Perfectionism Is Increasing, and That’s Not Good News

Shell Is Closing In on Exxon’s Crown

Profit at Anglo-Dutch major set to surpass U.S. rival for first time this century

By Kelly Gilblom, Janurary 24, Bloomberg Businessweek

Even in the dynamic world of business, some things always hold true: the Big Mac outsells the Whopper, Google gets more searches than Bing, and Exxon Mobil Corp. is the world’s biggest public oil company. Or perhaps not.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc is the closest it’s ever been to attaining the long-coveted prize of overtaking its American rival. While the Anglo-Dutch oil major still has some work left to snatch Exxon’s crown, Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden has made getting to the top his restless mission.

“At the moment we are number two and we are closing in on number one,” he said this month. “We almost have the tiger by the tail.”

That van Beurden thinks his goal is even in sight shows the risk he took in doing the industry’s biggest deal in decades is starting to pay off. Meanwhile, the strategy charted by Exxon’s former CEO Rex Tillerson has left the American major slightly adrift, according to investors.

“Ben doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk now,” Richard Hulf, co-manager in Artemis Global Energy Fund, part of a London investment management group that owns both Exxon and Shell shares. “Shell’s got a bit better and Exxon is at a weak point in its cycle.”

The narrowing gap is likely to show through when both companies post earnings next week. Analysts estimate Shell will report $16 billion of profit in 2017 helped by the acquisition of BG Group Plc. Exxon is forecast to report $15.7 billion of earnings, dropping behind its European rival for the first time in at least two decades. Shell is also likely to have churned out more cash from operations than Exxon last year.

It’s the $53 billion BG deal that’s really made a difference. When oil’s crash started in the middle of 2014, just months into Van Beurden’s tenure as Shell’s boss, he saw an opportunity. BG’s oil projects in Brazil and gas in Australia were just starting up, easing uncertainty on future growth. Rumored for years to be a suitor, van Beurden finally made the move for the British company.

The deal immediately put Shell in an exclusive club with Exxon, placing it on a plane above its European rivals Total SA and BP Plc. Some use the phrase ultra-major to differentiate the industry’s big two from the pack – at least until Saudi Aramco’s giant IPO, slated for the end of this year.

It wasn’t all plain sailing. As oil prices continued to slide in 2014, many analysts thought the price tag was excessive, forcing Shell to borrow too much. Van Beurden was staking his reputation on the deal and he pressed on, seeking to create what he often calls a “world-class investment case.” The company was forced to cut costs, sell assets and rein in spending to keep borrowing under control.

Still, in the two years since the BG deal closed, Shell’s B shares in London, the most widely traded, have returned more than five times Exxon’s, reversing the performance of the previous two years and providing superior returns for shareholders.

“Strategically BG was the right deal,” said Iain Pyle, the investment director for U.K. equities at the investment unit of Standard Life Aberdeen Plc, among the largest Shell shareholders. “The only question about it at the time was the price they paid and the stress they put on the balance sheet to do the deal.”

In the start of 2015, before Shell announced the BG deal, Exxon’s market value was about $180 billion more than Shell’s and it had just reported an annual profit $10 billion higher.

Since then, Exxon has struggled to keep the business growing. Exxon’s production in the third quarter was 1.8 percent lower than a year ago while Shell’s rose 1.7 percent. The American company’s oil and gas reserves have also dropped (though this may change this year as it books reserves from a  giant discovery  off the coast of Guyana in South America.) The gap in the two companies’ market value has more than halved to about $73 billion.

Shell’s record takeover fueled speculation Exxon would snap up a big rival to maintain its world-leader status, but it’s recent deal history hasn’t been a resounding success.

The $35-billion purchase of American shale gas company XTO in 2010 came shortly before gas prices plummeted. It also struck a deal with Rosneft PJSC to explore and develop giant offshore fields in Russia in 2011, right before they became locked behind a wall of U.S. sanctions. These left its “upstream portfolio disadvantaged,” Credit Suisse said.

In recent years, Texas-based Exxon has preferred to do smaller deals — buying into LNG projects in Mozambique and Papua New Guinea,  expanding its shale properties in the U.S. — and focusing on exploration in South America, especially Guyana and Brazil.  There are signs that strategy may bring a revival in production for the new CEO Darren Woods. Exxon also has a market-leading chemical business of a scale Shell can’t match.

