How many New Year’s resolutions have you made in your life? How many have you successfully accomplished? The estimate is that less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved. And many goal-setting processes used in the professional world have similarly dismal outcomes. During this Lunchtime Topic, we’ll speak with Shannon James, Owner of Shannon James LLC and certified Success Coach and Project Management Professional, to discuss proven strategies to achieve lasting results on what’s most important to you this year.
Learn more and connect with Shannon here: https://shannonjamescoaching.com/strategy-tcca/
Shannon is a seasoned team leader, consultant, coach, writer and facilitator with a wide variety of clientele including C-level leaders, small business owners, and solo entrepreneurs wishing to up their game or seeking a richer, deeper experience of life. With over 25 years of experience, including 16+ years as owner of Shannon James LLC, she’s guided individuals and teams around the world to get lasting results by closing the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Her passion is helping business owners, solopreneurs and teams get clear on what success means to them and then empowering them with practical tools and proven strategies – to create real results — and enjoy both the work and the life they love.
Q&A with Shannon James
1. Shannon, tell us a little bit more about your background and history.
I’ll give a bit of my own personal and professional story. So I started out in the corporate consulting world after I graduated from Georgia Tech, and even then I was really seeking to have a great life, not just a great career, you know.
I wanted to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor throughout my life, so I turned down offers from several big six consulting firms and went with a boutique consulting firm in Atlanta.
I did that because I felt that they valued me a bit more, and they were working with a lot of the same clients. I did that for four years.
It was a great starting point but I ultimately wanted more meaningful work, so fast forward to me taking a senior producer role at Web MD. That was because I really felt passionate about health and wellness, something that was near and dear to my heart after a challenging illness during time serving in the Peace Corps and Africa.
So 10 years into all of this, I had a great career. I was working with a great team and a lot of professional success. But I was really struggling in that “full time plus, kind of corporate environment” to have all the life I was envisioning in the work I loved.
I could be asked on a Tuesday afternoon to be at our New York office on Wednesday for meetings and I was just expected to drop everything and fly to New York, didn’t matter if I had other plans.
I was racing triathlons at the time and even something as simple as taking a longer lunch break for a workout, something that I personally find to be energizing when I can work that in a few times during the week, was very difficult to do in that particular culture and work environment as it is with many.
So, I proposed moving to Savannah. This time I was still working for the corporate headquarters in Atlanta. I was proposing something that was very out of the box at the time this was the early 2000s and I proposed working 100% remotely.
They agreed. The agreement was I would come to the Atlanta Office at least once a month and they would fly me to New York still as needed.
I did that for over a year before I ultimately left to start my own business, Shannon James LLC, which I did again with a goal of having more of that work life balance.
I really am pleased with what I’ve experienced. There’s been a lot of challenges over the years. That was 17 years ago when I started Shannon James LLC, and in my first year out of my own I managed to not only triple my income, but I had eight weeks, so like two months of vacation time I had a lot more free time for time with family and friends.
I was able to be more intentional about setting up my work day in a way that worked better for me, and still work well for my clients so while they’ve been challenged over those years I’ve really never looked back.
I’ve continued to stay focused on personal and professional goals and priorities and I feel I can truly say I have a life that I love that I’m doing work that I love work that’s meaningful that is changing the lives of the people that I work with and bringing real results to businesses, and the businesses they work for. And they own and so that work is, as you mentioned, that everything from working as a consultant in the role of a VP of product with a startup, based in New York and Toronto to working with individuals, solo entrepreneurs and freelancers here in Savannah, Georgia, and just about everything in between.
2. Why not set resolutions?
Number one, I’m a huge proponent of lifelong learning and personal growth, professional development. I’m in the business of helping clients get results, whether they’re on an individual or a business level, so it’s not that I’m you know anti resolutions or goal setting, it’s just that I’m not a big fan of the way that most of us go about them. That’s because the way that we set resolutions, the way that many organizations set goals are not actually working, they’re not getting the results. And there’s not a lot of evidence that they work in the way that most of us approach them.
