Making a New Year’s resolution is like building a product. Here are four principles that ring true for both:
1. Understand why
Bringing a product and resolution to life starts with answering: Is this the most important problem that I can solve right now? Why? Products that are built without understanding the customer problem they’re solving are unlikely to succeed. Resolutions work the same way.
For example, in 2017, I wanted to read 25 books. But I found it difficult to get started until I was able to think through why reading mattered to me: It’s an efficient way to learn the deepest thoughts of another person to reflect on my life. Once I read a few books and validated this hypothesis, I was addicted.
2. Develop specific measurable habits
Product teams spend a lot of time setting specific goals (e.g. reach X users in 6 months) and measuring progress. Resolutions should also be specific and measurable.
For example, compare a resolution to “lose weight” with one to “exercise every Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday.” The first resolution has no measurable goal (how much weight?) and no specific path to get there (go to gym, diet, or something else?). In contrast, the second resolution requires that you build a specific habit. Like all great products, you’ll also get a dopamine hit each time you follow the habit, encouraging you to continue.
3. Reflect every quarter
It’s common for product teams to uncover new insights over time. Great teams reflect and respond to these insights quickly by re-evaluating their roadmap.
Of course, constant reprioritization is disruptive. Instead, I’ve found it useful to commit to goals for at least three months before reflecting on them. If you do your due diligence upfront (e.g. understand the underlying need you’re solving for the customer / yourself), you shouldn’t have to completely revamp your goals. More likely, you’ll find better ways to achieve them. For example, you might find that you’re much more comfortable with swimming than weightlifting to achieve your “exercise every Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday” resolution.
4. Make sure your resolution annoys you constantly
Great product teams obsess over the customer problem and try to feel the customer’s pain. Similarly, you should write your resolution where you’ll be reminded about it daily. The resolution should be like a pebble in your shoe so that you can’t help but work on it.
When it comes to resolutions, remember: Understand why, track progress, reflect regularly, and get annoyed by it. Best of luck in the new year!
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