At Shell, Van Beurden faces other challenges. The BG deal swelled Shell’s debt pile, and while the recent rally in crude prices has brought some respite, investors want the balance sheet strengthened further to put dividend payments beyond doubt. Longer-term, Shell estimates oil demand growth could peak in the middle of the 2030s. Oil use has been the backbone of the industry over the last century and a plateau in demand growth could transform the industry whether Shell holds top spot or not.

— With assistance by Kevin Crowley

The Number One Key To Success In 2018

I write about stress and success, risk, balance and business.

January 23, 2018

For those of us sending around wishes for a calmer more sane 2018, please get over it. There is not a single trend out there that points to anything but continued change and disruption. Chaos is the new normal. The most productive response? Don’t brace yourself. Get flexible instead. This applies not only to social trends but to the workplace, careers and financial security, as well. To quote New York Times technology writer Farhad Manjoo, “Chaos is the new normal; the apprehension you feel every time you get a notification on your phone—the fear that you don’t know what fresh horror it could bring—isn’t an overreaction but an adaptation…Instead of revealing unseen order and predictability in the world, technology has unleashed a cascade of forces that have made the world more volatile.”

In case you don’t feel it, here are just a few of the things we will be grappling with this year:

• With the new tax bill, we begin 2018 without fully understanding the impact on our personal and corporate bottom lines, impacting all U.S. citizens and businesses.

• Wall Street predicts the business world to be in flux with many consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions expected.

• Healthcare laws are changing, and we are bracing to see the impact of that on our wallets.

• In most businesses, from Main Street to Wall Street, we are reeling from the impact that rapid change, due to digitization, globalization, multi-generational workforces and an evolving quid pro quo between employees and employers.

Flex To Counter The Flux

Despite these trends of uncertainty, there’s a counterbalancing trend that carries with it the real secret to coping: developing an agile, adaptive, more resilient frame of mind. In fact, according to  Claudia Saran, Principal Advisor, U.S. People & Change Leader, KPMG, CEO’s today are “looking for recruits that share a growth mindset, with high adaptability, high resilience and high levels of curiosity.”

Why is this so? When you can’t cope with non-stop change, you aren’t at your best. Employers who understand this reality know the key to optimizing their potential is to build a workforce of people, who not only adapt but thrive in the face of change.

So, how can you develop the flexibility and agility you need to be successful in this changing climate?

• Keep your support system strong. One of the key factors of resilience is social support. Having a stable network of social encouragement buffers against burnout and leaves you less susceptible to the toll stress takes on your wellbeing.

• Reduce your sense of pressure. And double your peace of mind. Cognitive behavioral therapy research shows that your brain will overestimate potential risks when you’re worried. The best way to make peace with it? Realize what is and is not within your control. Plan for what is, and let go of what isn’t.

• Stay focused. People who are more focused have less stress. That’s because you stay present and oriented towards where you need to go. Your stress comes from the past and the future. Focus keeps you grounded.

• Reenergize and restore. You need to recharge to reduce your sense of stress. If you’re low on energy, you don’t have the resources to devote to emotion control, focus, self-confidence, or collaborations with family and friends—all of which lead to resilience.

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the digital coaching platform based on the science of resilience. 

R&D Remains Critical Despite a Down Market

Joel Parshall, JPT Features Editor | 

Despite the down market of the past several years, technology research and development (R&D) remains critical to the future of the oil and gas industry, said researcher Erika Biediger of ExxonMobil in a presentation to the SPE Gulf Coast Section R&D study group in Houston. Some important technology advances have emerged in past down markets, and some potential advances may be well-suited to down market conditions in which even small cost savings are important, she said.

Biediger gave a wide-ranging presentation, in which she engaged her well-informed audience with back-and-forth discussion throughout.

While oil prices have been down since mid-2014, she noted that rig activity presented a mixed picture. Rig counts declined sharply in North America but in international markets remained relatively stable. Still, R&D budgets in general have been cut and remain under pressure as a result of the price decline.

Past Advances in Down Markets

Notwithstanding budgetary pressure, R&D has shown an ability to make important advances in previous down markets.

Biediger gave an example from her own company, in which researchers in the late 1950s and early 1960s began a detailed study of the physics involved in cutting rock with a drill bit. Based on the use of mechanical specific energy equations and eventually furthered by high-powered computer technology, ExxonMobil developed a workflow that in recent years has enabled it to improve penetration rates on similar wells with similar architecture by more than 50%.

Audience member Jeff Moss, drilling adviser at ExxonMobil and SPE drilling technical director, pointed out other drilling technology breakthroughs that likewise emerged from down markets, including polycrystalline-diamond-compact drill bits, topdrives, and the modern 1,500-horsepower land rig.

