It’s that time again! Resolution time! On January 1st I overheard a woman chanting “2022, it’s coming after YOU!” In a good way, or a bad way? Then she said, “I woke up singing, and dancing,” so maybe it’ll be good after all.
I applied to grad school and now our future plans are contingent on whether I get accepted or not.
In March 2020 I predicted that the pandemic would last until January 2023. Now I think that January was the wrong month to choose and that we’ll be lingering past that point. My metric was “safe to travel internationally” and as far as coronavirus is concerned, I’m not sure I personally will ever feel that way again. Sorry to have to say that.
We had a COVID scare last month, with exposure to someone who tested positive, but we were able to get rapid tests right away. I was already coughing before we found out we were exposed and it was pretty scary. Turned out to be the common cold. Remember those? For myself I’m doubling down on my commitment to hide out and avoid people.
The goal is to find a way to somehow have fun and make the most of the next year despite how weird everything is.
Personal: In previous years, I have built my plans around a major personal challenge that I found very difficult, usually something that took a few years to accomplish. This year I’m just going to focus on having FUN for once! If I do start grad school this year, it will mean shifting into an academic gear during third quarter. Might as well goof off for the first half of the year while I still can.
Career: My career goal is to get a fellowship so I can pursue my master’s. Fellowships at my company are highly competitive, with more applicants some years than others. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s time for me to think about leveling up in some other way.
Physical: My physical goal is to focus on fun things like hula hooping and learning to roller skate. I really want a trampoline, if only I had somewhere to keep one…
Home: My home goal is to move into a bigger place with a laundry area. At this moment, we can’t really make any big decisions, because of the whole grad school thing, but I feel like our current apartment is a haunted house saturated wall to wall with sad memories. Very excited to be considering a cross-country move to an area with lower rents.
Couples: Our couples goal is to go to the final World Domination Summit this year. Although I might go wearing my bubble helmet.
Stop goal: My stop goal this year is to stop reading dumb thrillers. The trouble with thrillers is that the first 90% is suspenseful whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. Only at the end do you realize that the rationale or the character motivations make no sense. For the past several years I have been going around complaining, “Why do I keep reading these things??” Only to turn right around and do it again. We decided a couple years ago only to watch movies that rate at least 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, and now I’m extending that same logic to books, specifically thrillers.
Lifestyle upgrades: Our lifestyle upgrade for the year will be to bring more art into our lives. We bought a big landscape photo in 2020 and enjoyed it to the point that it took a while to ask, Why don’t we get another one?
Do the Obvious: My Do the Obvious goal this year is to focus on sleep quality. Due to my heart problem, getting a cold, and who knows what else, my night terrors have come back in a big way. This is bad for me and also unfair to my poor husband - and possibly also our downstairs neighbors. For me, focusing on sleep quality includes not eating three hours before bed, cutting back on sugar, avoiding stressful topics in the evening, and doing as much cardio as I can handle.
Someone asked me recently to “say more” about Do the Obvious. To me this means looking at a standard list of ‘healthy habits’ like drinking plenty of fluids, going to the dentist, putting on sunscreen, wearing your seatbelt, and any other completely predictable, mainstream common-sense advice that even a little kid can rattle off. Then I have to genuinely ask myself whether I am actually carrying out these things. There is never a time when I’m doing all of them.
Ultralearning: My ultralearning goal for the year is to start grad school. I want to come out of the process thinking, researching, talking, and presenting like someone with an advanced degree.
Quest: My quest this year is to start grad school! I want a master’s and a PhD.
Wish: This is the wildest wish I’ve put out there in a long time. I wish for a parrot and a dog that are already friends. Thought I’d put it out there in case anyone knows of a cute little pair of critters that need a home.
Personal: To focus on fun for once
Career: A fellowship
Physical: Rollerskating and hula hooping
Home: A bigger place with a laundry area
Couples: Go to WDS X
Stop goal: Stop reading dumb thrillers
Lifestyle upgrades: More art
Do the Obvious: Focus on sleep quality
Ultralearning: Grad school!
Quest: Grad school!
Wish: For a parrot and a dog that are already friends
Goodbye 2021. The only thing I can really say about my 2021 is that I can’t decide if it was equally as bad as 2020, or actually worse, full of personal loss and health scares. But we lived through it, didn’t we?
Well, not all of us. My poor little parrot Noelle died. I still dream about her and I feel like all the magic has left my life. It’s been over six months and I’m still stymied about what to do, how to find something to be happy about again. The entire world is a mess and my little bright spot suddenly went dark.
This is the time of year when I review my goals and resolutions and see how I did. Annual review. First, some highlights.
We watched a pod of dolphins maybe 100 yards away from the beach
We went to the San Diego Safari Park and saw the last surviving condor who was born in the wild before the captive breeding program
We both got “Exceeds Expectations” on our performance reviews
We got our COVID vaccines and boosters
I got to see my family for the first time in a year and a half
I ran a mile and a half
There is always something we can do, even when times are hard, and it helps to appreciate what we can.
