even reach a two-week shelf life before many people give up.

But why is this? In today’s podcast, Dan Neumann sets out to find the answer. He takes a look at what’s inherently flawed about this concept of New Year’s resolutions, gives his insights on how you can make your New Year’s resolutions more likely to stick, and even shares some of the goals and resolutions related to the podcast itself.

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Key Takeaways:

  • What is inherently flawed about the concept of New Year’s resolutions?
    • It’s too long of a goal; you’re setting a goal for the next 365 days
    • January 1st is actually a pretty arbitrary start date
    • A lot of people don’t plan for what to do in a situation that challenges their New Year’s resolutions (a lack of planning can majorly impact your ability to follow-through)
  • How to get your New Year’s resolution to stick:
    • Get a shorter duration; it doesn’t have to be for the next year
    • If two-week Sprints work well for you, you could work similarly on this cadence
    • Differentiate between a resolution vs. setting a goal
    • Use the S.M.A.R.T goal Framework (S=Specific, M=Measurable, A=Achievable, R=Relevant, T=Time-bound
    • Set your new goals on a better starting date that makes more sense for you (such as on a Monday or the start of a new month)
    • Brainstorm some ways to set milestones for yourself
    • Plan for what you’re going to do when you run into a challenging situation
    • Find an accountability partner
    • Each week, each “Sprint,” or each month, reflect on how to become more effective and adjust accordingly (similarly to the last principle in the Agile Manifesto)



Mentioned in this Episode



Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and not completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought, the podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work, and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach, and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:17]  Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I am Dan Neumann and barring any kind of major hiccup, this will be the episode that’s released between Christmas and New Year’s, so I thought it would be appropriate to talk about New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know if that’s a thing for you or not, but I know like lots of folks established New Year’s resolutions and the downside of the whole thing is that very few people keep them. There’s some research that says that only 8% of folks achieve the goal that they set out. Another bit of research says 80% fail to keep their goals and achieve them and fitness applications, Strava has identified the date on which New Year’s resolutions fall apart. If they’re fitness related. Give you a second to maybe think about what date for you. You might guess that that would be. Okay, do you have it? Would you believe January 12th is the date? Yes. Only 12 days into the New Year. January 12th is the date that Strava, which looks at all the fitness data that’s recorded using their application, they were able to determine that on January 12th is when fitness-related New Year’s resolutions fall apart. If I had to guess, I would say that business related or other personal related New Year’s resolutions are probably also going to have about that less than two weeks shelf life.

Dan Neumann: [01:53]  So why is that? It’s kind of a depressing thing to think about. Why bother setting a New Year’s resolution if they’re just going to fall apart? For the most part, I think there’s a few things that are kind of flawed in New Year’s resolution. One, it’s a particularly long duration. You’re setting a goal for the next 365 days. That’s a long time. January 1st is a pretty arbitrary start date. There’s nothing magical about that date and a lot of folks don’t plan for what to do when they end up in a situation that challenges their New Year’s resolution. So if your goal is fitness related and you become overworked or have some distractions that get in the way, have you thought about how you might roll those into your New Year’s resolution? If you’re working on a software project and you’ve intended to do something like test first development, maybe that’s a, a nice technology related New Year’s resolution, what do you do when push comes to shove and you want to get that feature done and then you’re tempted to stop doing the test first and just go to cowboy coding and getting that feature done. So that lack of plan can really affect your ability to follow through. So I wanna take a little bit of time with you. I know this is a busy time of the year for folks. Christmas is just over, New Year’s is coming up, people are on vacation. It’s not a big podcast listening time, but I do thank you if you’re listening to this and hopefully we can come up with a few ideas together for how to make this resolution thing more valuable for you and more likely to stick.

Dan Neumann: [03:37]  So the first thing that comes to mind is setting a shorter duration. You don’t have to commit to something for the next year. What if you committed to something for the next week, for the next month? If you’re doing Scrum on a two week Sprint cycle, maybe that that two week cadence would be nice to set a retros. Sorry, set a Retrospective. Yeah, got ahead of myself to set a resolution for that. Because after all, that’s sort of what a Retrospective is. You and the team are setting a resolution of sorts to make an improvement or a couple of improvements for the next sprint. That seems like a much more achievable time box than for the next 52 weeks you’re setting a resolution or a goal for two weeks.

Dan Neumann: [04:27]  And since I threw the term goal in there, I think it’s also important to differentiate between a resolution, which seems to be grandiose and large and obviously unattainable or more than 8% of people would attain them versus setting a goal. And so when you think of goals, you can think of that smart goal framework for folks who aren’t familiar. Smart is an acronym. It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. There are a few different ways to think of those five letters, S, M, A, R, T, but really make sure that you’re clear on what your goal is, that there’s some way to measure it, that it isn’t just nebulous, that it’s achievable, not too grandiose. Hopefully it’s not too trivial either that is really relevant to your work or that it’s reasonable is another “R” word that sometimes goes in there. Make sure that, you know, if it’s a fitness goal and you’ve never run to the mailbox before, that you’re not setting a goal of doing a marathon next week. You know, that would be unreasonable. If you are learning new programming languages as your goal. Maybe it’s learning one language a month that might be reasonable or learning one language this month to move it away from something that becomes too large and then time bound. Make sure that you know by when you want to achieve this goal. So shifting from resolutions that are large and obviously difficult to achieve to something more goal focused. And I’d advocate consider using the smart goal framework as a way to to test that.

