In Your 2021 Plans, Don’t Neglect the “How”

January 10, 2021

Given that nothing noteworthy happened this past week—with the small exceptions of a violent mob attacking the U.S. government and tens of thousands of people dying from a virus—let’s focus on you.

Ten days into the year, you probably have a good sense of what you want to achieve in 2021. But have you thought about how you will achieve these things?

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on different ways to make progress towards your goals. The way I see it, we can distinguish three paths:

  1. One-off projects
  2. Repeating tasks or events
  3. Habits

For example, if you want to renovate your kitchen, that’s a one-off project. You set a budget, design the kitchen, hire a contractor, etc. Progress comes in one burst.

If you want to learn to speak a new language, you might attend language classes three times a week. Progress comes over time from repeated, conscious effort.

Or, if you want to improve your dental hygiene, you might use mouthwash and floss your teeth with interdental brushes daily. You don’t think about this; progress comes over time from automatic behavior.

Now take your biggest goal. What action will you take on it in 2021?

Will you complete a one-off project, or a series of one-off projects? Will you repeatedly do things with conscious effort? Or will you establish a new habit to make progress almost without thinking?

I can’t tell you what the right answer is. But I do know that you need a plan. Have a plan not only for the what, but also—especially—for the how.

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