We all start the New Year with great intentions to fulfil a specific goal – we’ll get fit, find a new job or learn a new skill. However, a quarter of people have already abandoned their New Year’s resolution by the second week in January, and just 19% make it the full year.

So what’s the problem? Why are we all so bad at making improvements?

Very often it is a lack of time or, more accurately, a lack of motivation to find the time. However, in some cases people do make impressive changes to start with, but then fall back into bad habits. In these cases they just slowly slide back into their old way of doing things because life gets in the way.

We see exactly the same scenario play out at organisations up and down the country (and internationally) when it comes to Business Improvement. People purchase a training course looking to obtain a qualification, or companies purchase a number of courses and get so far on their journey to improvement but fall at the last hurdle.

To overcome this we provide unparalleled support and advice before, during and after the training with our lifetime support promise. But, the support available is no help at all if you’re not personally motivated to use it.

I am reminded of two people I happened to be training to Master Black Belt level at the same time a few years ago. Both had high-powered jobs that were very stressful and demanding, both began the training at the same time and both had the same training and support available to them when they needed it. One of those people never missed a coaching session, always did the work on time and submitted their completed project on time. The other was always late or cancelled sessions, never managed to finish things off and ultimately did not complete the training.

One of those people went on to become the CEO of a multinational company; the other is still working in the same position at the same organisation. I’m sure you can guess which is which.

The main difference between the two was not their ability to complete the training and make improvement, but their motivation and discipline. The first MBB delegate put a structured plan in place and set milestones for completing the work; the second tried to fit the training in around their job and made no goals. So what can we learn?

deadline for goalSet a deadline

The most important way to achieve your chosen improvement, be it at work, at home or at the gym is to set yourself a target and a deadline. Simply saying “I want to get fitter” is too abstract and allows you room to lose motivation. If you want to become a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt by the end of the year, set that as your target. If you want your department to have found £500,000 in efficiency savings by the end of the financial year, that’s your target.

It must have a goal, be time bound and be clear so you know exactly what you’re signing yourself up to.

communicationTell everyone what you’re doing

Another benefit of a clear goal and deadline is that it makes it easier to communicate to other people what you’re trying to achieve, and communicating your goal to others is absolutely vital if you want to achieve it even if it is a personal goal.

Tell your friends and family if it’s a personal goal, tell your boss, sponsors and colleagues if it’s a goal at work. This has a multi-pronged effect: Telling other people of your plans will put pressure on you to ensure you achieve them lest you let people down, and if those people are aware of your goal they can help keep you on track.

This is particularly important in a work environment where you will need the support of your boss and sponsor in order to find the time and resources to complete a training course or make improvements in the workplace for a project.

timeMake time

The next step follows closely on from the last point – you need to make time for your pet project. Identify a few hours a week when you can ring-fence some time. Look at your diary to find the best time and make it happen.

Whether it is a work or home goal, it’s contributing to your personal development so it’s down to you to find the time and motivate yourself. It’s easier to find the time, however, if you schedule it in and make sure the tasks fall on the same days each week so you have a recognisable timetable to work to.

milestone goalGive yourself mini goals               

One way to ensure you work to a timetable and free up the time you need each week is to set yourself a series of mini tasks. Break down your large goal into a number of more manageable chunks and then give those mini deadlines too.

If your goal is to complete a training course, set yourself the mini goal of completing one or two modules a week, or if you want to get fit set milestones that gradually build up in intensity. These mini goals have the double benefit of ensuring you don’t put the work off until it becomes unmanageable, and of giving you a motivational boost when you’re able to complete them.

We are all time poor, we all fill our days or have them filled for us. The secret is to think about your own personal development and don’t let others hijack your time. Learn to say no and to prioritise, it will make a massive difference to your workload. I’ve seen it time and time again, people who take personal development seriously are always more successful than those that don’t.

Remember concentrate on what is important and don’t let your good intentions go to waste.

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