Start AgainDec 27, 2023
Welcome to my 48th article this year and the last of 2023. The end of the calendar year is as good a time as any to take stock of the last 12 months and make new plans. Time to start again.
There are three levels to the annual ritual of renewal. The first is the person who takes it as it comes and is relatively mindless about the making of plans. The strategy is best characterized as, “Play it by ear,” or “I’ll know it when I see it.” This “plan of no plans” is completely reactive. Take challenges as they come and hope for the best. Old clichés such as “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail” are typically rooted in experience.
The second level is what I will call “resolution making.” For most, this strategy is light-years ahead of the plan-of-no-plans. Resolution makers are at least in a mindset of pro-action, as opposed to re-action. December rolls around and these folks are by-God gonna make some changes around here. Gonna save some money, lose some weight, stop smoking (or drinking, or - fill in the blank). All that’s missing is the “how.” Resolution-makers fill the gyms, which are back to their normal state of emptiness by March.
The third path is the most involved, takes the most work and is by far the most successful.
I will share a plan that I have used for many years, as an entrepreneur, CEO and college president (multiple times each) and in my career as an artist and creator to actually create positive change. It will separate you from the ranks of the “resolutionists.”
The first step is to make a written list of the things that are working in your life. This should include your career as a creator, but can be applied to anything else - your health, your love life, whatever.
There are two crucial details that apply to all of these steps:
First: write (paper or computer, whatever works best for you) about the things that have worked for you in the last year in as much detail as possible. What was it that you did? When did you start doing it? Did you do it alone or with someone else? Did you keep records of what you did?
Make a separate bullet point for each initiative that moved you closer to the life you want. Did you practice more? Did you start a regular writing routine? Where did you perform or publish? Did you post or advertise on social media? When and where and in what format?
And if you didn’t do anything intentionally, you can use these steps to start making positive change in the new year.
Second: describe each effort in operational terms. To operationalize something is to describe it with specific measurements. Instead of “Started Instagram posts in March,” use numeric measurements that give you a basis for comparison: “Daily Instagram Reels started March 2, 2023. 8-second videos with text hook and CTA (call to action), public domain trending audio. March 2023, 168 views and 12 followers. April 2023, 279 views and 312 followers…”
Now you can actually measure the progress (or lack thereof) of anything you do to make your life better. With this information you can change what isn’t working as well as you would like, and double-down on the things that are working.
What Has to Change?
Armed with operational data about the things you try, you can easily see where changes are warranted. There are two main categories of circumstances that demand change.
When you look at the (measured!) results of your efforts, there will be things that just didn’t take off. Maybe you included nine hashtags for each Instagram post and it made no difference. Now you can do some research: are hashtags dead? Do you need to change your hashtag keyword strategy? Or perhaps you changed your writing routine and actually became less productive. Should you try a different time to write, or a different setting? Maybe you need to change topics altogether.
The magic of this approach is that now, instead of thinking, “It’s not working. I’m just not very good at this,” you can think, “OK - how can I do better? I know specifically which part isn’t working - let me experiment with that.”
There is a second category of “things that demand change.” There will be situations that interrupt your plans, no matter how carefully they have been researched and constructed. Life isn’t static. When things go sideways - as they certainly will - you won’t get derailed and become disillusioned. You will assess - in writing - the effect of the new circumstances, create a new - measurable - plan to deal with them and move forward.
Now comes the cool part! You can assess with surgical precision the effects of your efforts in any avenue of your life and make necessary changes before things fall apart.
The key is to set goals and milestones.
You have measured what is working and what isn’t, and have come up with a plan to optimize your next set of actions. Now set numeric goals and specific dates (milestones).
Say your new plan is to try posting on Twitter to get more exposure for your content. Again, be operational: “Three posts per day on Twitter, at 2, 4, and 6 PM. Goal: “100 new followers.” Milestone: “By July 1st”
Voila! Now you have assessed what needs to be done, formulated a plan to do it, and can measure how well the plan is working at set intervals. If the goal has not been met by the milestone date, make a new measurable plan, implement it and remeasure on the new milestone date.
Rinse and repeat. This is how predictable improvement is made.
You can apply these steps to any part of your life. They constitute a general paradigm of life management that is effective for creating positive change in your job, your career, your love life, your parenting efforts, your hobby and health. And especially for your efforts as a creative person, whether in performing arts, writing, presentation arts or digital content creation.
Here’s the primary “TL:DR” message: If some part(s) of your life aren’t where you want them, don’t despair and give up or give in. Take control and manage those areas with artistic finesse and scientific rigor.
This is how you take your best shot at a realistically Happy New Year!
I am a creator (musician, writer, live-streamer and podcaster), entrepreneur, educator and counselor. To learn more about how to use these concepts or to inquire about working with me, you can contact me through my website, the comments section on my Substack or Medium accounts or The Authentic Life Blog page. If you have found value in this article, consider following my Instagram and Twitter (now called X) accounts. To support this community, you can even Buy Me A Coffee or donate through my Patreon account. Subscribe to my River of Creation podcast - The Podcast for Creators, and my associated YouTube channel, coming in 2024, wherever you download your podcasts.
Subscribe to THE AUTHENTIC LIFE blog
Never miss a post, and get goodies meant only for our community!
We will never sell your info. Ever. EVER!