Every year I give up drinking for the month of January, and I’m pretty sure it’s the most responsible thing I do all year. In fact, by the end of the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s run I’m often fantasizing about my alcohol-free kick-off to the year, as it’s not only an opportunity to give my body a rest from all the revelry, but it’s a great cue to start getting things in order for the future.
Because it only lasts a month, it’s not exactly a New Year’s resolution, which takes some of the pressure off. Statistically speaking, by the time you read this post most of us have already abandoned our lofty goals of weight loss or tobacco cessation (71 percent of people bail on resolutions after two weeks). “Sober January,” as I call it, is a clear-eyed period of time I use to “get my s**t together.”
This isn’t to say that general life-management isn’t something I’m chasing constantly, but I find January to be a great month to get centered and ready for the year ahead. What follows are a few things I do to get that ever-elusive competitive edge.
Set a Micro Goal and Nail It
I’m a big “goals” guy, and at any given point in time I like to have several long- and short-term goals I’m aiming to achieve. However, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the “micro goals.” Achieving success at any level has a way of building upon itself and creating momentum. To this end, I like to set an extremely short-term (but not too-easy) goal around this time of year, develop a plan, and achieve it. I’m talking about doing things like finally framing and hanging the roll of posters in that cardboard tube next to your desk, buying matching glassware for the kitchen, or dialing in that personal website once and for all.
Going through the process of planning, executing, and achieving a goal is pretty much the same whether you’re starting a company or doing your laundry, so why not take a few practice swings and get something done in the process?
Conduct an Audit — Of Any Kind
This one sounds like pure common sense, and in many ways it is. But truth be told, we often fail to take a look at our daily lives and make some hard decisions on what we need and what we don’t. The word “audit” is itself a scary one, but this process can actually be pretty fun.
Conduct a “time audit” and take a hard look at how much TV you watch, how much social media you scroll, or even how long you take to get ready in the morning. Identify a place to tighten things up, and do it.
Go through your clothes and do that “does this bring me joy” thing. Since your wardrobe is often the first thing people notice about you, it’s important to keep your game tight. There’s also the added bonus of clearing out some space in your apartment.
Clean your desktop, both the analog and the digital one. I can’t say express how much better my life is when these two interfaces are tidied up. If you think about it, it’s what you look at most every day, but it’s so, so easy to let it slip into crazy-town. Trim the fat in this area and you’ll immediately feel better, guaranteed.
Another thing I like to do to get my psychological house in order is to take some time to get inspired for the months ahead. The holidays, for better or for worse, is a time full of distraction and a lower volume of work, so it’s easy to wander into January feeling a little off-base. One way to bootstrap yourself up out of that haze is to get some inspiration from people doing things right. Read a book about small business. Start paying attention to a particularly interesting blog in your field. Check out a new podcast.
Or, last but not least (and I push this a lot), go learn something new online. It’s staggering what’s out there, and there’s no better way to get your s**t together than to arm yourself with a newfound skill.