My personal challenge for the year was to expel my math anxiety. For the first time in years, I did not rise to meet my chosen personal challenge. I took a math placement test and I’m basically back in the second grade. It was too depressing to deal with, and maybe I was just having too many health issues and too much pressure at work. I did not achieve escape velocity and I did not make progress and I did not impress myself.
My career goal is to become a futurist. Futurism is officially part of my job now, I am recognized as being particularly good at it, my boss says he’ll send me to any futurism conferences or workshops I want to do, and guess what else? I applied to grad school. I’m still waiting on my last recommendation letter before my application will be processed, with less than a week to the deadline. The suspense!
My physical goal was to get back to my goal weight. While I did manage to lose the weight I gained in 2020, I put some of it back on over the holidays. So I’m down 10 pounds. I have more reason to care now because I’ve been having issues with tachycardia and SVE, which seems to have reawakened my night terrors. Maybe other people can welcome weight gain with smugness and delight, and more power to them, but for me, there are natural constraints.
My home goal was to move to a larger home. This did not happen. We are in stasis until we find out whether I get accepted to grad school, since it doesn’t make much sense to move twice in one year (again). If you find yourself in a home with a washer and dryer and/or a second bathroom, rejoice. I know I will.
Our couples goal was to start saving for a house. We are on track for this, although who knows where or when we might actually buy any real estate.
My stop goal was to stop hoarding reading material. I genuinely worked on this all year long, and for me it will probably be the stop goal of a lifetime. I read through part of my backlog, but not all of it, and realizing that I had more than a year’s worth of material stored up was daunting and mind-boggling. We’re talking bookmarks and open tabs, not my list of books to read, which it turns out includes over three thousand titles. Yeah, good luck with that, hon. I did have exciting breakthroughs in finding a few more ways to speed-read, so that was fun.
My lifestyle upgrade for the year was to get a new bed. We did actually manage to do this, finding ourselves the only customers in a local mattress store, and we have a proper bed frame for the first time in our marriage. This was one of the best decisions we have made, saying goodbye to our lumpy twelve-year-old mattress.
My Do the Obvious for 2021 was to assume another year of working from home. That turned out to be completely accurate.
My ultralearning goal was to focus on data visualization, and indeed I did a lot of that. This is an area where there is no end to the learning potential.
My quest is to run a 50-mile ultramarathon when I turn 50, in 2025. I managed to run a mile and a half without stopping, and that’s not nothing, but between COVID and the supraventricular ectopy, I am not sure whether I will be able to complete this quest. I’m not even sure if I’ll still be here to turn 50. We are given neither the day nor the hour, and tomorrow is not promised. That does not, however, invalidate the desire to make the most of the time that we have.
My wish for the year was to visit my family safely. We all got our shots, and I wore my bubble helmet at the airport, and nobody got sick, and we all got to be together. Wish granted!
How was your year? How did you do?
Personal: To expel my math anxiety - NO PROGRESS
Career: Become a futurist - IN PROGRESS
Physical: Back to my goal weight - IN PROGRESS
Home: Probably move to a larger home - FAIL
Couples: Save for a house - IN PROGRESS
Stop goal: Stop hoarding reading material - lol
Lifestyle upgrades: New bed - SUCCESS
Do the Obvious: Assume another year of WFH - SUCCESS
Ultralearning: Data visualization - Tableau, Excel, etc. - SUCCESS
Quest: 50 for 50 ultramarathon (2025) - IN PROGRESS
Wish: To visit my family safely - SUCCESS
Half of 2021 is gone, and good riddance to it. This has not been a great year, and in fact I would even say my second quarter has been as bad as 2020.
My little parrot died, I had a major family crisis, our good friend got hit by a car and gravely injured, I spent last Sunday in urgent care, and right now half my face is numb because I was just at the periodontist again. The only things that are going well in my life are my marriage, my job, and my finances - which is more or less the opposite of where I was 20ish years ago, so at least that’s something.
I’m freaked out, grieving, worried about too many people with too much going on, and wandering through another medical labyrinth.
This makes it as good a time as any to think about goals and resolutions. At least it’s a distraction. When it’s raining bowling balls, the only things that are going to go our way are things that we have planned, researched, and put into motion ourselves. We certainly can’t wait around for destiny or luck.
Something I need to do - besides scheduling seemingly endless medical and dental appointments - is to figure out, what kind of fun things do I want to do for summer? Normally by this time of year, I already have plans for my birthday and our wedding anniversary. Right now I am wracking my brain trying to remember, what was fun?? Were there really things that used to be relaxing and enjoyable?
Imagine having three weeks of paid vacation time and no idea what to do with it.
It’s my feeling that a summer can disappear almost as quickly as a weekend. It’s not so much that we need Plans as that it can be diverting to make a list of summery things to do. Last year I illustrated a whole page in my bullet journal. One of my items was to taste-test every flavor of La Croix, and I’m happy to report that I managed to do this.
How busy are we if we need to remind ourselves to try to have a good time?
My goal for the third quarter of 2021 is to “do summertime things” such as sitting under a beach umbrella, eating an ice cream cone, and perhaps trying on some roller skates.
As for my yearly goals, how am I doing?
My personal goal was to expel my math anxiety. I probably won’t start working on this until September to be honest.