So just to share a few stats that I pulled together, stats show that over half the US population sets resolutions, but only about 8% of those who make resolutions succeed and achieve them so it’s a pretty low number.
Then within that Forbes magazine says 64% of resolutions are abandoned after the first month so in another week and a half, you know, the vast majority of those who set resolutions will have already abandoned them.
Yet on the flip side, we also have plenty of data that shows that setting specific goals makes you much more likely to achieve them. I’ve seen stats that are as high as eight to 10 more likely to achieve eight to 10 times more likely to achieve your goals and if you don’t set goals to begin with.
In my experience, I think you have to go back to why it is that we’re setting goals. Why does setting resolutions work in the first place?
We’re making resolutions on big things that we think will ultimately maybe change our lives in some way or things that are really important for our business. It’ll help us make a pivot, or take things to the next level, maybe it’s going to increase our earnings or help us to work with a different type of client. So they’re really big priorities. And I think there are a few reasons that we tend not to succeed.
The first is that anything that’s really big, it’s going to take a lot of smaller steps over a longer period of time to get there.
That’s really hard to sustain unless we have some sort of a system like habits, every day, our work habits or personal habits that are specifically geared toward taking those small daily steps, taking those smaller actions that are going to move you forward toward the bigger thing that you want to accomplish.
But that’s not the only reason that’s a big one that I see and I think that can trip us up on another reason is that the bigger things are naturally harder to accomplish.
Another reason is that the bigger things are naturally harder to accomplish. Maybe it’s something that we’ve never done before or that our team has never done before.
It’s going to require more thought, more strategy, more planning. And so there’s the natural question of where do I start and so a lot of things don’t get off the ground, you know, we’ve resolved to change a number of big things at once. We’re setting ourselves up for a bit of overwhelm.
And we’ve made maybe some unrealistic or big resolutions without any plan to achieve it, or any strategy so we haven’t really set ourselves up for success.
I know so many clients who’ve had, you know, a manager say okay, these are the three things I want you to do this year, you know basically Good luck, they’ll figure out how to do it right. There’s a big gap between outlining those things and then having a clear plan that’s likely to succeed, you know, to get there.
And then the third reason that I see and this is a big one. And it’s a little more subtle sometimes, is that when we’re resolving to, it has to do with the size and the importance of the goals and so when we are making these big resolutions we’re setting these big goals. These big goals. You know, it’s probably life changing in some way, maybe it’s something that to us. We really want in our career, you know, we want to set up this particular kind of work day structure we want to finish working in a certain time we want to work with.
If we fail, then it’s something that hits us at a deep level, right, it can hit us at the level of our identity. And so it’s often easier not to start at all. We might come up with a lot of reasons for why we’re starting but at a deep level I think that’s why the stats show that almost half the population in the US, never even sets a goal or a resolution to begin with. It’s that fear of failure that you know it’s very scary. It can hit us at that level of identity.
3. If setting resolutions doesn’t help us achieve our goals, how can we do things differently? What needs to change?
It’s a great question, and you know I think that at the basic level what most of us really want is that we want to know how to change our behavior in some way so that we’re living and leading a happier, more productive, maybe even more fulfilling life right? Something that’s more meaningful for us and in whatever way that we define that. And what I think it comes down to, for most of us is two things you know and there’s a lot within these two things but whether it’s your business or your personal goals.
One is the science of habits and mindset. You know what we believe that we can do, what we believe that we can’t do. And I think this is arguably the most important thing, and I’ll talk about it more a little bit later but our habits and our mindset are intricately tied together. Those small steps I was talking about that we need to take that are ultimately going to lead to the big outcomes that we’re after.
The mindset that we’re approaching that with and the daily habits that we have to support our success are really critical. And so that’s something that most of us can stand to improve and in some shape, form or fashion.
The second is strategy, and this is the other thing I other big thing I see is that often when we’re reaching for that big goal you know maybe it is something new that you want to do in your business activity that you want to make or different kind of project that you want to take on is that when we’re reaching for something we’ve never done before we may need someone that’s been there before to help guide us.
