You’ve probably spent part of December thinking about 2020.  Perhaps you already have a strategy and game plan to start January.

Or perhaps not.  And even if your organization and/or department has goals set for the new quarter and year, do you know what you’ll be doing come January 2nd?  Do you know what you need to work on, how you’ll do it, and which projects you’ll put aside?

At the end of each year I often hear people make resolutions around their focus, discipline and time management – only to feel like they’ve lost their way again all too quickly.  If this sounds familiar, or even if it’s something you want to avoid in 2020, don’t make the mistakes I and many others have made in the past.

Here are four ways to start 2020 and guarantee you’ll feel stressed, harried, overwhelmed and unproductive.

Work without a plan

It would be easy, of course, to just coast the last two weeks of 2019 and come into the office feeling refreshed after New Years Day.  If you do that without a plan, you’ll just be answering other people’s emails, running from fire drill to fire drill again, and not doing nearly enough to achieve your most important objectives.  Even for just 30 minutes, take time to write out your objectives and focus areas for 2020, Q1 or simply just January.  Know what you’re doing and why.  Be deliberate and focused.

Work without knowing your priorities

Objectives don’t execute themselves.  When you know where you’re headed, designate and execute on the specific strategies that are most likely to get you there.  Break projects into tasks, and focus on those tasks first and foremost every day.  Distractions will be a daily occurrence, your inbox might stress you out, but I guarantee you’ll be more successful if you work first and most often on your top priorities.  This isn’t as much about having and knowing your plan as much as it is about having the discipline to stay focused.

Work without knowing or setting your limitations

Simply put, what are you willing to give?  Where do you draw the line?  What is the opportunity cost of giving too much on your health, your well being, your mental strength, your family, etc.  For example, years ago I developed a habit of taking Tuesday and Thursday nights off.  Other nights I might go home and occasionally check email, get a few things done.  But Tuesday and Thursdays, once I walked in the door at home, I didn’t touch work until the next morning.  And surprise surprise, I was so much more efficient in the office those days!  If you set limits, you simultaneously respect and benefit from time away from work as well as stimulate your focus and discipline during work hours to be more productive.

Work without putting yourself first

You can be selfish and generous at the same time.  The alternative (always giving and never prioritizing what you need and want) is a path towards self-destruction.  Know what you want and need, write it down, set time and/or resources aside for them first.  You can then work your ass off knowing that you can give your all to your work, your team, your organization and/or your family while still enjoying what you desire and need most.