This year I will be doing a few things different. I’ve never been much on New Year’s resolutions but I do pay attention to the setting of goals and how they are negotiated. There are a few things I’ve picked up this last year that are likely to serve me well in the upcoming year. It seems that the whole resolution thing is tired and old. I recently heard about previous data that’s been used to determine just when the majority of people give up on their resolutions. It involved a cross reference between the uptick in fast food consumption and the downtick in gym usage. It’s very encouraging to know that we’re so poor at keeping resolutions that a watch can be set to our imminent failures. I think I’ll be trying something different this next year.
First of all I’m going to admit to myself that if I was disciplined enough to keep up with anything that I need to be doing but haven’t been doing for a whole year, my stomach would be described as “washboard” instead of “overboard.” So my resolutions will be no longer than a month at a time and re-evaluated on the 1st of every month. I’ve come up with a few over the top goals that seem unlikely at this point, and others that are generally reasonable but have been increased to an unreasonable degree of expected success. I figure if I’m going to fail, I’d like to fail with some success rather than be on the bottom empty handed. I’ve taken a look back through the year and made note of things that worked and things that did not. Interestingly, since I have been journaling the progress of all of my projects I have discovered through review that things I thought were highly effective turned out to be either overvalued or a complete waste of time. Through this evaluation I have determined a few principles that have certainly proven true for me:
1) Learn with the intent to teach
It turns out that high school had it right with assigning reports to students. After all, a report is merely a presentation on a specific subject or set of subjects. If done correctly the preparer should be able to read the report and teach people information on the subject matter. I’ve found when I look things up with the intent to “learn” them I end up getting what I perceive as the basic idea, and not bothering to look any further. This might be suitable for a general curiosity but when this technique became a habit for me, I ended up jumping into things without a suitable understanding. It could have easily been avoided had I asked questions and gathered enough information to teach someone else at least a certain amount of the subject matter.
2) I’ve been quitting before collecting sufficient data
I’ve taken on projects, gone on diets, and attempted to implement daily routines that I believed would have positive effects. When I saw no signs of these positive effects I either scrapped the idea or just neglected it until it had no chance of success anyway. Looking back on these experiments I’ve realized that many of them were dropped or carried out without enthusiasm before they were even intended to show the results I was looking for. From now on, experiments will be carried out with a minimum time line established from the start. This will help ensure that I’m not missing out solely because I’m impatient.
3) Multitasking is an excellent way to do everything half-assed
It has become a badge of honor for most in today’s culture to brag about their ability to do all of life’s chores at once. I can tell you right now, that’s a badge I don’t wear. I’m a terrible multitasker. I believe that the vast majority of people are. Not that you can’t spin multiple plates at once, but it’s highly unlikely that doing so will result in doing anything well. I have many different things going on but I no longer attempt to do them all at once. I can’t write when the kids are around and things are going on around me. Not because of noise but because I can’t focus. In fact, right now it’s 3:21 am. I’m up writing now because I can’t focus deeply enough when a million things are going down, or could be going down around me.
4) You don’t have to work twice as hard to be twice as effective
I have written an entire post on this point, here.
5) I don’t need to manage time, I need to manage myself
“I’m too busy.” You know why I hate that phrase? Because I catch myself saying it sometimes. You know why I hate catching myself say it? Because as soon as the words leave my lips, before the breath has even cooled, I immediately replay a highlight reel of all the times that day or week that I wasted by sitting on my sorry ass doing nothing important. Time that I could have been doing other things that were important. When I have important things to do on my to-do list I even make up easy, unimportant shit to put on there so I have things to check off. It’s not about getting a quick win, though. That wouldn’t be so bad. It’s about putting obstacles between me and the things that really need to be done. If you’re thinking “hey, sometimes you just need some downtime to reset.” I agree, and I do have those times. Then I take some extra downtime to relax a lot. Then I don’t feel very good that day, so I take some more, then I’ve wasted a whole week sitting on my lazy ass thinking about the things that need to be done, some of which would only take a few minutes.
So, I’ve decided to try a few different approaches to achieving goals that are likely too big, too aggressive, or too complicated to accomplish. Maybe by putting things slightly out of my perceived reach I’ll activate my secret weapon responsible for accomplishing just about every instance of success in my life: spite.