Last year I set three New Year’s resolutions. These were the results:
Write and publish 24 blog posts: this will be my 24th, so booyah!
Record and publish 24 videos: I did maybe 12, then stopped… I will explain later.
Post 240 times on LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s stats are terrible, but I’m pretty sure I’m well over 240.
These led to massive professional gains. I got a job promotion, landed big freelance writing contracts, and made many incredible connections on LinkedIn. This year was rewarding, and I feel equal parts of pride for my work and am thankful for how lucky I have been.
But this year, I am doing something different. This year I am setting five anti-resolutions.
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What is an Anti-Resolution?
To explain what anti-resolutions are, I will share an exercise from Warren Buffett, who is the patron saint of anti-resolutions.
Step 1: Create a list of your top 25 career goals
Step 2: From that list, select 5 that are your highest-priority career goals
Step 3: Separate the 5 and the 20. The 5 are now your only goals, and the 20 are your Avoid-At-All-Cost list.
Why do you need an Avoid-At-All-Cost list? There are a lot of goals or strategies that are perfectly decent ideas for others, but they are a distraction for you. Jim Collins covers a similar idea, which he calls the “stop-doing list” in his book Good to Great. Don’t let the things you kind of want to do get in the way of what you really want to do.
This is the spirit of an anti-resolution: it is not about breaking bad habits or stopping unhealthy behavior. It is about focusing effort on the most important goals.
Why am I setting out anti-resolutions instead of regular resolutions? It sounds like a cliché, but my most valuable resource is time. I run into this again and again and again. While I am efficient at getting things done, my weakness is choosing what I should get done to begin with.
Stop Trying to be First
Being first has its benefits. You are ahead of the curve and have a unique opportunity to capture any benefits. This could mean being the first on a new social media platform, using a new marketing tactic, or investing in a company. We all know this.
But we don’t always talk about the risks of trying to be first. First, you need to spend your time and attention on trendspotting. This takes far more effort than people usually give it credit. Just look at people who were the early NFT/crypto/Web3 adopters – you had to be constantly plugged into a rapidly shifting landscape to stay on top of what was happening. Often this knowledge and experience aren’t even transferrable.
Second, the payoff for being first is (at best) proportional to the success of the platform you invest in. If the network, company, technology, or whatever doesn’t take off, you get nothing. All your investment is lost. You also have almost no control. This may seem obvious, but we tend to only talk about monetary investment when platforms or businesses fail. The time, reputational, and intellectual investment could be just as valuable.
Meanwhile, being a fast follower offers many of the advantages of being an early adopter while offsetting your risk. You can wait for things to play out and then invest once usefulness and longevity have been proven.
While I have never been burned as badly as the crypto crowd trying to be first, I have invested too much attention into trying to be first. I also want to get back the part of my brain space that is asking, “should I try and be first?” This is particularly important in a world where social media will be turbulent – I don’t want to get sucked into investing in social networks before they are proven.
Don’t Focus on TikTok
Short-form video will be a significant player in the media mix for the foreseeable future. TikTok is loaded with incredible content made by exceptionally talented creators.
But TikTok is not where I want to focus my time.
TikTok doesn’t play to my strengths. The platform is about authentic, candid videos; I’m just not comfortable creating that content. I hate putting out videos that don’t feel polished, which means multiple takes, which ruins that spontaneous feeling.
On top of that, TikTok requires too much time. Top performers commit serious hours to create great content and keep up with trends. The platform also has many fussy moderation and distribution rules that I don’t want to bother with them.
To succeed, I would need to devote most of my free time to TikTok. Given everything else I have going on, this isn’t the most effective use of my time. I have mad respect for the people who can make the platform work, but that won’t be me for now.
Avoid Dissipating My Time on Small Projects
Bite-sized content is everywhere. The internet is filled with Tweets, blog posts, and short-form videos. I want to deviate from that trend – instead, I want to create more complicated content. I want to elevate the quality of my personal website and YouTube channel content and reduce the time I dedicate to tiny projects.
I’m not sure what this looks like yet. One area I plan to prioritize is making YouTube content. Last year I set the resolution of doing 24 videos, but I only did about 12 – looking back, I should have known this goal was absurd. I knew editing videos was time-consuming, but I underestimated the effort needed to record. I want to find ways to overcome that this year.
To be clear, this would be a mistake for anyone starting blogging. Begin with small, simple projects, and build up experience. Once you are comfortable executing the basics you can start working on more elaborate projects. Given where I am in my career, it is time to fry bigger fish.
Stop Chasing After Freelance Work
I love freelancing. Working with new people is a great way to expand your knowledge and experience. While I plan to continue freelancing, I do not intend to look for freelance work. Of the freelance work that I did get, it all came to me! I didn’t look for freelance work this very much this year, but now and then, I have found myself considering chasing after projects that I didn’t need.
Once again, the time investment is the problem. The act of looking for freelance work generates no value. I would rather spend that time building something of my own to attract others to me rather than putting time into lines of action that are not constructive.
Don’t Do Everything Myself
My economic position has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. I now have enough money that I no longer need to do everything myself. I need to take advantage of this situation!
This will be a significant change for me. Doing everything one’s self is not just cheaper but more straightforward in the short term. I’m used to operating at a level where solving a problem by myself is usually simpler than finding someone to solve a problem for me. As my work becomes more complex, I realize that I am running into more complicated issues more often. Hiring help has the potential to be a substantial time saver.
In addition, I want to learn more about management. My work involves some management, but I am not responsible for hiring or firing freelancers, contractors, or agencies. I’m hoping to start building this experience.
Here are some examples of where I might hire people:
- Use an accountant to help me sort out some financial questions
- Work with a web designer to improve my website
- Collaborate with a graphic designer on some eBooks
To be clear, the DIY mindset is critical in the early career of a freelancer. It is cheaper and helps you learn the fundamentals of a wide range of topics, which is essential for giving a well-rounded perspective. But I am beyond that point and need to adjust my behavior to reflect that.
Setting Your Anti-Resolutions
This is an experiment for me. My last couple of years have been tremendously productive, and this shift in approach will be critical for continuing my development.
Set your own anti-resolutions! They don’t need to be as comprehensive as mine. This exercise might help you reflect on your priorities, leading to a better, more effective year. Besides, not doing something should be much easier than doing something, so these anti-resolutions should be a breeze!