by | Jan 8, 2017 | The Writer's Life | 7 comments

by Sonja Stone

Sonja Stone shooting a Browning compound bow; bow and arrow in the desert
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 whys 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:

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:

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.”

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.]

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.

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!

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Jamie Freveletti

    Hi Sonja! Nice tips-especially to write it down. I am going to try "lists" again. Putting them in a new real paper planner that I bought (which I'm also going to experiment with once again). Online calendar nice, but think perhaps old school quicker. Nice post1

  2. Karna Bodman

    Oh Sonja, what a list (especially what's on top of your desk!) The thing is – you are a great author, so when you say you write 10 hours a day, of course all of that other "stuff" gets put off….so your number 5 rule of doing a little bit every day sounds super logical. All of us can benefit by checking out your list though. Thanks for sharing your plans!

  3. Sonja Stone

    Jamie, let me know how the paper planner works! I keep thinking I should go back to the low-tech, old-school, pen-to-paper method. Which one did you get?

    Karna, thank you for the sweet words! I know my life will be less stressful if I can stick to my resolution of doing a little bit each day.

  4. Chris Goff

    I think "doing a little bit everyday" would be the hardest. I make to-do lists like crazy. I never throw them away because I love the way it feels to scratch off an item and then another and then another, until there are more crossed off items than items left to tackle. But doing just a little everyday might kill me. I'm a binge doer. Once I start I have to keep at something until it's finished. The fact I'm a perfectionist (blame it on my father) doesn't help with time management. I'm going to incorporate all the Rogue Women's lists into my planning this year–plus add a few more. At the risk of sounding repetitious–thank you for the list.

  5. Sonja Stone

    Christine, I love the phrase "binge doer." I totally relate! And the perfectionism–ugh. I'm right there with you!

  6. Pat Marinelli

    I also went back to a paper planning organizer. I just a steno pad for my grocery list (Menu and what I have to make notes on back of page), a To Do list (I cross off each item as it gets done, but I also add items that I did that were not on the list. This makes me feel more positive about getting things done.), and my Long Term list.

    I find this is the method that really works for me.

  7. Sonja Stone

    Pat, I seem to do better with a to-do list on paper, as well. I like my electronic calendar because I can set up recurring appointments, but it's also a little too easy to push unfinished tasks to the next day/week/month. Paper or electronic–these are some high-level decisions that I don't feel qualified to make, lol.