January 01, 2011

Action, Not Lists

Today is New Year’s Day, the energy of a fresh start is in the air . . . and people are writing lists of new and different things they want to do this year.

Now, I like lists, but there is a problem with lists of things to do that refer to an extended period of time, such as a year or a month. These lists tend to sit around, untended, for days at a time — and while they’re waiting, the energy drains out of them. People come back to these lists after a few days and don’t find any of the New Year’s Day feeling in them.

If you want to write a list for the new year, I can suggest a more successful kind of list. Write a list of things you will do today, or, if it’s late in the day, a list for tomorrow. Better yet, actually take action right now on the things you want to do this year, and write them on your list only after you’ve taken some kind of substantial action on them. That way, instead of just a wish list, you are writing a list that has some momentum behind it. But even then, write down only the things you will be doing in the next day or so.

After all, if you cannot take action today, on a holiday when much of the routine of daily life pulls back to give you a chance to do something new, when will you be able to take action? What day will be better than today? Will you actually have more time on an average Monday morning? In the words of the famous question: If not now, when? And so, if you cannot take action on your plans for the new year today, it is probably better to drop those plans, rather than carry them along through the year pretending that some day you will do something.

I do realize that there are other reasons why people find it easy to imagine a “new year new life” on New Year’s Day, but not so easy to get started on it right away. I will address a few of those tomorrow.

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