Start the New Year out right with one of these tools.

Make the most of the year ahead. Do not just set a new year’s resolution that is vague. Give it some thought. It’s worth it!

This is the first in a series of posts with different ideas of how to set your coming year up for success. It isn’t specific to triathlon, but as we know, you cannot do a big race if you haven’t made a commitment to get out there for many days before race day! Same is true for most things in life, though the path tends to be less clear with goals outside of racing (maybe that is why I love triathlon so much!!).

As a distinct marker in time, the new year is a great time to reflect and to plan for the coming year. You may view it as an arbitrary date and therefore rebel against setting goals as the new year approaches. It is arbitrary, but isn’t it as good a time as any? Give it a try!

In this post, I want to go far beyond new years resolutions and offer some different tools for you to use to reflect on this past year and to plan for the coming year. Polls show that most people who make resolutions (only about 44% of the U.S. population) make very general resolutions such as to lose weight, save more money, or get a better job. Of course maybe that is because those are the questions that were asked; perhaps most people actually do set more specific goals. Anyway, here are some tools for you to re-think resolutions if you are stuck in a cycle of vague goals that you don’t keep; or maybe you don’t even know if you keep them because they are too vague.

A theme for the year

Last year, on the recommendation of professional organizer Jes Marcy, I decided on a phrase that would be my focus for the year, and then I set or reset passwords to a take on that theme. This serves two great purposes. 1) You are reminded of that theme every time you log in. 2) It is good security hygiene to change passwords regularly. My theme for last year it was to be aware of how I spend my time.

I really like this idea. It is simple but directive.

Here is my experience with my theme of focusing on time spent. At the start of the year I set some new schedules for my time. For example, two nights a week I put on my calendar that I would spend from 7-7:30pm working on something I wanted to get done (these were very specific – I was typing notes from a course and working on planning a race). I didn’t usually sit at my computer for that exact time, but for many months I usually did spend 30 minutes doing the task on the day of the week I set. They were tasks I didn’t want to do, and the projects I had to do were not urgent. But I wasn’t going to get them done if I wasn’t intentional about it, and 30 minutes was a short enough time that it wasn’t too painful. If I just said I would sit down and do it, then it probably would have felt more cumbersome, but with a set time it was far more doable.

Similarly, I scheduled 30 minutes of morning reading time 2 or 3 days a week where I would sit for that amount of time and get into a non-fiction book. Something that wasn’t good for pre-bed reading. I got through a number of books I wouldn’t have otherwise read through this routine. Indeed, I’m sure I read more this past year than I ever have.

I didn’t stick with either schedule all year for different reasons; but they are tools that I discovered work, and I will use them again. I am already trying to bring back the reading, though I’m undecided on a schedule for it given other weekend obligations.

Overall, through this focus for my year, I have discovered that I have an overblown sense of what I can get done in a day. I was fortunate to spend many days working for myself, and I would finish the working day and feel that I had accomplished little. I worked all day and sometimes very effectively, but I think my idea of a productive day is usually impossible to actually accomplish. On the flip side, I also saw the power of getting through a task with just a little bit at a time with those 30 minute segments I set aside for something. It seemed so small, yet now I have projects completed and books read because of it!

[I wrote a long post about new years prep and reflection tools, but try to keep these daily posts short…which this is already not. Therefore, to be continued tomorrow.]

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