My career goal is to become a futurist. I sort of just realized that I can technically claim this as true. I am already on the strategic advisory council and the horizon scanning team, I put out a futurism newsletter five days a week, and I’ve been asked to do another quarterly company newsletter with, get this, a comic strip! Things are moving in the correct direction seemingly without effort. It’s true what they say, that if you do something you truly love, then it doesn’t really feel like work.
My physical goal was to get back to my goal weight. I have made zero progress in the past year and a half, and I think I finally know why. I had my TSH hormone levels checked this week, and it turns out I’m right back to where I was in my early 20s when I had a thyroid nodule and all sorts of other problems. Now my goal is just to get my TSH levels back up and see if it corrects the issues that I believe it will. Two of those are having difficulty losing weight, and constantly being freezing cold. I’ve worked out every day this week and I’m already feeling better.
My home goal was to “probably move to a larger home.” I am not sure whether this will happen this year. It appears that our dinky apartment may be one of the best options in our area. Where we live, there are a lot of units dedicated to summer rentals, so this is the worst time to try to move. Maybe we will start looking again in the fall. Otherwise, I think this goal depends on whether we are asked to relocate at some point, and there is no telling when that might or might not happen.
Our couples goal was to save for a house. We are crushing this, yet on the other hand, house prices are quite high and apparently the market is very hot. Maybe this will not be the year to buy. The great thing about savings is that it’s still there when you go back to check it again.
My stop goal was to stop hoarding reading material. I have successfully eliminated one entire reading queue and I am in good shape on another. As usual with my stop goals, it’s a bigger issue than I had fully grasped and it will probably take me all year to get there.
My lifestyle upgrade was to get a new bed. We have gotten as far as choosing three options for bed frames. That raised the issue that none of them matched any of the other furniture in our bedroom. Not that everything needs to “match” but at the moment, every single thing with a wood finish in our apartment is a different color. The plan is to order the bed frame first, before choosing a mattress, because rumor has it that new furniture can take months to ship.
My Do the Obvious was to assume another year of working from home. We are indeed still working from home. I went on a tour of my work site and got a badge - with a very terrible photo - but I do not have a desk and I have no idea where in the building I would sit. I have a strong suspicion that we will all still be working from home through the end of 2021. Solid prediction there.
My ultralearning goal was to learn data visualization. The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn. Right now I’m working on a graphics project that should be pretty awesome if I can get it done to my standards.
My quest is to run a 50-mile ultramarathon for my 50th birthday. Somehow I only have four years left to train, and how the heck did that happen?? I can share that I bought new running shoes and managed to run a quarter mile without stopping.
My wish was to visit my family safely. I DID IT! We all got our shots and I wore a space helmet on all my flights and nobody got sick.
We have been very lucky in that virtually everyone we know ran out and got their COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as they could. Most of the people we know are essential workers, so we got in the front of the queue. We have tentatively started seeing vaccinated friends in small groups, and so far we have not had to give any slackers the bum’s rush.
We are all halfway through 2021, meaning there is still plenty of time to make things happen. Whether that is taking a nap, going to the dentist, walking in the park, or hanging up a bird feeder, only you will care enough to do things for yourself that make you smile.
Let’s all do what we can to make the back half of 2021 better than the front half.
Personal: To expel my math anxiety
Career: Become a futurist - IN PROGRESS
Physical: Back to my goal weight
Home: Probably move to a larger home
Couples: Save for a house - IN PROGRESS
Stop goal: Stop hoarding reading material - IN PROGRESS
Lifestyle upgrades: New bed - IN PROGRESS
Do the Obvious: Assume another year of WFH - IN PROGRESS
Ultralearning: Data visualization - Tableau, Excel, etc. - IN PROGRESS
Quest: 50 for 50 ultramarathon (2025) - IN PROGRESS
Wish: To visit my family safely - SUCCESS
Aw heck. Is it April already?
I did something this month that I’ve never done before, and that is to completely forget that it was time to do my goals check-in. I blew it.
Possibly like a lot of people, I am thoroughly fed up, bored, and annoyed by isolation. I’m climbing the walls of our dinky apartment. I don’t want to do any of the things I am allowed to do, while simultaneously not feeling like doing any of the stuff I’m not allowed to do, either. It’s not like, I dunno, flying to Japan would even be fun right now.
All I do is work and clean my apartment! Blearghhhhh!
Okay, now that I have that out of my system, what have I actually done this year and what do I intend to do with the remaining three quarters of the year?
Well, one thing was that I got my first shot! Hooray! Another is that I’m coming along in my Italian lessons. And another is that I’m trying to teach Noelle how to open a La Croix can, which will either prove to be my single best or single worst idea of all time.
My personal goal was to work on my math anxiety. I don’t even care who knows that I have not started working on this yet. I’m building up to it. In fact, I think I’m close to working up a head of steam on the idea that I can Prove Something to my engineer husband, who thinks my current math skills are comical to the extreme.
My career goal is to become a futurist. I have actually made good traction on this. I found out the application deadlines for grad school are months earlier than I had assumed, so now I know that I can start applying in August for academic year 2022. (Which does give me plenty of time to study remedial math...) I’ve also discovered which universities have programs that interest me, including one where I could study both futurism and space policy. Cool, right??