You know whether we’re working with a consultant or a coach to do that or whether we’re reading a book or seeking out information online through a blog or a podcast.
We may need help with the actual strategy we’re trying to do something completely different. We haven’t done it before. And in my experience, if someone’s dealing with this, I could coach them to achieve a very positive empowered mindset, with habits, everyday that are setting them up for success. But if they don’t know the practical actions, the steps that they need to take to get those results.
Those are the two big ones, mindset and strategy. And I got to take this moment to mention that Shannon, spoke back in 2028 another lunchtime topic on building a resilient mindset.
Also something that’s important for entrepreneurship, outside of not being complacent but, um, she spoke around the time that the pandemic hit and we soon realized that, well this isn’t going to be a few weeks, this is going to be a lot longer than we
4. What does intentionality mean and look like? What are some strategies you advise for being intentional?
That’s a great question, and you know the definition of intentionality is being deliberate and being more purposeful. I always tie intentionality to action. I’m a big fan of taking intentional aligned actions. And that really comes down to a couple of things and the first is getting clear on what it is that you’re going for – what are your goals as a professional, what are your goals for your business.
5. What are habits that you have found that help support intentionality when it comes to both your personal experience and working with clients?
I know for me, when I’m working with a team, it’s getting clear as a team on what the goals are and what it is that we’re working for so that we can have that alignment and that synergy.
What is it that you’re personally working to achieve? And that’s a big one when it comes down to being intentional and then tying intentionality to action. Which is really the sweet spot right because we can have a lot of good intentions.
But if we’re not taking any actions to move in the direction of making those things happen then it’s just a nice dream right? So number one is really getting clear on what it is. It’s really important to you what’s most important to you and your business, what’s the most important for you to achieve for your clients, what’s most important to you personally. I like to set three big goals for the year. Then I have smaller ones behind those, and when it comes to intentions.
6. What should you do if you get distracted or fall off track so to speak? How do you get re-aligned with your goals?
The first thing that I do when I’m, you know, at the start of the year and I’m looking at goals from my business, looking at personal priorities, is that I set some limits around what I’m trying to achieve.
That’s not to say that I don’t set big challenging goals, but it might be that instead of having 10 big challenging goals, I start with three right and so you hit on that.
The fact that we do get distracted and most of us are living very busy full lives we’ve got a lot going on. So if we want to do these things differently, if we want to set up some habits that support our success and ways that we haven’t been in the past, then we’ve got to create some time for that.
I think one of the greatness of time management is that you can get it all done right and I think a lot of people say your allude to that in with the intention of being inspirational right and I think that if you’re looking certainly if you’re looking for something like more holistic success for you have with work that you love and enjoy, and a life beyond that that’s more balanced that it’s important that we shatter that myth right that and that we acknowledge that we’re limited resources were limited in the sense that there are 24 hours in a day, you know we’re ultimately limited in the sense that at some point we’re going to die right so we have this one sort of precious life and we don’t know how long we get.
And so that means that we’ve got to be very intentional about the things that we are doing and the things that we aren’t going to do and so the first thing here is that I think being strategic in terms of how we’re making our choices.
How we want to use our time is a limited and precious resource. and then how can we make time our ally.
By working more effectively and efficiently. And so, that means deciding what we are going to do and just importantly what we’re not going to do and where I see a lot of times when people get off track, they’ve just gotten overwhelmed like you were alluding to, they’ve got too much to do.
The things that are least important are often the small things that can take up our entire day or our entire month and then we look up.
There’s two or three big goals we said, we kind of set those aside and so we you know I’m going to work on that maybe on Friday morning when I have some time but then Friday morning got busy with something else and it didn’t happen.
We’re not leveraging our time each and every day to take action toward the most important goals. And so I would say you know to go back to your question, then it’s important to have a way that we’re checking in.
I like to do this daily even if it’s just for a few minutes. Just check in briefly with your goals with yourself and personally check in with your team if you’re working with a team.
