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I detest New Year’s resolutions.

I love goals. I also love lists, as the numerous pads of paper I carry around are clear evidence of. But I don’t care for the idea of setting resolutions just because of the change of the year. I prefer goal setting and planning, and I break that down by quarter as a primary unit of measure.

I’ve also borrowed a mechanism from my HTG11 colleague at The Final Step in which I look at the rolling 12 months and compare to the previous twelve-month period. It’s very insightful, and gives me a much better sense of how things are now as compared to “before,” which is what I’m looking to understand.

I rant about this because most columns and blogs I read in December and January always try to sum up 2009 or predict 2010, and while a useful exercise, it can be very deceptive.

The recession didn’t wait for a date to start. As a whole, 2008 doesn’t look much like 2009, but buying patterns in Q4 of 2008 actually looked a lot like Q1 2009 in my business, and I expect we will see a similar trend comparing the last month of 2009 with the first of 2010.  As IT leaders, it’s our dubious job to use our cracked crystal balls to try predicting the future, in anticipation that this information will allow us to better position our companies and solutions to meet our customers’ needs. With that, we make plans and set goals, and work to grow our businesses, help our customers, and generate revenue.

Goal setting and the required navel gazing to see where you came from is something that should be done continually. If you only make those predictions on a yearly basis, changes in the environment will be missed and opportunities lost.

There is clearly a risk in changing direction too often, however. Paralysis can occur without a clear path, and as an IT leader it’s our responsibility to keep the ship moving forward.

So how do you balance all this planning?

First, having a plan is key. If you don’t have some plan, you need one. I follow the HTG planning methodology, setting a business, leadership, life, and legacy plan. Here are some links (one, two, three, four) I had in mind for business, leadership, life and legacy:

This planning process works for me, and could work for you, as could any number of options out there. Most important is to have a plan of any kind. And don’t cheat. It has to be written down to count.

With your written plans, you then review them quarterly. This way, you can make adjustments and changes as you see fit, ensuring that your plans remain relevant and timely, and aren’t changed by circumstance.

My problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they aren’t integrated into most people’s lives. While viewed as a fresh start, unless the goals are integrated into their lives, they don’t stick.

Now, I’m off. I need to go to the gym, as it’s a 1st quarter goal for me to lose 10 pounds. I’ll be in there with all the others making New Years Resolutions. But will they be in there on March 31st?