My physical goal is to get back to my goal weight. I got another chiding little note from Kaiser, an action plan to lose three pounds. I am pleased to say that I finally seem to have broken the barrier on this thing that I have been actively trying to do for something like a year and a half. I am DETERMINED!!! to reach my goal by my birthday this year, or at least be well on my way.
My home goal is probably to move to a larger home. Progress on this is that we’ve started looking at listings. We reminded ourselves that in our region at this time of year, the focus is on short-term rentals and summer listings, because apparently people from all over the world will pay high prices to rent a place here for one to three months. There wasn’t a single available place we saw in our price range where we would want to live. Probably we will start to have better luck at the end of summer.
Our couples goal is to save for a house. We are making such great progress that it is positively cheering us up. Yet it will take a Hollywood-level miracle for us to buy a house here for us to live in. I wouldn’t rule it out, but if we buy a place it will probably be a rental property elsewhere.
My stop goal is to stop hoarding reading material. I am very proud of my progress in this area! This was the stop goal from Heck-Darn, which I assure you is a real place. I am not “done” yet, but I’ve got all my various reading queues down to the double digits, rather than four digits. Two orders of magnitude! I know I can nail this before the end of the year, and possibly even by the end of the quarter.
Our lifestyle upgrade is to buy a new bed. We are waiting until we can safely visit a mattress store in person and test them out. We were also thinking about swapping them out when we move, so we can be sure the new bed will fit in the new home. (A lot of beach real estate has tiny, narrow little bedrooms). This one hasn’t happened yet, but we already have the money set aside and we’re counting the days.
In the meantime, our biggest lifestyle upgrade is probably that we both got our first shot! We’re two weeks away from getting our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
My Do the Obvious was to assume another year of working from home. Well, here we are, still working at home. If I eventually turn out to be wrong, it hasn’t happened yet. I’m sticking to my original prediction, from before I personally contracted COVID, that the pandemic won’t be officially “over” until January 2023. By “over” I mean that it’s safe to travel anywhere in the world without worrying about being exposed to coronavirus. Still waiting on that.
My ultralearning goal is data visualization. I can say that sometimes it feels like all I do is look at various formats of data visualization. I’m officially taking courses in both Tableau and Excel at work, so not only am I working on this goal, I’m getting paid to do so. What I’ve learned so far is that this is a complicated topic and also something of an art form.
My quest is to run a 50-mile ultramarathon for my 50th birthday. This will be yet another Hollywood-style miracle if I can pull it off. I have been plugging away at the elliptical several days a week, so I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Right now, running one mile outdoors would be pretty impressive for me.
My wish is to visit my family safely. Right now I’m pacing the floor waiting for the last few stragglers to please, please, pretty please get their vaccines. The last thing I would want to do is show up from LAX swarming with germs and get my favorite people deathly ill. Right now I guess we’re all stuck with Zoom.
I set out to write this post in a somewhat surly mood, disappointed with myself for not giving my goals much thought over the past three months. As I reviewed my progress, I started feeling gradually more excited, realizing that I really was on track in several areas. I reminded myself why I had chosen these things. Okay, I don’t really wanna sit around doing grade school math, but I think I will eventually. Everything else on my list is perfectly fine. I can see myself swanning around our new place, only to flop backward onto our new bed, satisfied with all the hard work and studying I have been doing.
How about you? How is your year going?
Personal: To expel my math anxiety
Career: Become a futurist
Physical: Back to my goal weight
Home: Probably move to a larger home
Couples: Save for a house
Stop goal: Stop hoarding reading material
Lifestyle upgrades: New bed
Do the Obvious: Assume another year of WFH
Ultralearning: Data visualization - Tableau, Excel, etc.
Quest: 50 for 50 ultramarathon (2025)
Wish: To visit my family safely
Darn those pesky New Year’s Resolutions. When you pick one that will actually make a difference in your life, it’s hard to push it to the side and forget about it.
I knew it was time to confront my digital hoarding. Predictably, it was worse than I thought.
For some people it’s probably photographs and videos, and yes, I have a lot of those too, but that’s not my goal for right now. I have plenty of storage and they’re all backed up to the cloud. They don’t eat up my mental bandwidth, which is the real issue.
I have a problem. When I was a little kid, I wished I could read everything, every book in the whole world. I’ve never really figured out how to un-wish that wish, only now it’s spread to include, apparently, every article, newsletter, and blog post ever written.
The better I have gotten at sourcing and bookmarking information, the worse my digital hoarding has gotten.
I found some apps and learned to speed-read, at which point it got still worse.
I’m following that same line now, although in a new direction, and I appear to have passed Peak Bookmarks. At least so far in 2021, I’m trending downward.
What kind of hoarding are we talking about?
I don’t hoard physical books like a lot of dedicated readers. This may unsettle you, but I [whispering]... I think most books look bad! Physical bookshelves are a problem in my life for several reasons, not the least of which is my parrot, who has come by the nickname Sneaky Beaky honestly. They take up too much space in our tiny apartments, it’s a pain to have to keep unpacking them, and, finally, whenever there is a bookshelf in a room, my eyes will obsessively wander to it. Much too distracting.