This gives you a space where you can acknowledge okay we’re off track. In this way, you know, and accept that that’s happened.
That seems like a simple and obvious thing to do but when it’s a complex a technology project or fast paced product launch, it’s not always obvious and you can get way down the road road, and not even be aware that you’re off track so if you have to pause and acknowledge a case something isn’t working. Something isn’t aligned, you know, maybe we need to adjust course here. This gives you the opportunity to then address it because you’ve acknowledged it.
The first thing is to have a way, have a check in that doesn’t need to be fancy, and a way that you can recognize that you’re off, and then the second is to look at what happened, or what is happening and why.
That sets you up to be able to address it right and so if I’m working with a client and something’s off track. One of the first things I’m going to do, let’s say they set those three big goals is, we might revisit those and say, you know, are those still resonating? That’s still what’s most important.
What I’m trying to do is figure out and everybody can do this you know for yourself is, is this more of a mindset slash kind of habit thing, or does it need strategies, it’s something we don’t know how to do.
So, like I was working with a client who had a major product launch, it was critical to the business last year was what the business was all about. And an early testing we figured out, okay, This is not actually meeting our end users needs.
They’re getting confused; they’re not finding this particular action we want them to take. So we need to pause and we need to adjust our strategy.
We need to adjust the end results that we’re going for. In order to reach that outcome that we were hoping to achieve, so. So that’s one thing.
And then the other thing is that if we’re not doing the things we said we would, but we know how to do them, then that’s more likely a mindset where a bandwidth issue, you know, is there something that I need to get past a few years of resistance.
Do we have the resources that we need? Being able to acknowledge and see have the space to see when you’re off track, and then to look at why it is and sometimes ask the hard questions and have the difficult conversation that’s going to allow you to then find a solution that gets you back on track. But if you don’t recognize it in the first place and you could keep going for months and wake up, you know, in the middle of the year and realize you’ve not gotten any traction on something that was really important to your business or to you personally.
7. What about when you hit a hurdle or plateau? For example, you’re on track and want to take to the next level but feel stuck. What do you suggest as the next step?
What I’m tending to look for is: Why are we stuck? And often, getting stuck is more of a mindset, there’s a fear coming up, there’s some resistance coming up and it’s not even on a conscious level.
So we may want to deal with that in some form. This is somewhere where if you’re if you’re stuck and you’re not quite sure why it can really help to talk to someone else whether you hire a professional or whether you talk to a trusted friend or mentor, because they can help you see, you know, something that may be a blind spot for you, oh you know you keep doing this thing and yet you say this other thing is what’s really important to move the ball forward, why isn’t that happening.
So, mindset is often something that needs to be looked at when we’re just stuck, and we don’t know why, but it can also be a strategy and I’ve seen situations where you know companies trying to make a pivot into a new market.
I’m trying to make a big change and they really they’ve never done this before and the team members may not have experience in that particular space so if it’s more of a strategic issue then ideally again, you want to talk to someone, or get advice to
help you get unstuck and it may be that you’re referencing a blog of someone or a podcast of someone that you like and trust, and maybe that you’re bringing in outside help whether you’re hiring a consultant on talking to a mentor talking to another business owner who’s been there and done this before.
So you figure out how it is that they did the thing you’re trying to do. It may not be that they did the exact same thing that you’re trying to do but at least they’ve done something similar. And you can learn from that.
I will add to that. And this goes back a bit to the overwhelm that there’s a lot of evidence. There’s a tremendous amount of evidence that points to the fact that if you decide when and where you’re going to do something you’ll do it.
There have been studies done on everything from professional corporate environments to prison inmates that show. You know, if you decide when and where you’re going to do it and put it on your calendar I’m going to do this thing this week and not only this week I’m going to do it. Wednesday between the hours of nine and 11am, or whatever it would be that if you decide that and you actually put it on your calendar, you’re much more likely to do it.
