2019 Operating Instructions: Five life hacks to stop wishing for a happy new year and start creating one.

Did you know that you’ve already used up more than 10,000 minutes of 2019? Just in the first week… and we haven’t even gotten started yet. But let me ask you…

  • How many of those minutes made you happy?
  • How many caused you stress?
  • How many did you waste on worry or regret?
  • How many would you wish to do over?

These are the kind of questions I ask myself and my clients at this time every year. The answers and the actions they inspire will change the course of your year… if you listen. Stay with me for this five-minute read to evaluate your last 52 weeks and get your wheels on track for 2019.

Not only do I celebrate the new year every year at this time; I also celebrate a birthday. So this is a big stock-taking time for me. Now that I have more years behind me than ahead, even if (as I plan to) I live to 102, I’ve developed some annual life hacks to move “Happy new year” from the domain of wishes into measurable results.

So let’s take stock and hack your new year with these five simple steps.

  1. Learn from the past. If you haven’t already done so, stop now and take stock of 2018. Name three things that really worked well for you last year. And three that didn’t work at all. Now get honest. For each outcome, examine your actions, your inaction, your integrity, your commitment. What made the difference between the two? What would you have done differently?
  2. Measure your H-Factor. The tiny, isolated Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is now world-famous for its commitment to replace a Gross National Product with a Gross Happiness Index. Beyond productivity and profits, Bhutan measures the health of its society by standards like psychological well-being, health, education, time use, diversity and resilience, community vitality and living standards. How does your life measure up to these standards? On a scale of 1 to 10, rate yourself in each of these areas now.
  3. Choose what matters to you. The one thing guaranteed to make you miserable is to live your life to someone else’s standards. It might be a parent or a spouse or the guy who called you stupid 20 years ago, but if you don’t align your life by what matters most to you, you will end up a failure. Steven Covey advised us to get the ladder of success against the right wall. You can learn as much about what that means for you – what you could call your values – by what makes you sad or angry as happy. Knowing what isn’t working is even more important than knowing what is. So, what do your H-Factor numbers show you? What areas of your life need attention this year?
  4. Focus your time. In the HBO documentary, Becoming Warren Buffett, both Mr. Buffett and Bill Gates name Focus as their most important skill. I’ll admit, this has been a challenge for me. My life, clients, friends and businesses span three countries, and I love them all. But one of the things I learned last year is that you just can’t do it all. You have to choose and focus. Stop chasing happiness; it ain’t out there. It’s right there in your own heart and mind. Are you willing to stop making excuses and start making those things your priorities? I invite you this week to start linking your actions with your values. If you want to identify your most effective next steps, use my free QuickStart ebook exercise to learn about yourself and get started.
  5. Find worthy partners. Like it or not, the Gig Economy is gaining steam. By the year 2027, if the current trend continues, more than 50% of the American workforce will be freelance. I made my living as a freelance writer/producer for more than three decades, and I can promise you that the longer you work alone, the more you will treasure the fellowship of intelligent peers. As those of us who live alone need to schedule time with friends, you’ll need to be deliberate about time with your creative community. Whether you find them in a co-working space or by reading something that touches you online, find your tribe. Join a high-quality network of people you can relate to – people to brainstorm with, collaborate with, partner with – online and on land. They make you who you are.

I’m not asking you to plan the whole year. Just think about your next 10,000 minutes. What will you do differently now to ensure the next week of your life is happy?

If you do the work – expand this five-minute read into a heartfelt hour of honest exploration – I guarantee these five hacks will give you a clear plan for 2019 that’s aligned with what matters most to you.

Do it once. Do it twice. Do it three times. And you will have hacked your way into a new set of habits for a very happy year indeed.