A Focus on Physics

With the cost pressures exerted by down markets, Biediger said that two R&D areas stand out for their potential to drive down costs: a better understanding of the physics related to processes in operations and issues connected with supply chains.

“You can reduce costs by having better models, better simulation techniques, better workflows that enable you to understand what’s going on in your systems,” she said. “Then there’s also supply chain cost reductions, so if you can optimize through data analytics or through looking at the larger system as a whole, [you can] reduce your costs in that way.”

Biediger stressed the advantages of R&D collaboration between operators, service companies, academics, and institutions—including arrangements such as consortia and joint industry projects—that can leverage the knowledge of multiple parties to improve the return on research investment.

‘Skin in the Game’

For the collaborations to work best, “everyone needs to have a bit of skin in the game,” whether money or another stake of importance, she said.

She also recommended an increased focus on advances in other industries, such as medicine, the airlines, automotive, information technology, and leading companies such as Google, Amazon, and IBM.

“The reason I think it’s important, particularly in a low-price environment, is that we’re actually able to let other industries pay that significant investment in developing the opportunity,” Biediger said. “And then we get to pay an incremental cost for manipulating it or changing it into something that’s applicable to our industry needs.”

Try To Keep Spending Stable

While a down market can require tough budgetary decisions about R&D priorities, Biediger emphasized the need to maintain as stable a spending pattern as possible. To ensure that technologies will be ready when market needs pick up, a policy of turning off spending and turning it on again, she said, “is very challenging to do” and not likely to succeed.

“To be truly successful with innovation,” Biediger said, “you have to maintain your discipline. And I know that gets very challenging, particularly when we’re cash-strapped. But if you can maintain your discipline and maintain your patience, you’re going to see it through the technology development cycle that you need in order to deliver something. ….

“R&D isn’t easy,” she continued. “It certainly takes time, and I think for many of us there is a tendency to cut back on our budgets. And I think to be successful you can’t skimp on the cash.”

Although some programs may need to be cut or placed on the back burner, it remains important to keep a balanced portfolio of technologies in development, rather than focus exclusively on huge breakthroughs. “Because saving a penny when you’ve got to drill 10,000 wells,” she said, “is going to add up to a significant amount of money.”

I developed ‘the 20% rule’ after studying Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton — and it’s led to transformative experiences

Zat Rana, Medium/Jan 11, 2018

  • Planning, or creating some strategic direction for yourself, is incredibly important to achieving your goals.
  • But, just living your life according to plan limits your exposure to growth and discovery.
  • Aim to leave 20% of your time without plans — and do something spontaneous.
  • Spontaneous exploration can help boost creativity and productivity.

The term “eureka” was first used by the Greek mathematician Archimedes.

He was getting into a bath when he noticed that the water level rose as he entered the tub. His sudden insight being that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body that he submerged.

As it’s told, he yelled, “Eureka!” twice in succession to celebrate. The word is now commonly used to acknowledge a sudden discovery or invention.

The most famous example of a situation that would warrant it would be Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity. From what we know, in his later years, Newton would talk about how seeing an apple fall to the ground in his youth led him to ask the questions that inspired the formulation of his theory.

Similarly, the invention of penicillin by Alexander Fleming was pretty much an accident, and Louis Pasteur’s contribution to the discovery of the chicken chorea vaccine was a product of similar serendipity.

In fact, psychologist Kevin Dunbar estimates that 30% to 50% of all scientific discoveries are accidental in nature.

Benjamin Franklin, the father of electricity, was a notorious scheduler and planner of habits. Yet, in his later years, he also made room for randomness and experimentation to fuel his creativity and broaden his experiences.

In a world so consumed by mapping every minute of the day, what if the real secret to productivity and breakthroughs lie elsewhere?


The power of planning can’t and shouldn’t be understated. Having a strong strategic direction in whatever it is you want to accomplish is the first step in getting yourself onto the right path.

That said, if all you’re ever doing is exposing yourself to a pre-planned life, you’re also severely limiting your exposure to growth and discovery.

As author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb says,

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty.”

This applies especially to us as humans not only because randomness and chaos can lead to creative insight, but more importantly, because there are some things that we can’t understand and apply to our lives unless we experience them in select situations.

If you’re currently childless, try asking a parent how being a mother or a father changes you. They may put together a string of words, and these words may even evoke an emotion, but there is nothing someone can say to prepare you for something of that magnitude until you experience it.

