Words have power, especially when you pick three of them at the beginning of the year and use them as a guide for the next 12 months.
Life is filled with distractions and it’s so easy to let the “stuff” of life knock us off the path we planned to follow at the beginning of the year. But an exercise I picked up from Chris Brogan called My 3 Words helps me stay on that path regardless of what life throws at me.
The idea is simple. Pick 3 words that motivate you, remind you, and guide you on your road to making 2021 your best year ever. Then write them down in a place where you’ll see them every day.
My 3 words are printed at the top of my Daily Outcomes sheet (my prioritized to-do list) so I see them multiple times a day.
By being thoughtful when you identify your 3 words and then reviewing them on a daily basis, you’ll have a daily reminder of your key focus for the year and this will help you stay on track and on plan.
My 3 Words Tips
Here are 3 tips to consider when you develop your My 3 Words.
- Make them 3 individual, actionable words.
- Make them meaningful to you. They could be “code” words that trigger a story or special feeling for you that is deeply personal. But don’t get too esoteric.
- While you “see” the words each day, allocate some time every couple weeks to hold yourself accountable for following through on them. Take 15 minutes and ask yourself, “How well am I living up to my 3 words, where did I fall short, and what can I do going forward to get better at following through?”
This is the seventh year now where I’ve begun the year by identifying my 3 words.
I encourage all my clients to do this and I encourage you to do this same exercise as it will help you stay focused on the most important outcomes for the year.
Here are my 3 words from previous years.
2018: Spark, Community, Savor
2019: Practice, Voice, Test
In today’s post, I discuss my 3 words for 2021 as well as review my 3 words for 2020 and discuss how well I executed on them.
First, let’s take a look back at my 3 words for 2020 and see what grade I give myself in terms of how the words guided my actions in the past year.
Review of My 3 Words for 2020
Well, 2020 was a year like no other in our memory. Between Covid-19, racial justice protests, and the U.S. election coverage/saga, we had our hands full. But that’s no reason to slack off on our 3 words. In fact, this was the kind of year when the exercise can be most helpful.
As a former distance runner, the right “pace” was a key to not fading before the finish line. Likewise, to achieve my ambitious plans in 2020, my plan was to establish the right pace throughout the year.
There were two components to pace. First, it was about running my businesses on “90-day sprints.” Essentially, it was about making quarterly plans with defined outcomes and then starting over the next quarter.
For this part of pace, I’d give myself a B-. I started the year strong but by mid-year, the focus became more day-to-day as opposed to the quarterly sprints. I’m not happy to say that but that’s what happened.
The second component to pace was I wanted to do a better job with the “pause that refreshes.” Specifically, I workout almost every day and I wanted to make sure I had enough rest days (or easy days) in my schedule so I didn’t fall prey to an unforced injury (like I did in 2019).
For this part of pace, I’d give myself an A. I finished the year hitting all my exercise goals and I did it without any injuries. In fact, I finished the year exercising 9.3 days out of 10. And instead of taking more exercise-free days, I continued to work out, but they were “easier” workouts so it was almost as if I had a rest day in between.
By nature, I’m a pretty disciplined and organized guy. But I noticed in 2019 that in some areas my discipline slipped a bit. So that’s why I made process one of my 3 words for 2020.
Process was my reminder to “follow the process.” I have a very effective methodology that guides how I run my businesses and my life and I wanted to make sure I consistently followed that methodology.
Happy to report that with the exception of my 90-day sprints, I feel good about “following the process” in 2020. Going to put B+ on this one.
My Daily Outcomes sheet is my list of 6 – 8 things I want to get done each day in order of priority. I’ve been doing it consistently for 19 years.
For 2020, I wanted to be even more thoughtful in prioritizing all the things that are in front of me. I wanted to “politely just say no” when appropriate and not spend (too much) time going down the rabbit hole on things that interest me but don’t move me forward on my plans.
Overall, I did well on this. I was able to spend the bulk of my time on the big rocks and either delegate or decline the things that didn’t need my attention.
And while I did go down a rabbit hole this year (Bitcoin), it worked out well and will likely lead to some future business opportunities.
I’ll give prioritize an A-.
3 Words for 2021
Okay, here are my 3 words for 2021:
I’m fairly prolific when it comes to publishing content. Between my four podcasts, I publish about 8 episodes a month, some of which have detailed show notes. I write GTK, my weekly email letter. And then there’s some miscellaneous content including webinars and videos thrown in for good measure. And while I often spend a lot of time doing research for the content, most of the content I publish is what I’d call short form.
In 2021, I want to spend more time turning my research into long-from written content instead of just 900 word posts, 280 character tweets, or podcast show notes.
You often hear that humans have the attention span of a goldfish so you have to keep your content short and to the point. And for certain content, that’s true. But this year, I want to publish more long-form content, more “must-read” material that while long, will be so compelling you’ll take the time to read it.
I’ve written two books and I know that writing a book is a huge undertaking. I’m not going to do that this year. Instead, I plan on publishing a handful of posts, probably in the 3,000 to 7,500 word range, on topics that resonate with me and will add to the “canon” of that topic area.
One goal with this long-form “cornerstone” content is to get more organic search visitors to my website. And more website visitors should lead to more GTK subscribers.
Spending time on long-form content will mean I have to cut back on some of my existing short-form content–more details on that as the year unfolds.
As an entrepreneur who has an insatiable curiosity, I love learning and trying new things. But, like eating cookies and cream ice cream with hot fudge, too much of a good thing can be (despite what Mae West says) a bad thing.
This hit home (again) this week as one of my kids said to me, “I don’t know what to say when someone asks me, ‘What does your dad do?’”
It’s clear that I’m not sufficiently focused on my “core” work and not effective enough in communicating what I do and for whom I do it.
In 2021, I’m going to try and sharpen my gaze and spend more time in the core areas that really animate me and drive my business forward.
One of my favorite strategies for writing, coaching, and running businesses is to take disparate ideas and find the thread that connects them.
The wall in my office has a neon sign that says, “Everything is Connected.” My wife had it custom made and it’s a beauty with deep meaning.
In 2021, I want to go even deeper into finding the connections among people, business, and the natural world.
From a business standpoint, I want to explore connections in two particular areas. First, I want to continue “making connections” in my writing and speaking by telling better stories, analogies, and metaphors.
And second, I’m really into this idea of “systems thinking” and I want to be more cognizant of seeing “wholes” instead of discrete “things,” of recognizing “patterns” instead of just static “snapshots.” By “thinking in systems,” the world will make more sense.
So, there they are: Long-form, Core, Connections.
Now it’s your turn. Take a first pass at your My 3 Words for 2021 and then set it aside. Revisit your words the next day and see if they still feel good. You can use this list of 500 words for some ideas.
There’s no reason to keep this idea a secret. Share it with your family, friends, and even your clients. Remember, the right (or wrong) word or short phrase can permanently change your life.
Tweet your 3 words with #my3words and make sure you @stevesanduski in your tweet too.
Let’s make 2021 a great year!
Resources Featured In This Episode
Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.