The New Year’s resolutions I’m not going to make

I love the promise of the New Year. It’s one of my favorite holidays as it celebrates the things on which I thrive – uncertainty, hope, starting over, and novelty. I do not know what’s going to happen this year, but I am hopeful about the possibilities; I get to wipe my proverbial slate clean of the mistakes and wasted time of 2016 and strike off on a new course. This year, I have so many New Year’s resolutions I want to make, I thought it would be easier to share the ones I’m not making, and explain why nonprofit organizations should follow my lead.

 

I’m not resolving to lose weight.

 

Women, this is particularly for you. As an opinion piece in the New York Times said this week, we’ve got bigger things to worry about. We’re facing a loss of the right to decide what’s best for our own bodies; we continue to make 70 cents on every dollar a man makes in our position; we have a president-elect who jokes about assaulting women and who clearly associates women’s worth with their looks. It’s time for us to stop wasting mental energy on the five pounds we gained over the holidays. This pressure to conform to a standard of beauty is a distraction from the real work we have to do.

 

I’m not going to do more.

 

New Year’s resolutions are often additive. People create lists of the things they want to do more of in the year to come: More gym time, learning a new language, more time with family, saving more money. These are all worthy goals; however, this year I’ve decided I’m going to do less.

 

Pareto’s principle states that in many situations 20 percent of one’s invested input – in my case this means the activities, effort, and interactions with people I have on a regular basis – brings 80 percent of the return or emotional reward. The reverse is also true, 20 percent of the input also brings 80 percent of the annoyance, pain, and wasted resources.  The trick is to stop doing, at the very least, the 20 percent of the things that cause the most hardship. At best, if all your activities are under your direct control – probably not the case for those of us with bosses, families, or dogs – stop doing all 80 percent of the things that aren’t turning an emotional or life-satisfaction profit.

 

Using a life design exercise by author, entrepreneur, and startup investor Tim Ferriss, I began the process of doing less on New Year’s Eve by going through my calendar and notes from last year to highlight all of the activities – separated into work, play, or both – that accounted for roughly 80 percent of the positive emotions and satisfaction I felt last year. Less fun, but necessary, I identified the pain points. On my plus list were things like an online writing course, international travel, training for a half marathon, and yoga. The minus list, or at least the things I’m willing to share publicly, includes finishing books I’m not enjoying just to say I finished them, pretty much all the time I spent on Facebook, and any time I had more than one glass of wine or a cocktail (aka hangovers).

 

In the year to come, the social good sector needs to focus on communicating effectively to incite the right audiences to action to meet the goals we all need to reach.

 

Pareto’s principle applies to activities within organizations as well. At Minerva, we work to make sure that all our clients’ communications-related activities stay in the 20 percent of fruitfulness. We’re ruthless prioritizers because we understand that nonprofits can’t waste time and energy on the surface activities that are equivalent to “nonprofit weightloss” – activities that just look good or are done simply because they are routine and expected.

 

Let us know if you would like help determining which communication activities your organization can cut to free up the time needed to do what really needs to be done.

 

You can reach me at Sara[at]minervastrategies[dot]com, or reach out on Twitter at @SVeltkamp.