Similarly, there are many things out there that you can’t plan for.


One of my favorite things in the world is serendipity. The word was initially coined by Horace Walpole in a letter to a friend, and it essentially stands for a pleasant surprise. Something random, but welcomed.

The whole idea is that it can’t be designed or planned for. That said, it is possible to nurture the conditions necessary for it to take form.

One of the things I try to do fairly regularly is to introduce an intentional disturbance into my schedule and my plans. I aim for roughly 20% of my life, whether it be measured in weeks or months, to be completely random.

Some days, this might mean taking an evening to hop on the train to the other side of the city, while other times, I’ll plan a sudden trip to somewhere.

My criteria for doing this is simple. If I’ve woken up and done the same thing for too many days in a row, I’ll let my mind wander to random possibilities that I can pursue. If I like the thought of something, and it’s feasible given the demands of my life, I go and do it.

A few ideas for things to do may include:

  • Taking a weekend road trip to somewhere you’ve never been before
  • Randomly exploring parts of a city you otherwise wouldn’t
  • Striking up a conversation with strangers in situations that warrant it
  • Trying something you’ve either feared or dismissed as “not you”

Now, I can’t promise that any of these things will suddenly change your life.

That said, on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself getting unstuck in times of confusion, I’ve learned to appreciate things I previously dismissed, and I’ve had my perspective changed in ways I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Sometimes, serendipity is more than just an unplanned gift.


While researchers have known for a while that serendipitous experiences have a role to play in creative and productive insight, there is more to it, too.

Granted, the fall of that apple did quite a lot for Newton and that the experimentation Franklin engaged in helped him get more out of both his personal adventures and work projects. But these things were only possible because they were prepared for them with prior knowledge.

Planning and strategic thinking are important parts of life. That said, there are some things that just lie beyond their scope. Some experiences can’t quite be internalized until you’ve been randomly exposed to them.

While most of us would like to think that we know ourselves pretty well, the truth is that we don’t know what we want or what we like or what we enjoy until we have had a chance to actually engage in an experience.

Intellectualization can only take you so far.

Whether or not you want to dedicate 20% of your life to exploration is up to you. But there is no doubt that some exposure to disorder can lead to powerful, and sometimes even transformative, experiences.

Maybe you’re stuck. Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing for too long. Maybe it’s just time for something a little more exciting.

Whatever it is, chaos can help.

Industry Poised for Stronger Performance in 2018

Joel Parshall, JPT Features Editor | 

The global oil industry appears poised for stronger performance in 2018, having benefited from the financial discipline and cost-cutting innovation driven by several years of low oil prices and looking ahead to somewhat more stable market conditions.

While oil prices have recently risen above $60/bbl, likely reflecting a number of short-term supply disruptions and concerns over Middle East tensions, forecasts generally call for prices to fluctuate sustainably between $40/bbl and $60/bbl and end the year in the higher part of that range.

“Higher prices in or above that range will increase supply as countries lessen compliance with production quotas and United States shale production keeps increasing,” said Moody’s Investors Services in its 2018 industry outlook.

Boosting Capital Returns

In North America, Moody’s expects exploration and production (E&P) companies to concentrate on boosting capital returns with the goal of achieving profitable growth within existing acreage and cash flows. The strong capital investment level of 2017 should lead to a surge in production, but greater capital discipline will rein in that growth after 2018, the firm said. Companies with the most exposure to quality oil acreage will achieve the best returns.

Although the global oilfield services (OFS) industry will continue its recovery into 2018, the health of the sector will remain frail, as the impact of oversupplied markets will offset higher equipment utilization in the early part of the year, Moody’s said. Ongoing pressure from customers will continue to be a factor, and OFS companies will also face expenses for reactivation and upgrades of service packages and higher labor costs.

Another significant market prospect is an expected uptick in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the operator sector, although M&A activity will probably lag within midstream businesses and the stressed OFS segment, Moody’s said. Independent E&P companies are likely to be attractive acquisition targets for larger independents and integrated oil companies.

Confidence Hike Backs M&A Growth

In its most recent Capital Confidence Barometer survey report, multinational professional services firm EY said that 69% of oil and gas executives surveyed indicated that their companies intended to pursue acquisitions, an all-time high for the annual survey.

Optimism about corporate earnings, credit availability, and equity valuations, supported by improved balance sheets, narrower bid-ask spreads, the consensus on oil prices, and the interest shown by private equity firms, are likely to propel M&A activity, EY said.

