It is now early February, so it’s time to start thinking about my New Year Resolutions. Yes, I know the convention is that January 1st is the day to kick off those positive intentions, but my experience is that, like the TV ads for DIY magazines and the surge in keep-fit classes, after three weeks of ‘being good’, the novelty wears off and old habits return.
I prefer to reserve my energies and attempt my resolutions towards the end of the month. Remember that while January 1st may be the first day of the year, the old maxim says that ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’, so there’s no need to procrastinate or put off trying to improve.
There are a couple of ideas from the world of project management that can help you stick to your resolutions.
The first is benefit realisation – the idea that you identify upfront what benefits your project will deliver and that you keep your eye on that prize rather than focussing on the activities to deliver the prize. If I resolve to run 5 miles each day, and focus on that activity as the goal, I am far more likely to give up. For example, if I were to miss a day or two and feel that I had broken my resolution, that would give me the excuse to give up. But if I identify the prize – that I will run my first ever Marathon in June, then an occasional blip won’t deter me – I can still keep going and achieve the benefit.
The second is the idea of opportunity cost vs sunk cost. In project management, opportunity cost is future-looking – what do I stand to lose if I don’t take action now. Sunk cost is backward-looking – what has already been spent. Emotionally, it is natural to obsess about sunk cost even though that ship has sailed and there is nothing more we can do about it. Instead, we should try to guide our decisions by considering opportunity cost. For example, if I resolve to reach a certain target weight, but yesterday I succumbed to temptation and had a burger and chips for dinner, today I shouldn’t use that as an excuse to give up on my diet. Instead, I should be forward looking and see what I can do today to help realise my goal and achieve my target benefit.
So – as we approach the end of January I am resolving to be more active and eat more healthily with the goal of losing eleven pounds. The benefit? Reducing cholesterol, improving BMI, and facilitating more acrobatic dance moves at the next wedding I attend!