Happy New Year! It has now been exactly one year since May First, 2017. For those who think that December Thirty-First is too arbitrary, hackneyed, or whatever to set annual goals, well, that danger is over. Now it’s springtime. How are you doing?
It’s May. Do you know where your goals are?
Not everyone wants to set goals. That’s fine. Call it something else.
Are you doing stuff you want to do that you like doing? Are you spending as much time as you’d like on things you think are awesome? If so, carry on. If not, how do you add more fabulousness to your day? At some point, it’s good to have a built-in pause to reevaluate.
Now, for those of us who do use the traditional New Year as our annual check-in, we’re down four months. This is just long enough to have made some progress on an annual goal, while also being long enough to forget all about it and lose track. Since January First, we’ve probably had a cold or the flu, been broke, and felt totally uninspired by Northern Hemisphere winter weather. May is close enough to reliably warm weather and light evenings for us to take another shot at our plans.
Ever notice how many resolution-type plans seem to revolve around leaving the house or at least stepping outside? Everything from gardening to walking to cleaning out the garage seems to demand sunny days. Well, here they come, so let’s remind ourselves why we made these plans in the first place.
I’m a big believer in getting obnoxious things out of the way quickly. Almost nothing feels worse than procrastinating over a dreaded task. Most things can be done once and then crossed off the list. Many procrastinated tasks really only take ten minutes, most can be done in a couple of hours, and almost all can be done over a weekend. Hauling a bunch of yard debris to the dump, cleaning out the garage, tearing down a rotten deck, repairing a hole in the wall, painting a room, cleaning the oven, filing back taxes... Sure, these jobs are hard, but they don’t really take that long. In fact, when people have a list of home repair or bureaucratic projects due to deferred maintenance, the entire list can often be wiped out in a day. Ask a busy person.
It’s the stuff that can’t be done in a day that trips us up. We tend to think that our objectives count as goals, not realizing that we’ve done an unskillful job of defining the project. ‘Get out of debt’ and ‘lose weight’ are classics of the genre. ‘Lose weight’ is NOT a goal. How much? By when? How? Same with ‘getting out of debt.’ That’s merely the first stage of financial stability, financial independence, and eventually total financial freedom. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to about weight loss seems to think it’ll come about through walking, which breaks my heart. The true goal of 90% of people with the objective of “weight loss” is to permanently avoid making any changes to the way they eat. Often a single dietary change can lead to steady weight loss with a fraction of the effort. Why not just do it the easy way?
I do quarterly check-ins for my annual goals, but the first of the month is as good a time as any to remind myself of what I wanted and why. I’ve already completed several of my goals for the year, and they were big ones, so even if I flake out for the rest of the year I can feel successful. I signed up for martial arts classes and got my first stripes on my belts, we moved to a cheaper apartment and found a pet sitter, and I ran the Shamrock Run as planned. We fully funded our IRAs before the deadline and did our taxes on time. I made some milestones in public speaking. Good job, me!
One of my biggest goals for the year is to stop having incomplete projects. It feels like major progress that I’m staying current with my active goals. I’ve gotten really good at clarifying how I spend my time, where I want to make progress, and how I’m going to measure it. Where I’m having a problem is with projects I started in the past. Am I ever going to finish them? If so, when? If not, how do I tell myself I’m done with something and it’s never going to happen? This is probably something that speaks to a lot of people, which is why I’m talking about it, even though it’s embarrassing.
The obvious next step is to round up what I consider to be incomplete projects. I’m laughing at myself right now, because this was my own personal goal and it hasn’t occurred to me until now to do this blindingly obvious task. Make a list!
My ultimate objective is to have the maximum possible mental bandwidth. I want to feel able to do interesting projects without nagging doubts or distractions. I want to know that whatever I’m working on, it is the most valuable thing I could be doing with my time. I want to feel fully entitled to relax and enjoy myself when I’m off duty. I do a pretty solid job maximizing my finances and my fitness and minimizing housework and bureaucracy. Now what kind of cool projects can I bring into being?
It’s the merry, merry month of May. How is your year going? What are you going to do to make this summer a fun one? How much can you do between now and the winter holidays? There is still plenty of time to make this an excellent 2018, and I hope you feel that you have the power to give that to yourself.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.