It was around the time that I got my first smartphone that I started feeling able to release my physical book collection. Once I knew I would always have something to read in my pocket, my brain decoupled from the bound object and latched itself onto the digital variety like a lamprey.
A plausible formulation would be that I would eventually learn to trust that there will always be more news than I can read every single day, and that information will always come at me in waves, a sea I can never drink down.
In that formulation, I would quit bookmarking things and chill out, floating ineffably in an intellectual innertube on an endless ocean of content.
Yeah, that never happened.
Periodically, pun intended, I would skim through my various hoards, intending to delete a bunch of stuff that was no longer relevant to my interests. I don’t think I ever even deleted 0.5% that way. The experience would just leave me peevish, feeling starved for time and yet more committed to eventually reading through this backlog.
What? I can’t just... not know what is in those articles!
In some ways it got still worse when I started my tech newsletter. It is extremely stochastic what I will and won’t find on any given day. I’m at the point now where, on rare occasions, something I post will actually spark a white paper or an invention disclosure. Obviously this is super-exciting! For the first time in my life, my chronic reading habits have direct practical application to real-world results!
This has led to FoMO of the very worst kind. If I miss something, it’s not just me missing it, it’s all my readers, too, and what then??
I’m on top of it, though. The work stuff, at any rate.
I’m gradually chipping away at my personal stuff, too.
How am I doing it? Since I am apparently powerless to delete things and simply change my mind about letting things go?
I found a couple of apps that will speed-read text aloud.
It turns out this capability had existed in my all-time favorite bookmarking app, Pocket, for who knows how long. I could have been doing this for perhaps years. I just didn’t realize because the majority of my free mental bandwidth is quickly squandered on reading.
The best thing about it? Most audio apps top out at 3x, but Pocket goes to 4. I’m currently at 3.4x and it’s still crisp and clear.
Pocket is genius. I’ve been using it for years, to the point that I have gotten email from them saying I’m in their top 5% of users worldwide. I don’t know how many people have this app installed, but it is maybe a little alarming that I’m on their radar to this extent?
That being said, it can’t pick up everything. The formatting on some publications is unreadable by Pocket. It’s still possible to read in web view, but my speed-reading app Outread can’t transfer these. In the past, I would sometimes copy and paste the text from the original article into Outread, a fussy process.
Then I found Text to Speech. The same text I was copying and pasting into Outread could be dropped into Text to Speech instead. It doesn’t read as quickly as Pocket, but it was a way to listen to articles while multi-tasking.
Not long after that, I stumbled upon an ad for Elocance. I paid $35 for it, which is beyond the pale for most apps, but in the range for old-school CD-ROM software or a hardcover book. While it can only read at 1.5x, it’s able to handle almost all the weirdly formatted publications that Pocket can’t. It can also read email, newsletter subscriptions, Word docs, PDFs, and whatever other random text you want to throw in there. Another improvement it has over Text to Speech is that it lines everything up in a playlist like a podcast app, rather than one-off selections.
The way all this works, I’m listening through my news queue when I would previously have been listening to podcasts. While this has completely replaced podcasts in my life for the moment, I am actually consuming news content faster than I can bookmark it!
It’s entirely likely that the novelty of blasting through my news queue with these new toys will soon wear off, and I will replace them with a new information source that will have me right back where I started. I give myself all year to work on a resolution, though, and for now, I’m making progress and feeling proud of myself.
Skip January, I always say. I think the reason most people quit on their New Year’s Resolutions is that they feel like they need a perfect streak for it to really count. New Year’s Eve, in this formulation, is a magical portal that only exists for a few hours, and if the perfect streak is not maintained, then the spell is broken and the new habit is now forever off-limits.
I just added in a loophole that January is for getting ready, and nothing counts until February.
February is a good sampler month because it’s the shortest month, the weather in the Northern Hemisphere is usually terrible, and there’s not much else to do unless you love Valentine’s Day - which I’m gathering most of you don’t?
I made a bunch of New Year’s Resolutions, most of which I haven’t touched yet. Worse than that, I haven’t even finished filling out my goal planner, which is absolutely unprecedented in my life. I actually feel really bad about that because it’s a gift I give myself, and if I can’t find time once a year for something I find very fun and rewarding, then what is going on??
Scope creep and overkill?
A lot of us feel like we’re letting ourselves down in some way. We don’t like setting goals because we feel like failures when we aren’t able to crush those goals in some kind of world-record timeframe.
Slow and steady is realistic, yet too boring to be inspirational.
What I’ve found from tracking my resolutions and goals on a quarterly basis is that it’s a lot easier to achieve these goals when they’re layered. Trying to do every single thing at once basically guarantees that none of it will happen.
The first goal for everyone should probably be baseline contentment.
This is something that’s been tougher for me. I always feel like I should be strenuously Doing Something. It’s an ADHD problem. I’m not great at simply sitting. This concept of “Netflix and chill” is a little mystifying to me.
My work buddy mentioned that she binge-watched an entire series over the weekend - something on cybersecurity - and I blinked in surprise. A whole series?? But you’d have to watch three or four hours a day! Is that even possible?? What would you do, just sit there??