In the 2018 oil and gas outlook published by global professional services firm Deloitte, John England, vice chairman, US energy and resources leader, and Americas oil and gas leader, said that demand has increased “enough to give us hope but not yet enough to really move the needle.”

US Becomes Energy Exporter

Among the most important developments have been that the US in 2017 “came into its own as an energy exporter” and that US shale cost reductions are largely proving sustainable, England said.

“At some point, the market still needs a real demand boost to get prices moving upward in a meaningful way,” he said. “Unfortunately, right now it’s not clear if that card is still in the deck. Barring that, only a supply shock is likely to move the market significantly, and that’s not really how we want to re-balance the market.”

Why Your Goal Setting Process Is Broken And What To Do About It

Pia Silva, Contributor/Jan 3, 2018

Yes, this article is about goal setting. But rest assured I’m not repeating the same garbage you’ve already seen a million times this week.

Most people start goal setting by thinking about all the things they want to accomplish this year. Then, if you’re a seasoned goal setter, you probably write them down, and work backwards to create mini goals to make them actionable.

Many people fail to achieve their goals because they identify an outcome without also identifying the underlying motivation of that outcome. Without knowing your intentions, you make it too easy to sleep in instead of going to the gym, or let blogging fall by the wayside when more important things seem to come up (they always will).

Setting yourself up for a successful year means getting clear on what you’re really going for and why —before you make a list of what you want to achieve. If you’re committed to really achieving something big this year, give your goals the focus and time they need to thrive by laying a better, deeper groundwork first.

Dream Outside Your Normal Space

For the past four years, Steve and I have gone on a retreat to do our visioning for the new year. Some years, we are able to get away and do it in places like Tortola or Maui, while other years it’s a trip to our local coffee shop. Either way, we make a point to get out of our normal spaces to dream, plan, and strategize. For at least one full day. (Just putting the day aside is always goal #1!)

When we did this in Hawaii we had no electricity; just moleskines and books. Since we were without distraction, we were naturally focused and inspired to dream big, and we came up with all kinds of new ideas for our businesses and our lives that hadn’t been on our radar previously. Years later, many of the big goals we set on that trip are in place today, though they look at lot different.

That’s the year we reread Rich Dad, Poor Dad and decided we needed an income-producing asset. Since we couldn’t afford real estate, as he suggests, we brainstormed other opportunities that would utilize our most valuable asset: our experience. Though it took a full year and a half to actually start producing income from it, we were able to build an online course.

Creating an online course (the passive income so many desire) is a long and arduous road I’ve talked about before I’m pretty sure we would have quit before our course produced results given how much time and money it took to make it work. But I had laid the groundwork to create something that went beyond “passive income.” I wanted to be able to free up a specific amount of time so I could write a book and use it to build a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. That goal dwarfed the money spent. Instead of thousands of dollars down the drain it was a clear investment into a future payout, one I was not willing to give up on.

The process we used to envision and create the goal of an online course has produced (and continues to produce) serious results for us. It became the standard for all our future planning and visioning sessions. Hopefully it can influence yours as well.

Our Unique 3-Step Process

First, the biggest difference in our process is that it focuses on identifying how you want to feel in your life. The goals and achievements are just things. How it changes your experience of your life is what we’re all really going after, and if you can start with that, you’ll be infinitely better set up for success.

So here’s our three-step process that has never failed to produce big results. It requires commitment, so your first task is to set aside a full day to just focus on this with no distractions. If that sounds like too much or you don’t think you need a full day, you are already communicating to yourself that these goals are not as important as you say they are.

STEP ONE: Toast Your Accomplishments

Goals are about the future, so why would we bother talking about the past? Because before we look forward, we want to prime our mind with our success. That’s why we actually start by taking a look back at how much we’ve accomplished. Doing this makes me so enthusiastic and excited because I’m always pleasantly surprised at how much I actually did in 12 months! And when you start your goal setting through that lense, you realize it’s not that crazy to say, “I want to be all the way over there in 12 months.” It makes dreams seem more accessible. It makes me believe in what’s possible.

That’s why Steve and I spend the entire first half of our strategy day talking about our accomplishments from this past year. It takes us half a day (usually 9am – 12pm) to really identify all the things we have done and to recognize where we were a year ago.

When you think about it, a year is a long time and you can do a lot. When you sit down and write about all of your accomplishments, all the things you’ve learned, all the things you’ve failed at, and how you moved forward, it’s an incredibly energizing way to start planning for the next year.

