5 Tips for New Year’s Resolutions

Is it worth having one? Have you ever kept yours?

Here are a 5 tips if you want to have a go.

1. Think it through carefully

Let’s say you want to lose a few pounds (after a bit of a blow out over Christmas). This isn’t a very clear resolution and is likely to fail after a few days.

Much better to be specific about the weight you want to achieve or the clothes you want to get into. Another option would be to have an exact physical goal in mind, like being able to run 2 miles in 15 minutes.

If it’s something like improving your keyboard skills, be specific about the speed and number of mistakes.

2. Work out a plan

Don’t just have some vague resolution like being nice to your aunt. Work out how you are going to achieve it. For example, with your aunt, it may be you need to identify the difficult moments when you find yourself behaving badly. These might be experiences like receiving a hideous birthday present or having to put up with being insulted over lunch.

Or it may just be that your aunt constantly moans and really gets on your nerves.

If this is the case either work out a way of avoiding that experience or have a plan ready for handling each one.

If it’s a diet that is your challenge, then identify your main areas of weakness (if you’re like me it’s chocolate). Once you have that, you need to identify a strategy for avoiding it or dealing with it effectively so that you are not caught out and are able to keep your resolution.

If you are trying to change a habit, be patient. Often you will need to change whatever system you are using in some way. For example I used to forget my pass when I went to a particular client’s site. I decided this was ridiculous and resolved to make sure I always remembered it. All I did was to put a reminder in an obvious place and I never forgot it again.

3. Chart your progress

This is a very simple way to stay motivated. It even helps to do a real graph. These days you don’t even have to draw it by hand, you can just do it on a spreadsheet.

Make sure you review it at least each week. I can guarantee that, as you see progress, even a small amount along the way, this will spur you on.

4. Remind yourself of your goal

Have little reminders popping up in your calendar to make sure you stay focussed. If you tend to be rather negative in your outlook, make sure they point out have bad things will be if you fail.

5. Reward yourself for success

Keep some kind of treat handy for when you achieve a milestone, like half way to your ideal weight or an entire lunchtime of being polite to your aunt.

Yes, I know it sounds like a lot of effort, but it’s not much if you have a worthwhile goal you want to achieve and get 2012 off to a good start.
Best of luck!

How to deal with troublesome relatives at Christmas

It’s here again, the time when you have to put up with those relatives you’ve managed to avoid for the rest of the year, with all their annoying habits and demands.

The murder rate goes up at Christmas (and we all know you are more likely to be murdered by a relative than anyone else). So how can you make sure that you keep cool and enjoy the break?

Here’s how to tackle some of those old chestnuts.

The moaners and complainers

You will no doubt be familiar with the relatives who constantly complain about how bad things are and how much worse they are now than they used to be (it may be they are right this year).

All you need to do with this annoying people is be more negative than they are. Prepare before hand (perhaps when you are stuffing the turkey). The most effective strategy is to beat them to it:
Isn’t the TV just awful for Christmas this year? I don’t know why we pay our licence fee. I can’t find a single thing worth watching.


I’m so sorry about the sprouts, they are dreadful this year. They just taste like soap. Not like the ones you used to grow in the garden.


Nothing in the shops at all, not even anything worth buying on the Internet – and if you did find anything, it was already sold out. You’d think they’d get a bit more stock in before Christmas, after all they know it’s coming, they have 12 months to get ready, so why don’t they?


Awful weather. This must be the worst we’ve had at Christmas since records began. There certainly won’t be any snow. And if there was snow, they’ve probably run out of grit already. You know what they’re like with all these cutbacks.

The weird thing about this is that, if you are negative enough, your pessimistic relative will find themselves being a little bit positive, insisting that there is at least one show on TV, or that there were a few things left in John Lewis or that perhaps it’s not as cold as it was last year. Don’t agree, stay in your little nest of negativity and it will push them along into a more positive (and less annoying) view of life.

Interferers who know a better way to cook the roast potatoes

Get them to do it. Ask them to come over early especially to prepare the potatoes themselves. Call their bluff. But ask them for something really difficult. Something that they couldn’t do themselves.

Prepare in advance (always worth while) and have a task ready for them. Make it the one you hate the most.

The centre of attention

This is the relative who thinks he or she is funnier than everyone else and always takes over.  It’s very tempting simply to administer arsenic to his/her pudding. By that time, if you’ve make sure that enough wine has flowed, he or she is unlikely to notice.

But disposing of the body on Christmas day can be tricky. So another option is simply to make sure you receive a good book for Christmas (if necessary simply buy one you are after and wrap it up, saying it’s from a colleague.) Then all you have to do is exclaim with delight that you have been dying to read it and how clever it was of your colleague to find it and just start reading.

Being the centre of attention yourself is another possibility – if that is the kind of thing you enjoy. You might find you love it if you’ve never tried it before. Probably a good idea to have a few stiff drinks before hand if not.

If all else fails, volunteer to do the washing up.

Preparation is the key

You know who they are. You know what they do. Make sure you are prepared to deal with them. For more help, get my advice on different types of difficult person.

Good luck.

Festive Treat For Blog And Facebook Fans

Just this week we are having a 5-day Festive Giveway. Each day we are giving you a 25% discount off a different set of products, valid one day only.

It’s 16th December. Today’s code is “05 Time” (without the quotes) and if you use it at the Checkout you will get 25% off  my booklet “Time Management Made Easy” – available as an ebook and as a paper copy for you to keep handy in your bag or briefcase.

This is one time of year when we have a lot of demands on our time, so here’s some timely help for you (see what I did there).

One day offer. Seize the day.

How to be happy

In what can be quite depressing times, you may want to see a film about how to be happy.


I recently went to see the film “Happy” and it certainly makes you think.