If you don’t decide when we’re going to do it then you probably won’t end up doing it so that also goes back to that getting stuck places you know you may have had this big goal but did you actually take the time to plan.
Time to take the daily stuff so the weekly steps that you need to take. And did you put that on your calendar and you might have had to say no to something else you know or delegate to someone in order to make the time for that new thing.
8. You mentioned time management — how important of a factor is time management in intentionality and achieving goals?
I think Time management is really what it’s all about. And it’s one of the absolute keys to having lasting success, and to having work in the life that you love, and you know like I alluded to earlier I think one of the great myths that are out in time management is that you can get it all done. And I think it’s really important that we get rid of this, this myth and I’m not trying to be, you know, a Debbie Downer about it.
The reality is that we are limited resources we have a certain amount of time in the day and that’s okay, we can accomplish great things, you know, very inspiring people when you look around in the business world, you know in your personal life, people are accomplishing great things and those 24 hours, but day to day, we do have some limits in terms of the amount of time we have, especially if we’re going to prioritize some of those habits that are important like getting enough sleep getting, you know exercise and so we need to really be intentional about what it is that we’re going to do, and what are the things that we’re not going to do which is sometimes the harder side of that coin right, saying, learning when to say no.
I think there are a lot of well intentioned people out there that are telling us we can have it all you know whether it’s inspirational coaches or speakers or something we see on TV.
I think there’s a difference in having it all in the sense that, you know, over the course of your life, you can achieve more than you ever thought you would, and you may kind of have that experience of having it all like the help that you’re looking for the wealth the level of financial abundance that you’re looking for. The happiness and the fulfilling relationships and the travel and whatever else it is the family and the lifestyle that you have with your family the, the spouse, or the boat that you want to get or the car or the plane whatever it is that success looks like to you. There’s a difference and over the course of our lives having that and then having it all right now, you know, if we set all these big goals and it all landed in our lap right now, most of us would probably be a little bit overwhelmed. And so, I say all that to say that when it comes to time management I think the first thing we have to do is to make strategic choices.
How do we want to use ourselves as a limited human resource, and how do we want to use our time, there’s 24 hours that we have every day. And again, that doesn’t mean at all to make your vision or your goals small but it does mean being smart about it, and deciding what you’re going to do.
And just as importantly what you’re not going to do, and to give a quick example in my own life. It may mean hiring help. So I know for myself that I reached a point in my business, eight or 10 years ago where I really needed a personal assistant. I was kind of dancing around that and part of me thought well this is a big expense I can’t really afford it or justify it but the reality was that there was a lot of administrative work, my business and there was a lot of stuff that other people could do. And that would free me up to do the things that I was really good at and the things that I enjoyed more. And so when I hired someone to do that and I just started out with a part time personal assistant. It helped me manage those things and it really enabled me to take my business to the next level. I took a big leap in terms of income that year in the business.
Not only that I was enjoying my day’s work because I was spending more time doing the things that I was really good at working directly with clients, helping people get results.
I was really enjoying that time. And so I say that to say that you know what happens in time management for a lot of us is that the little things take over. We spend our days getting those little things done. And we’re not getting traction on our big priorities and goals and we keep pushing the time spent on that to next week, or the next month. And so, we don’t write that book, we don’t do the marketing that we know we need to do in our business. Until we have the time, and that time is never going to show up magically, we need to prioritize every day so that we’re taking some steps toward really big important goals.
And that goes back to a bit of what we were talking about earlier of breaking the goals into smaller steps and once you have this smaller steps, then you can schedule those right so I’m going to do these three things today or I’m going to do these three things this week or whatever the time frame is and then once you do those three things, then that enables you to take the next step and you’re continually building momentum.
While it may not change things overnight over the course of six months or a year you can really experience outcomes that are beyond what you drink or possible in that timeframe.
9. What is your immediate advice for setting and achieving goals that listeners can take advantage of today?
I’ll keep it short and sweet. So I think there are two things I would recommend and the first is that structure that I mentioned early on so if you don’t have it already creating a structure that for you every single day enables you to take action on those things that are most important to you personally, professionally in your business and so that’s every day.
