So we’re one week into the New Year and I can’t help wondering how many New Year resolutions have already been abandoned. The return to work, a resumed routine and gritty reality after the holiday period often mean the end of such plans. Even those that last longer than a week often fail by February.
The problem with many resolutions is that they are not shared. They seldom involve other people. That means you’re missing out on a valuable resource that can help you through the tough challenges and keep you on track. If you’re only accountable to yourself, it’s pretty easy to make excuses and let things slip. Before you know it you’re back into the old routines and habits that you were trying to break.
However there is an alternative. I’ve noticed in the last few months the growth of courses that are presented over a period of a month and require the students to complete work as the group is taught, usually via webinars or Google hangouts. There is also often a Facebook group where students can interact and share their challenges and triumphs.
You’ve also probably seen examples of people setting their own challenges, whether it be to post on their blog for the next 30 days, complete an article a day or to produce videos.
A challenge is a way to motivate yourself to take action. It may be to start a new routine, improve your skill in a certain area or just force yourself to complete just one thing. When these challenges are over people often feel better and are keen to push on.
For example take a look at the benefits Chris Cole gained by setting himself a 30 day video challenge.
So how should you go about setting yourself a challenge?
First you need to identify an area where a challenge would be appropriate. Ideally you should make progress in an important area of your business and have to step out of your comfort zone.
For example, how could your business advance if you took on a challenge to take consistent action every day, or to create content every day? How about being more specific? Have a target of writing 500 words a day.
Establish an attainable goal as the end result of your challenge. It could be, for example, ten things to achieve in ten days or ten things in ten weeks. If you choose a goal you’ve already attempted and failed to achieve give some thought to why you did not successfully accomplish the result before and plan accordingly.
Make a list of the resources available to you and decide how you will use them. You’ll need a reliable source of knowledge so you know how to achieve your challenge, resources to help you complete the tasks, time set aside to complete the challenge and ideally at least one person to act as an accountability partner.
Finally write down your next steps and assign a completion date. This will help you mentally commit to taking action.
As you work through the challenge don’t be too hard on yourself. Some progress is better than none. Be willing to accept being bad at it or even to get it completely wrong. It’s okay to just make some progress without having to be excellent at it.
Take the example of creating 500 words of content every day: if you find it too difficult to create good quality content it can still be worth writing 500 words of anything, even a stream of conscious monologue. This can help you at least get into a routine of writing every day. You can work on improving the quality as another challenge.
An alternative to setting up your own challenge is to subscribe to challenges set up by others. Yesterday I started the Fan Page Challenge set up by Sue and Dan Worthington. It’s free and if you’re interested you can join here or sign up for their Google +, LinkedIn or YouTube challenges.
Once you’ve completed one challenge you can try others throughout the year.
As 2014 begins this could be an opportune time to create or subscribe to a challenge. The way to get ahead is to push yourself and see what you can do.