What did you do the rest of the weekend?
It’s actually something to think about. What can you add to your baseline habits that would be fun?
‘Habit’ always seems to be seen in the context of ‘bad.’ When we think ‘habit’ we think of removing or stopping or quitting or taking away. This is very tough on human psychology, and probably not a useful formulation for a goal.
An example would be our poor old dog Spike. When he was a young dog, we got him a laser pointer, and he reacted to it about the way that any grade-school kid would react to getting a PlayStation 5. We would try to hide it, and he would sniff out where it was, and he would stare at that spot and bark obsessively.
The day we moved from that house, we took down the wall sorter where the laser pointer had been kept. He barked at the movers and showed them the blank spot on the wall and barked some more, asking if they would play with him, even though there was nothing there anymore.
See, it’s hard to eliminate a habit!
It’s much more tempting to think of something positive that you want to add to your life, and make it as easy and appealing to do as possible. By this method, you can gradually crowd out habits that you wish would go away, and eventually, they will.
For someone like my work buddy who likes to binge-watch TV, there are a raft of habits that can be added without letting go of the binge-watching. Putting on lotion. Doing your own mani-pedi. Stretching or doing PT exercises. Folding laundry. Brushing out your pets. Using a percussion massager or a facial steamer. Mindlessly eating a large salad. Who knows what else?
It’s also possible to watch TV on fitness equipment, like a treadmill or elliptical, although personally I find that this makes both the show and the workout feel ten hours long.
As I said, I haven’t done much on my goals yet this year, because I don’t take January seriously as a goal month. I have done a few things, though, in the spirit of getting ready.
I set up my new bullet journal, which is bright yellow and which I like very much.
I lost four pounds, a great start, although a pound a week is not exactly magazine-feature material.
I started using a language app to learn to speak Italian, and according to the app, I’ve already learned 78 words, even though I can’t seem to maintain a streak.
*** I hate streaks ***
I upgraded my phone and my fitness tracker and got them both up and running.
I got a laptop charging station and organized all the cables at my desk for work.
I scheduled up my periodontist appointments.
I learned how to order grocery delivery through multiple services.
I went through my digital hoard and got numbers. Confronting the extent of a problem is the most painful part - the clarity, the wake-up call - but that cold clear reality is what helps drive change.
So... I had a thousand items in my ‘Read at Leisure’ email folder, 700 in one news queue, 1000 in another, and yet another 1000 in yet another. This is not including various library app bookshelves. Nearly four thousand articles, why??
I got some apps and started making a dent. I’m now reading through stuff faster than I’m accumulating it, which means there is hope for me yet.
While it’s still true that I haven’t done a single thing toward most of my goals and resolutions for the year, I have done *some* things to make my life easier. Many of the things I have done in January are set-up tasks that I won’t have to do again. I’ve streamlined a few areas and bought myself some time.
Now, as I do at the first of every month, it’s time to pause and look at my list of goals and resolutions, where I wrote them longhand in the front of my bullet journal. Are these things I’m still committed to doing?
Okay, then when am I going to do them?
It’s February and it’s time to get started.
I would have written this earlier, but honestly I was too busy.
About 1/5 of people have tendencies toward chronic procrastination, and I am one of them. This is an issue that has haunted me almost my entire life. It probably started when I was 7 and occasionally had to miss recess or sit in the hallway during a movie because my homework wasn’t done.
Isn’t that nuts? To take a tiny little kid who barely weighs 50 pounds and put that kind of pressure on those bitty little shoulders? Rather than *teach* a child whose brain is not fully developed, who can’t yet write in cursive or do long division, to *punish* and *withhold* and publicly shame and pelt with sarcastic remarks?
Of course, I’m 45 now, and I could easily have a grandchild that age. Can’t use it as an excuse today.
Last year I made it a resolution to work on my procrastination issues with one specific thing, which was responding to text messages. I also made it a ten-year plan to stop procrastinating entirely, or at least to quit feeling like it was an issue.
Lately I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m actually... there. Maybe I’m on top of it after all?
I took a new job last year, right after my... call it “transformative”... near-death experience with COVID-19. The pace has been referred to, more than once, as “frenetic” and as “hair on fire.”
We work long days in exchange for long weekends, a schedule that is known as 9/80. It means we work 80 hours in nine days instead of ten. It’s great, and more people should probably be allowed to do it. It also means, effectively, ten-hour days.
What I’ve found is that I have to run a pretty tight ship to be able to do the things I want to do, as well as work at this job.
My job itself is wildly fascinating. I work with really cool people and I learn new things every day. I recently got a great performance review and an unexpectedly satisfying merit increase, all things that are nice for morale. My boss literally said, “I’m behind you 100%, keep doing what you’re doing.”
It is tricky to get all my stuff done in between meetings, though.
When I first started, I admit, I probably wasn’t really recovered enough from coronavirus to be working a full schedule at such a busy place. It was hard. Then it got worse when I got bacterial pneumonia for my birthday and took a month to really get better.
I often felt low-energy and overwhelmed and like I was messing up.