And that structure, maybe having a planner planner system. I’m a fan of having a combo of an online calendar and also having I use a bullet journal system, where I’m actually writing things in a journal, and so you’re having this time that you set aside every week for you plan what you need to do over the course of the week, and you’re not just writing down a long to do list, it’s intentional and that it’s aligned with those bigger, more important things and to start.
If you don’t have a structure the structure you have isn’t working very well, you may want to revisit that and you know set your goals for the month to begin with and then look at how you’re going to break that down week over week for those big goals, and then put that time on your calendar where you’re making the time for those things and that may involve you know what is going to draw, you know, like you said or what am I not going to do perfectly you know I could spend 10 hours on this thing or I could spend two hours on it.
And so having that structure and then within that structure, that’s helping you with those distractions that we know now are massive and they’re daily and they’re never ending.
You know, you may get 500 emails, you may get 1000 emails in a day. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop and respond to those immediately right, many of them or someone else’s priorities are not the things that you know are most important in your business and so you know for me, I don’t respond to email first thing in the morning. I don’t respond to email throughout the day. I have three times during the day that I check emails, and I’ve been doing that for years.
I started doing that, maybe seven or eight years ago. And, you know, I’ve never had anybody say gosh Shannon, it took you three hours to respond to me or it took you five hours to respond to me. You know you’re not being responsive, it just clears up time so having a structure and having these habits that work for you. And if you don’t have that I’d encourage you to just take some time and look at what could you change to support yourself better and going into this year.
And then the second tool that I’d recommend as an immediate advice and this may sound a bit out there depending on what your practices are but it’s um it’s visualization, and it’s a tool for that mindfulness and that intentionality.
I recommend a client spending 10 to 15 minutes every day visualizing what you want to achieve, there’s a ton of science behind that we hear a lot about it.
In the world of like Olympic athletes who you know are visualizing success in their competition so that on race day they actually do it so not only are they exercising physically but they’re exercising their mind and their neurological circuits right to prepare. And the one tip that I would give on that very quickly is that you’re not just visualizing, there’s a lot of science behind this. You’re not just visualizing what you want to achieve, but you’re also allowing yourself to see an obstacle coming up, something that you’re maybe afraid of or worried that will happen.
You know, if you’re wanting to be a great communicator and you’re envisioning yourself speaking, but then you might allow yourself to envision yourself stumbling over your words you’re getting lost in thought or whatever and then you envision yourself overcoming it so you visualize the outcome you envision an obstacle, and then you visualize overcoming that obstacle, so that you’re still getting to those end results. So those are two things having a structure that supports you and that includes planning and setting yourself the time you know for time management purposes, so that you’re taking the actions towards your goals and then the second one is a visualization. And I like to ask at the end of my visualization to make it very action oriented, what is the very next action I need to take and when do I need to take it for this particular thing I’m envisioning, so it makes it much more practical, you know, boots on the ground.
10. Can you tell us a bit more about the individual services you offer and how people can get in touch with you?
I offer results based coaching and consulting, and I work with individual business owners as well as teams within organizations to help them close the gap between where they are right now and where they want to be.
And a lot of that is getting those results faster you know ultimately they may get there and may take a few years and I come in to help get those results.
More intentionally, more quickly for the organization, and I do it through two main ways: one is one on one work with leaders and business owners.
Something that I do a lot in the second way is partnering with the client team so maybe the CEO brings me into work with the leadership team, or the see, so the technology lead brings me into work with the engineers and the designers to help them achieve a particular result.
And so those are the two main ways that I work with clients and for those of you that are listening to today’s call or on the call today. If you’re interested in talking to learn more about what I do, and have what I call an initial strategy session. I’m happy to offer one of those complementaries. And the goal of that session would be to help you identify the next most important action to take to move toward your important goals this year.
If you’re interested in connecting with Shannon, visit her page here: https://shannonjamescoaching.com/strategy-tcca/