In the film you meet Manoj Singh who lives in a hut made of sticks and plastic sheeting. He is a rickshaw driver and hardly has enough money to feed his family. Yes, he is happy. He lives in a community where people look out for each other and support each other.


The most shocking part of the film was to see the young widow of a Japanese man who had dropped dead suddenly when on the phone with his boss pleading for help. You see some video of his young daughter rushing up to him when he comes home from work, but he doesn’t have time to play with her.

You discover that he became more and more unhappy, till he died. The worst part is that death from overwork is so common in Japan that there is a name for it: Karoshi.

In contrast to this you see Okinawa, a little Japanese island. Here they have the largest percentage of people over 100. We see them laughing, dancing and playing. Again the community seems to be very important in the lives of the Okinawans.

The happiest country

In Denmark (often the happiest country in the world when it is measured) again we see how a community and having friends makes a big difference.

How to be happy

Another key message in the film is that only 50% of your happiness is due to genetics. 10% is due to your circumstances (yes, only 10%). The remaining 40% is down to you. You can do something about it. You can make yourself happier.

Happy people tend to be healthier, live longer and are generally more productive than those who are unhappy. And it’s so much less stressful to be happy. No need to be like Scrooge.

One key route to happiness is making others happy. Focusing on your own misery doesn’t seem to be very effective. It was good to know that money isn’t the key. Once you are above a basic threshold, more money just does not equate to being happier.

For more, sign up for our happiness tips. You’ll get them every now and then and I hope they will improve the quality of your life.

Should you buy your team a Christmas present?

Yes. Why? Mainly because the exercise of thinking about the needs of other people for a few minutes is worthwhile. Putting some effort into working out what would make them happy focuses your attention on them.

It means you spend some time finding out the needs of someone else. Finding a present that brings someone else some happiness doesn’t just make them happy, it makes you happy.

Happiness is the gift that you give away and keep at the same time. Sometimes, giving it away even means it’s returned with interest.

Next week – some advice on how to deal with those troublesome relatives at Christmas (so that you can keep the happiness going).

Appraisal feedback

Praise and the Appraisal - tips bookletLast week we talked about appraisals comments. I gave 19 real examples, some actually recommended by professionals. If you saw the blog last week you will know that I went through all of them explaining why they were so bad and what to put instead.

This week, you are going to find out more about feedback, how easy it is to give it in a way that is actually damaging (like some of the things you saw last week), and why it’s so important to do it correctly.

Carol Dwek

Many years ago I was at a neuroscience conference, Learning and the Brain. You may recall my sense of direction is not very good, so won’t be surprised to learn that I accidentally found myself in completely the wrong building to see the lecture I had chosen.

I had just two minutes before the next session started when I realised this. So I simply decided to join the lecture in the hall in front of me instead.

What a fantastic and lucky piece of serendipity.
Carol Dwek and her researchers were presenting. One of her topics was feedback.

For more help with appraisals and giving feedback get these booklets:

Feedback for the Faint Hearted - tips bookletFeedback for the Faint-Hearted and Praise and the Appraisal

Research on feedback

What Carol and her colleagues had done was to observe the impact of giving feedback in two different ways to students at school.

  • Telling students how clever and great they were
  • Telling them what they had done and why it had given them the results they had achieved.

The first technique included phrases such as:

  • You are really clever.
  • You are brilliant.
  • You are great.

The other was more like this:

  • You got ten out of ten on this test because you worked hard and spend yesterday revising.
  • You are able to do quadratic equations easily because you have completed all the work I gave you on quadratic equations.
  • You know your tables because you have spent hours practicing them.
    The results were amazing. The scores of those students who got the first kind of feedback actually went down. Yes, down.

The scores of the others increased.

Bad at maths

It also transpired that many students who don’t do well think they have a problem because they just aren’t good at maths (for example). They believe that you are either good at something or not.

Sell fulfilling prophesies

I’m sure you can see where this is going. If you believe that some people are good at things and others just aren’t, the natural progression is to imagine that there is no point in working hard, as it won’t make any difference.

Even more frightening results

Surprisingly it also transpires that students who think they are good also find their level of skill decreasing. One of the reasons she found for this was that they often would not try new and challenging tasks in case they failed (which would show they were not good).

Those who believed that working hard and trying new things would help them to learn, happily took on new challenges without the fear of failure and improved their skills.

It’s so obvious

This may sound completely obvious, but just ask yourself; how many times have you told someone they are “great” or have done a “fantastic job” instead of giving them clearer feedback?

I know I used to do it. I rarely do it now.

Skilled people make anything look easy

Our old next-door neighbour, Wayne, is a builder. I once watched him putting some shelves into a small and awkward cupboard in our dining room.
He didn’t even measure them. He simply glanced into the cupboard (well, that’s what it looked like to me) and then sawed up the planks.

Then, very much as I have seen it happen in countless cartoons, he virtually threw the shelves into the cupboard and they slotted in perfectly. We both know, that was no accident; it came from years of experience.

I suspect the first time he did it, they shelves were not perfect, so he learned from that experience.

I have written thousands of objectives over more than 20 years. So, very often I can look at your objectives and without even asking you, I can tell you what they ought to be. Much like Wayne and his shelves.

When you look at my suggestions, you find that they are very obvious and simple. So often you feel annoyed that you didn’t come up with the right words yourself, first time.

But that’s just as silly as me imagining that I could measure the shelves for my cupboard simply by glancing into it. Or even saw up the shelves accurately if I had measured them.

Getting the right feedback is vital in helping us to learn, so make sure your people get it.

Get more help with appraisals and feedback

Feedback for the Faint-Hearted and Praise and the Appraisal

Feedback for the Faint Hearted - tips bookletPraise and the Appraisal - tips booklet