Gradually, as I really started to get well again, I started to realize that my feelings of despair and dread were... symptoms! I was just anxious because I had been so ill, and that is one of the lasting effects of the virus. I read an article about post-viral syndrome, and as soon as I had that in my head, something clicked into place.
I was doing fine - I had direct testimony to that effect from the people whose opinions matter - and I was freaking myself out because my biology insisted on it.
This is the kind of thing I can talk myself out of.
Suddenly it felt as though I really had plenty of time to do everything at work, as long as I used a planner. I started doing a separate bullet journal for my job, and it was like rainbows started shooting out of my desk.
When I clocked out for the day, everything that lay before me in the evening was something I wanted to do. Eat dinner, obviously. Order groceries, same. Take care of my little parrot, who has been ludicrously well behaved during the pandemic and deserves so many smooches. Lay out clothes for the next day, a nice favor for Morning Me. Italian lesson, a reward.
But what about the aversive stuff? The annoying tasks that nobody wants to do?
There are still things I don’t really want to do, such as fill out forms or schedule appointments. I’ve learned to do two things about those.
I still have as many chores as anyone else who lives in a dinky apartment. Still have to put away laundry, which I still despise and probably always will. Still have to unpack groceries and scrub the bathtub and dust the ceiling fan and scrape pulped fruit off the window.
(What, don’t you have to scrape fruit off the windows at your house?)
The secret there was to choose. Would I rather cram these tasks into the day during the week, or put them off for the weekend?
Because I know that if I work with focus and strategy, I can lounge around on the weekend and do nothing, I choose to fit the housework into my busy, busy weekdays. A little in the morning while making breakfast. A little during my lunch break. A little while making dinner. Perhaps something while I’m dialed in to a long meeting that I don’t have to transcribe. Somehow, it all seems to get done.
Living in a small apartment makes it stand out if anything is not done. A single dish out on the stove or the counter really looks terrible and gets in the way. With a dusty, fluffy parrot and dark floorboards, the floors can look absolutely shambolic the very day after mopping. The punishment for skimping on something is to have to live with the aftereffects.
How quickly we forget, when we commute to a workplace, that somebody else is probably cleaning it! Polishing the tiles, washing the windows, hauling out the trash. It’s a curiously orderly environment that seems to put itself to rights, every night, by magic.
Not so much how it happens when you work from home.
What I’ve been finding is that when I am doing something that I might formerly have put off, I am thinking, “Good, I finally have time to get this out of the way.”
The truth is that procrastinating feels emotionally horrible. It is not rewarding in any way.
Finishing stuff and no longer having it weigh on your conscience, that’s a huge improvement.
Most goals are easier than we think, especially if we pick the kind of commodity goals that millions of other people have already done.
Commodity goal - I just made that up and I think I’ll keep it!
A commodity is something that is widespread, inexpensive, and easy to acquire, like... ketchup packets. If you want to start a ketchup packet business, best of luck to you, because you’re going to need a pretty excellent idea to disrupt that industry.
Just like ketchup packets, a lot of goals are standardized and very easy to find.
Also just like ketchup packets, a lot of goals wind up never being used and just clutter up the place.
What are we keeping those commodity goals for, to impress people? Not hardly. Almost everyone has a ketchup packet problem. It’s more like we never realized they were building up to that point.
About your goals, I would ask the same questions that I would ask my hoarders about their ketchup packets.
When are you going to use them?
What are you going to use them for?
Throw them away, give them to someone else, or just start having, say, Tater Tot Fridays and eating your ketchup packets at home instead of adding more. Hey presto, problem solved.
It’s the same thing with goals and resolutions.
When are you going to do it?
What do you need to make it happen?
I was just talking to my friend about her resolution to DRINK MORE WATER (Hark! A commodity goal!). I pointed out that I have the same issue - true - and that I use a hydration app to remind me to drink enough fluids. Another way to go about it is to buy one of those water bottles with the hours of the day marked on it, or maybe a pretty one with a crystal in it or something.
The hydration answer would then be, When? First thing in the morning and then throughout the day. What? An attractive water bottle and/or a hydration app.
Another fairly common goal is to learn a new language. I love this goal for everyone in the galaxy so much that I refuse to label it as a commodity goal, but it sort of is. I’m personally working on my [counting...] seventh language and it’s the most fun possible. (Am I fluent? No. Can I read signs and menus and book tickets? Yes). I have a lot of advice on this particular one.
Where people lose track on the language front is in either thinking that they have to study the same way they did in a school classroom, which is destined to failure for 99.5% of American students, or spend a bunch of money buying Rosetta Stone. Neither of those are true. There are lots of other ways that plenty of polyglots have used to become fluent in other languages, and it’s possible to do it for free.
For instance, where I live, I could become fluent in Spanish, Armenian, Vietnamese, Korean, or Ukrainian (to name a few) just by talking to people in my neighborhood. If the goal is to learn “a language” then why not pick one that you could use while you run errands?
That’s my first advice on most goals: make it more specific. If you’re going to study a language (or a musical instrument, as a parallel example) then which one? When are you going to use that new skill? Like, do you want to emigrate to another country, talk to your relatives, or go on a trip and visit cities all around the world? Your strategy is going to be a bit different for each of those, just as it would be if you want to play guitar by yourself versus joining a band.