Dan Neumann: [06:28]  So we’ve talked about moving from resolution to goal. Now let’s talk about the arbitrary start date. January 1’s not a magical date, although it’s certainly a good opportunity to go and have a good party on December 31st you could decide to set your new goals or make a resolution to do something different on a Monday. Maybe that’s the best date. So we’re not setting a goal that’s unachievable. Do something on a Monday. If you’re unable to see that through, maybe on the first day of the next month, you could try again, try to make a change to whatever that goal is and set a new goal for February 1st or March 1st just think of different ways to set a milestone. Maybe it would be tomorrow you start fresh. If you have some particular goal and you’ve fallen short of completing that starting on the next day. There are runners who streak and I don’t mean taking off your clothes and running down the road, but they try to run every day and so if they miss a day, they would simply restart that streak the next today they would not say, huh, gosh, I, you know, got to March and missed today, so I’m going to restart again the next January 1st. So you know if you have a, a pattern or a streak that you’re trying to keep alive the day after you have fallen short of it, you’re always welcome to start it again.

Dan Neumann: [08:02]  What are you going to do when you run into a challenging situation? We talked about that scenario where you’re maybe trying to do test first development and push comes to shove where there’s urgent need for a feature. What is your plan for that? Hopefully one of the things that you’re able to do is build up that skill of test first development so that it becomes natural for you that it is the way you operate. It becomes muscle memory. Until you get to that point, come up with an another plan and I don’t want to propose plans for you. I think that’s really the art of the thing is you need to come up with a strategy.

Dan Neumann: [08:47]  For me, when it comes to snacking, I will eat food that I walk by, so in the kitchen I hide the snacks. They’re not terribly far away. They’re usually in a drawer. I know where they are, but simply having them out of view changes that environment enough to change behavior. What might it be about the environment in which you’re operating in a business standpoint that will get you a new twist on your behavior. You can also find somebody to pair up with or become an accountability partner with. Going back to the test first development or to do pair programming at least 30 minutes a day or an hour a day, whatever that change might be that you want to do. Find somebody who is going to be your accountability partner for that. Now it’s not just up to you to hold yourself accountable, but you have a partner in crime if you will, who’s also going to help keep you accountable and you can keep each other focused on those outcomes that you’re trying to hit and then look for some other ways to get inspired. Look for Meetup groups or look for other people outside of your team, in your company. If you’re a manager, maybe you can look for another manager who is going to help you be more accountable, let’s say for providing positive feedback to teams or maybe you want to be more facilitative in decision making versus dictatorial. If you’re trying to enable self organizing teams, so find somebody else in your organization who has similar challenges and similar desires and pair up with them on making those happen.

Dan Neumann: [10:24]  For me and related to this podcast, my goal is to continue bringing you new content every week and I’ve had really fantastic collaborators inside the AgileThought organization and that’s been great and we’ve had a few external folks over the last year and a few weeks that we’ve been producing this and that’s been great. So for this upcoming year I want to get somewhere between 6 and 10 people that are outside of the AgileThought organization to come on the show and bring you some additional perspectives. If you know some folks that you think would be interesting guests and would have valuable content, why don’t you drop us a line at podcast@agilethought.com and let me know about it and we’ll see about possibly reaching out to those folks. If you have topics that are of interest, let us know what those are too. We’ve had some folks this year reach out to us and provide us with some scenarios or some questions and that’s been really great to have that audience interaction. So thank you for becoming more than an audience and truly you folks have become collaborators with us in producing this podcast. There are weeks admittedly where it’s a little bit of a challenge to come up with what new topic or what expansion of an older topic would be of interest. So if you help us, we would really appreciate it. So thank you very much.

Dan Neumann: [11:53]  And then every once in a while we have the idea to do a thematic podcast. So whether it is Christmas related or Valentine’s, we can do the why I love agile episode or in the United States we have the Thanksgiving holiday. We could do one on thankfulness. So look for that in the upcoming year. So those are some of our goals related to the podcast that hopefully we’re able to see through. What I think is interesting about resolutions, as I think back to the agile manifesto is the very last principle says at regular intervals the team reflects on how to become more effective than tunes and adjust its behavior accordingly. And so what else is a resolution but an interval, it’s annual. Hopefully we can make that more regular and shy away from the annual setting of goals and to come back to something that is more frequent each week, each Sprint, each month, something along those lines and tune into just your, your personal behavior accordingly. So that’s where I saw the tie in between the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcasts and New Year’s resolutions. And I really do look forward to hearing from folks if you’ve been successful at resolutions, we’d love to hear what’s enabled that to happen and if you have some guests and some topics that you are interested in having covered over the upcoming year of 2020 look forward hearing those too. So I know you’re busy. It’s between Christmas and New Years. So we’re going to make this a short episode and I do thank you for downloading and listening. Not just today, but to the previous episodes as well. Thank you.

Outro: [13:30] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought the views, opinions, and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.

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