by Sonja Stone
|I’ve resolved to play more in 2017. This is how.|
Am I the only one ecstatic to see the end of 2016? This past year has seemed globally challenging—I don’t know anyone who had a banner year. Personally, I’m thrilled to ring in 2017.
Furthermore, I love New Year’s resolutions. I am the queen of self-improvement. I have a constant and evolving list of things I want to read, do, learn, try, study, cook, write, explore. The “self help” books on my shelf are scientifically tested and research-based: a brain surgeon’s instructional guide to neuroplasticity; a chemist’s manifesto of the why’s of baking. None of this psychobabble about exploring my childhood and blaming my parents. I am responsible for my destiny.
January rolls around about the same time every year. I anticipate the newness, the promise of a fresh start. Never mind that ‘the first day of the rest of my life’ also occurs in March (or June or August)—that won’t do at all. After the holidays I pull out my notebook and review the previous year’s resolutions: exercise regularly, eat more vegetables and less sugar, learn to type, get organized once and for all.
Creating my list of resolutions is a snap: I still have scores of unfinished tasks as recorded twelve months ago (and THEY were carried over from the twelve months prior).
It’s 2017 and I’m working from a list created in 2013.
This year I would love to check off some of those nagging tasks. Naturally, I know HOW to achieve my goals (because I’ve thoroughly researched the topic), but knowing and doing are two different things. I realized about a week ago that I needed a new plan, because copying-and-pasting my list year after year doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. Here’s how I’ll reach my goals this year:
1. CREATE CONCRETE, SPECIFIC GOALS
Everyone knows that attainable goals must be broken down into smaller pieces. I want to organize my house. That’s a lousy goal. What does home organization mean to me? No visual clutter? Does cramming everything into a closet or drawer make my home organized? For some people, yes; for me, not so much. An example of a specific organizing goal: I would love if all my books fit onto my bookshelves. To achieve that particular goal, I will need to pass along at least 10% of my titles (or get more shelves).
In case you’re wondering why I’m sharing this with you, here’s tip number two:
2. TELL OTHERS YOUR PLAN
I’ve heard that training for a marathon is easier with a friend; you hold each other accountable for showing up every day. I don’t know if this is true because I like to exercise alone (but I’m fairly antisocial). What I DO know is this: after I wrote about my perfectionism ruining holiday after holiday and publicly pledging that I would do things differently, I did things differently. I had a fantastic holiday laced with minimal stress. I’m not sure why sharing our goals with other people helps, but I’m guessing (in my case anyway) that it’s ego: if you ask me in June how my home organization project is coming along, I don’t want to have to swallow my pride and say, “Oh, yeah, I kind of dropped the ball. Again.”
3. CREATE A TIMELINE
I’m trying something new this year (because nothing changes if nothing changes!). I’ve broken my organizing list down room by room. Each month, I vow to tackle a specific area of my house. January: the dining room and foyer. February: my kitchen. You get the idea. [I already anticipate moving objects from room to room until finally, come December, the last room on the list is so crammed with paraphernalia that I will be forced to nail the door shut lest it create a clear and present danger to unsuspecting passersby who venture too close.]
4. WRITE IT DOWN
This is key for me. As I’ve repeatedly mentioned, I have the attention span of a gnat. This is part of my clutter problem. When I put things away, I completely forget about them.
Having myriad and varied interests, here’s what’s currently piled on my kitchen desk: a coloring book for grown-ups and a coffee mug full of colored pencils because one of my resolutions is to play more; a stack of books I want to read but can’t read before bed because they are nonfiction and the information must be retained (which is why they aren’t piled on my nightstand); a few items to return to the hardware store which is less than a mile from my house but I’m too lazy to make a special trip; my Browning compound bow because I want to go to the archery range but don’t want to leave the bow in my car in case I forget to lock the doors and it gets stolen; a stack of important papers that must be filed for taxes; four different sweaters because the kitchen is across the house from my bedroom and I am frequently chilly; the first draft of the manuscript I submitted to my editor; a bag of stuff from my car that I need to put away but can’t be bothered to spend the five minutes it would take to actually do it.
This is just the top layer of crap. I have no recollection of what’s buried underneath.
Writing my goals down and making notes on my calendar to check in on my progress is key for me.
5. DO A LITTLE BIT EVERY DAY
This one kills me. I work obsessively on whatever I’m doing. When I’m writing, it’s for ten hours a day. I don’t have time to put my dishes in the dishwasher or do the laundry. So by the time I get to any given chore, it’s an all-day affair.
I love tackling big, sweeping projects. Landscaping the back patio, laying a hardwood floor, writing a novel. But chores requiring daily maintenance—doing the dishes, vacuuming, checking my email—they get me every time. There’s no point in organizing a room in January if I’m gonna leave a bunch of crap there in July. I’m thinking maybe I’ll set a timer every afternoon—ten minutes, tops, and then do a speed-clean. More of a speed-straighten. Just put stuff away. Easy, right?
So there it is. My publicly announced, written, well-laid plan. I’m feeling pretty confident about this, so feel free to check in with me in a few months!
Do you have a goal you carry from year to year? Leave me a note in the comment section!