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New Year's Resolutions Need A New Strategy

Yesterday was our last public holiday until Easter. "Just settling back into it" is no longer an acceptable approach to work. The joy of summer has all but come to an end. To put it colloquially: sh*t gets real. It's around now that the excuses creep in and resolutions creep out.
Chess queen among taken pieces
Chess queen among taken pieces

I think it was Edmond Barton himself who first proposed that Australia Day marks the end of the silly season (Sir Ed loved to party). But regardless of who said it, it's pretty bang on.

Yesterday was our last public holiday until Easter. "Just settling back into it" is no longer an acceptable approach to work. The joy of summer has all but come to an end. To put it colloquially: sh*t gets real.

In dramatic contrast to this moment is the point in the calendar when we made our New Year's Resolutions, way back in mid-to-late December. A time when we all adorned a set of rose-coloured -- and often rosé-flavoured -- glasses that inject us with an artificial sense of enthusiasm and positivity, driving an 'eternally' optimistic belief that we can, and will, achieve anything we resolve to.

But once we've celebrated the founding of our nation, that summer-holiday-induced optimism immediately absconds and we find ourselves faced with the difficult task of self-motivating. And, not only do we have to return to our basic routines, like work, many of us are also trying to pull off a significant behavioural change. It's around now that the excuses creep in and the resolutions creep out.

So, how do we combat this? How do we set ourselves up for success with our well-intentioned resolutions?

As a marketer, I spend my time devising strategies for solving business problems and, if you think about it, New Year's resolutions are just strategies for solving personal problems. So, really, the approach should be quite similar.

As a point of reference, the five most common New Year's resolutions humans make are; lose weight, get organised, spend less and save more, enjoy life to the fullest and stay fit and healthy. So, in the spirit of symmetry, below are five ways to tackle New Year's resolutions as approached like a marketer.

1. Solve the Problem, Don't Just Restate It

To solve a business problem, we need to do more than state what needs to be done. For example, consider Client A who needs to solve a losing-market-share problem. Any marketer worth their KPIs would not let it play out like this:

Client A: "So, we're losing market share, show us how you're going to help."

Marketer: "Our solution is to regain market share."

Client A: "Get out."

Obviously, we need to regain share -- but what's needed is a plan of action outlining how this will be achieved. The same applies to New Year's resolutions. If your problem is that you are overweight, then lose weight is what you need to do, not how you will do it.

So how do you find the solution?

2. Establish the Real Problem

Clients will often come to me to solve problems, like the losing share example above, or perhaps their favourability scores are declining. However, these are not problems, these are symptoms of an underlying problem. For example, the customer service offering may be weak, which leads customers to have a negative brand experience and that's why favourability scores are in decline.

Similarly, spending too much money (leading to the spend less, save more resolution) is not the problem, it's the symptom.

The actual problem might be that you get FOMO like it's your job. This might mean you can't help but go along to every social outing, each of which costs you $100 and that's why your wallet leaks harder than a dodgy gutter.

Finding the core problem may require a little more diagnosis, but it will result in a much more focused issue that you can start to solve.

3. Take a Single-Minded Approach

Once you've realised what your problem is, you might find there are many directions you can take to solve it. Take the "get fit and healthy" resolution as an example. Say the real problem is that you're time-poor and can't make it to the gym and end up eating take-away every night.

Your strategy to solve the problem could be making more time in your week, learning more about cooking nutritious food so it's quicker and easier, or discovering ways to fit exercise into your current routine. By focusing on just one approach, on one clear behavioural change, you will make devising the ways you go about achieving it clearer and easier.

4. Devise Tactics

Once you've come to what feels like the right approach to solving your core problem, start brainstorming different ways to deconstruct the big ambition into smaller, more bite-sized things you can do.

Using the "make more time in my week" approach as an example, maybe you set your alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier, start doing your grocery shopping online, or spend 15 minutes less on Facebook per day. Whatever works for you, but break it down.

5. Measure It and Optimise

In marketing, you need a strategy for solving a problem with a focused way of going about it and a number of great tactics to achieve that. However, if you don't track its performance, you won't know if it's working or what to fix if it's not. So, as the final resolution-keeper, it's important to take stock of how well you're performing.

Are you getting to the gym more, eating better? If not, why not? Maybe you can't get out of bed that half hour earlier, and, if that's the case, devise another tactic that builds back up to achieving your strategy. Download an app, keep a journal, buy an over-priced smart watch or find something else that helps.

Happy resolving.

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