Get as specific as possible. We count as accomplishments our general wellbeing, vacations, books we’ve read, fights we’ve had that we resolved, and things we tried and failed at and learned from. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying that hard, and trying new things is something we’re always striving for.

So before you do anything about the future, I want you to sit down and take a lot of time to write out all the things you accomplished this year. Write them out in terms of your career, personal well being, and your family. Write them out in tangible things and intangible things. Both. (I felt calmer this year, or I didn’t feel calmer this year but I took steps to feel calmer can be accomplishments.)

Then, toast yourself and go to lunch.

STEP TWO: Big Picture Strategy

If you’ve done goal setting and planning before you’ve probably written down “the big goal” at some point. Now is the time revisit that big picture goal. Things change, and they should! And before you continue down a path that you’ve been on for years, it’s worth rethinking if that’s even what you really want anymore, or if it’s just a default at this point.

Are you still excited about where you’re heading? Is it still big enough for you, or have your britches gotten considerably bigger over the past year?

Many call this your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). Audacious means to take “bold risks.” This goal should stretch you.

We revisit ours each year because it often does change. Years ago we were on a path to build a huge agency. When we realized we wanted the agency because we wanted freedom and flexibility, we realized we would prefer a completely different BHAG and that we could achieve freedom and flexibility much faster a different way, rather than building a huge business with a high gross revenue and an internal team in order to make enough money to have freedom. We were on that path going full force until we were forced to question it (failure and debt will do that to you) but now we purposely rethink the BHAG on at least a yearly basis.

Once we’ve revisited our big picture goal, we move into our one-year goal. We ask ourselves, “Where do we want to be this time next year? How does this push us towards our BHAG?”

We define it by intangibles like, “How do we want to feel? What does it feel like to achieve those things?”

We spend a lot of time describing what it will feel like to accomplish these things because, ultimately, accomplishing the goals is less about having the things, than it is about how those things are going to make you feel. This part is magical because even if you didn’t quite hit your goals last year, if you feel the way you wanted to feel, you still ultimately got what you wanted and that’s something to be happy about.

For example, you might set a goal of hitting $20,000/month because you want to feel financially secure, but if you hit $15,000/month and are on a path for growth you feel confident about, you will likely still feel financially secure. So didn’t you then actually hit your goal?

Likewise, you may hit $20,000/month and still not feel financially secure, in which case you’ll learn that it was never about the money. That is a good sign that you should investigate those feelings instead of always trying to make more. In that scenario, more money will probably never make you feel financially secure, and that’s good to know before you spend your whole life always chasing money to achieve security, and never achieve it.


This is where most people start their goal setting; stating their goal for the year and then listing how to get there. It’s still critical, but without steps one and two it will be infinitely harder to follow through.

The last thing we do is work backwards to break that one-year goal into six month, three month, and one month goals to identify actions we need to take. We then turn our answer into SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

We get really granular about the steps we need to take each week to meet these monthly milestones. Steve and I share a spreadsheet where we write weekly goals based on the monthly goals. These are specific and they have due dates for the following week. Every week, we go into the spreadsheet, record if we accomplished the task (or not), and set our next week’s goal.

We’ve all heard that you’re more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down. One study showed that 76% of those who write their goals down, rate their level of commitment, share it with a friend and check in weekly actually achieved those goals or were in the process of achieving them, compared to only 42% of people who just thought about their goals. If you want to make it happen, it’s valuable to write it down on the shared list and commit to revisiting it frequently.

And while we’re scheduling things, take a minute to schedule quarterly check-ins now to make sure they happen (what gets scheduled, get done), even if it’s just a couple hours at a coffee shop every few months. By planning to check-in with yourself throughout the year, you’ll make sure you’re still on track. If you’re not, you can make adjustments instead of waiting until next January.

Go Beyond Your Business

This strategy can be applied to other areas of your life as well. We have friends with kids who use a similar strategy for family goals. It’s easy, when you’re married with kids, to assume the other person is on board or is still the person they were five years ago. These retreats help ensure their shared values and family goals are the same.

Whether you’re plans are personal or business, make sure you’re not just trying to get more stuff, but that you identify what you want to feel when you get the stuff. If you don’t get a hold of what you’re trying to accomplish, and ultimately how you’re going to feel and live your life, you’ll end up with a bunch of things and none of it will matter. You’ll just want more of it.

There are many paths to accomplishing your ultimate goal, and you may be able to get there sooner than you think if you take a different path. Be open to that mindset. It’s amazing how far you can go with a clear vision and accountability. Cheers to your most productive—and personally enriching—year yet!