Have you written down your New Year Resolutions yet? This time of the year brings much expectation and with it, motivation to perk up and to engage in projects which have been for long pushed aside. It is time to think about improvement!

Below are eight ideas that can help you increase your personal and professional effectiveness. Why not add these thoughts to your current resolutions? It is certainly something to think about, and refer to again and again.

Thought 1 – Seek First to Understand

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” (Robert McCloskey)

“Seek first to understand and then be understood” is an instruction first delivered by Stephen Covey in his acclaimed book The Seven Habit’s of Highly Effective People. Covey’s message is a simple but powerful one. Too often we enter into communications with others with pre-conceived assumptions or notions about what the other person’s expectations, ideas or judgements will be.

Thought 2 – Think On Paper

“A goal properly set is halfway reached” (Zig Ziglar)

Clear goals contain the power to motivate and energise us into action. Yet so often we start out on the quest for self-improvement, either personally or professionally with no real concept of where we want to be or exactly what it is we want. We may have some vague concept in mind, such as increasing income or productivity but this is rarely translated into specific goals. Without a clear goal in mind, it becomes increasingly likely that we may unwittingly focus our well intended energy in the wrong direction.

Thought 3 – Utilise the Power of Planning

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened” (John M. Richardson Jr.)

One of the most powerful tools for overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity is planning. Every minute spent on planning can save up to 10 minutes in execution. Planning needn’t be time consuming or complicated. It does however need to be regular. Plan everyday in advance and watch your productivity and performance soar. Planning begins by creating lists.

With all of the technology available today (such as palm pilots or electronic organisers) it can be easy to forget that a simple list can be a vital planning tool. It is important to always work from a list. When something comes up, add it to the list before doing it. You can increase your productivity by 25% from the first day you begin working consistently from a list.

Thought 4 – Do the Toughest Things First

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” (Napoleon Hill)

The most crucial decision you make everyday is what you choose to do right now versus what you will do later. One of the most vital, yet most challenging self-management strategies is the ability to do the hardest or most difficult task first. If you can resist the temptation to start each day with the easiest task you are well on your way to a more productive self.

Thought 5 – Identify Obstacles

“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong” (Thomas Carlyle)

What factors are holding you back, slowing you down or preventing you from achieving your goals? Almost all progress toward a goal or series of goals comes up against a limiting factor of some kind. It is crucial to identify these limits or obstacles in order to eliminate them. Progress at the pace you’d like and in the direction of your goals requires the systematic removal of obstacles that undermine advancement.

Identifying the true obstacle to progress takes honest reflection and analysis. Obstacles may be entrenched within organisational structures or culture. Conversely, obstacles may be embedded in our own mind, in the beliefs that you hold and the behaviours that you routinely perform.

Thought 6 – Identify Your Key Result Areas

“Do what works” (Bill O’Hanlon)

What is the most valuable use of your time right now? By continually asking yourself this question you can maximise the time that you have and accomplish more of what’s important everyday. In order to identify what the most valuable use of your time may be in any given moment, it is vital that you recognise what your key result areas are.

Your key result areas are those aspects of your job or performance that matter the most. They are the bottom line. They are why you are on the payroll. Most jobs can be broken down into five to seven key result areas.

Thought 7 – Establish a Sense of Urgency

“You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life” (H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

Once you have established where you are going and what you want to achieve, it is crucial to set the wheels of action in motion. To literally set wheels in motion takes a force powerful enough to shift the wheels out of a state of inertia. Once wheels are no longer stationary, they can develop momentum and pick up speed as they go.

This too can be true of you and your progression toward your goals. Generally speaking, the faster you move the more energised you become. If you develop a sense of urgency around every action you take, you begin to start tasks immediately and procrastination becomes a thing of the past. To get started, repeat the following sentence: “DO IT NOW! DO IT NOW! DO IT NOW!”

Thought 8 – Unleash Your Energy

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily” (Zig Ziglar)

Your personal energy level dictates how much you can do within a day. Maximise your energy and you can maximise your effectiveness. Energy rarely maintains a consistent level throughout the day. Energy levels rise and fall as a function of our changing physiology. Most of us know what time during the day we usually hit our energy peak. For many it’s early morning, for others late afternoon.