I started thinking about New Years Resolutions after reading this entry from The Simple Dollar. But before I even began plotting out my reflections, goals, and getting all excited for the upgraded 2014-me…I realized 3 things that I needed to do BEFORE all that fun stuff.
Because, I’m great at thinking about them, deciding on them, and writing on them…But then I completely forget about New Years Resolutions within 8 weeks on average. This is somewhat different than giving up or losing motivation at difficult goals (ie people burn out after intense gym exercising). It is more that I’ll overload on sparkly, shiny visions of a New Lifestyle and then just get lost in the minutiae of day to day living. On the occasion that I come across my New Years Resolutions sheet, my reaction is usually something like “oh yeaaahhh, that was important at the time….Huh, what do you know.”
1. Choose Fewer Resolutions and Time-box Goals.
I think 3 resolutions is ideal for me. There is the same logic of concentrated focus in the way people advise that you only pick up 1 new habit at a time (to make it stick), keep goals very specific and measurable, or devise just 1 or 2 short mantras to help you get through difficult moments.
2. “Time-box” Goals
Since I tend to think in terms of concrete goals and also need a little more structure than the average person (maybe?), I’ll try lining up resolution-specific goals in time-boxed frames. Not only does this make the dreamy “Resolution” much more tangible, but it also will help prevent against procrastination. Let me digress a bit to explain…
Psychologists often describe procrastination as a problem of “hyperbolic discounting,” the tendency to discount future rewards and only act at the last minute when the reward (or punishment) is near. As the fabulous YouAreNotSoSmart explains:
You can buy a daily planner and a to-do list application for your phone. You can write yourself notes and fill out schedules. You can become a productivity junkie surrounded by instruments to make life more efficient, but these tools alone will not help, because the problem isn’t [that] you are a bad manager of your time – you are a bad tactician in the war inside your brain…
Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted. You are really bad at predicting your future mental states. In addition, you are terrible at choosing between now or later.
When you’re working with 365 days of a generalized and hopeful “resolution,” it is no wonder that the immediate tempting beauty of a glorious chocolate covered biscotti is much more rewarding that a svelte belly some 365 days in the future. So, maybe breaking down the resolution into time-specific goals will help avoid that. Like:
Yearly Resolution: In 2014, I resolve to become fit enough to run a half marathon.
Goal: By January 18, finish all preliminary work to research and prepare for new healthy lifestyle.
Daily to do (broken up as you see fit): research and download “couch to 5k” exercise program or sign up for local gym membership. Purchase new running shoes. Analyze schedule and choose time to input in exercise habit. etc.
3. Send regular reminders via http://www.futureme.org.
Even though I’m constantly writing and reflecting on things, they are always limited to the here and now: the books I just read or the strategies I just tried. This is another reason why I tend to just “forget” all of the lofty plans I made for myself, way back in January 2013.
But I really really love this service where you can write letters to yourself in the future. I’ve only tried futureme.org but there seem to be lots of free online programs that do similar things. This has worked really well each for me. It is always an uncanny experience to read something you wrote to yourself in the past; it gives me a moment of serious pause where I’m forced to think about the time elapsed and what has or hasn’t change. Plus, it is from ME! Not my boss or my parents or my spouse or my mentors…so the “advice” and hopes and dreams inside affect me in a different, more powerful way. The sense of disappointment and self-shame, for example, is so much more stabbing when I’m face to face (email to email?) with my naive, hopeful self of a few months prior.
So I’ll keep these in mind when I drum up my goals for 2014 woohoo.