If you’re going to study a language, *when* are you going to do your lessons? *What* study tools are you going to use? I aim to do my Italian lesson right when I clock out at work, so I can transition my mind to free time and also to keep me from getting sucked into the never-ending news vortex.
Replace your most annoying default habit with your exciting, fun, new habit. If you’ve chosen the right thing, which is something that you truly enjoy, then you’ll never look back.
I’m the kind of person who can’t resist making tons and tons of goals, and then struggling to fit them all into a realistic Earth-month. Maybe on a different planet it could work, I dunno. If you’re like me, it might actually help to lay out a month and plug in the different things you want to do. What are you going to do on weeknights and what are you going to do on weekends, for example?
For most people, people with more sense than me, it’s probably better to pick just one thing and experiment around what time of day you will engage with it. The ‘when’ is the toughest because all this time, you’ve been spending that same hour of the day doing something else. That different thing, that thing that is not your goal, is going to have to either leave your life or get moved to a different time.
Another thing to figure out is separate fallback plans for what to do if something interrupts your chosen time slot. For instance, I don’t necessarily want an audience for my Italian lesson, so I’m likely to do it when my hubby is either in the shower or brushing his teeth. Since I’m doing only 5-10 minutes a night, it’s a matter of 1. Wait for him to leave the room and 2. Open the app on my phone.
Make your goal as easy as possible to do. That’s contrary to the Calvinist idea that we must punish ourselves and work as hard as we can every single minute, but it works. You have the right to have fun and frivolous goals.
It’s easy to get a bit hung up on the ‘what.’ The perfect notebook before I can start my bullet journal! The perfect running shoes! The perfect water bottle! What’s likely to happen is that if you really start to make your goal a part of your identity, it will be such a part of your life that you’ll wind up replacing these objects many times. You’ll use them up.
It’s better to have commodity objects than to be uninspired by commodity goals.
What is it that you are working on these days? When are you doing it and what are you using?
For the first time, I took up the offer to be accountability partners with someone.
I’ve had supposed accountability arrangements with people before, and it hasn’t suited me. I had come to the conclusion that what people are asking for is to abdicate on their decisions and try to outsource their willpower.
“I will literally only ever do this if someone else forces me.”
Sure, I’m very good at this type of nagging, but it’s part of what I do at work. Essentially, if someone is asking for me to be their accountability coach, they’re asking me for administrative support.
You can program your smartphone to do this for you if you want to, and it will probably only take you a few minutes to set up.
I did this type of accountability coaching as a coach for about a year, but the amount of stress on my part went far beyond the measly pay. It seemed like, from my perspective, the clients would have either done it on their own without my help, or would never do it at all, either through blackmail or at gunpoint or for charity or under extreme hypnosis or any other reason.
I think it’s better if more of us just admit that we don’t want to do certain things, that we have no intention of ever doing them, and that we’re not going to pretend to try. The end.
I do! I do this. I have no intention of, let’s see: making scrapbooks, learning to wear liquid eyeliner, or making any kind of food that has a shape. When I see attractive stuff on someone’s pinboard, I just wave my hand, Ehh.
Another lifetime maybe.
It’s easy for me, as a Questioner. If I think something is a good idea, I’ll do it right away. If it makes sense to me, I only need to hear about it or see it once and I’ll jump on it. Or at least give it a try.
For instance, I tried those little suspenders for the fitted sheet? They work, but they’re miserable to put on. I’ve basically given up on them and determined to just buy slightly more expensive sheets next time.
This is the more challenging part of being a Questioner. If I don’t think something is a good idea, I won’t bother. This is fine for me but apparently very trying to other people, most of whom are not fellow Questioners but some of whom are, and should know better.
I have an Obliger friend (actually many, as a plurality of people are Obligers and they are the nicest kind of friend). What they have in common is that they will go far out of their way for others, but they have a tough time sticking to things that they see as benefiting only themselves.
The easy part of being a good friend to an Obliger is that I can explain to them how something they are reluctant to do for themselves actually benefits other people. For instance, if you take your meal breaks at work, you set a good example, but you’re also in a much better mood than when you attempt to go until 3 pm before you have your first calories of the day.
*ahem* You’ve all done it at least once, admit it.
So my Obliger friend asked if I wanted to be accountability partners, and I did the best I could. I told her my honest feelings.
Eww, she said. That wasn’t what she had in mind at all.
All she wanted was to check in every now and then and talk about our goals.
I agreed to this, because talking is something I know how to do. Also, and this is the secret lure if you’re trying to negotiate with a Questioner, she had privileged information that I found compelling. She was going to tell me about her system for tracking goals.
This wound up being a good part of our call. We traded details of how we’ve set our goals over the years. There was something about her system that really appealed to me, and something about my system that caught her attention too. It made me feel closer to my friend, realizing that goal-setting is such a big part of both our worlds.
There are very few people who take all this as seriously as I do, or at least, if they do, they haven’t told me yet.
Both of us had goals that we weren’t really sure how to tackle yet.
In this sense, our accountability arrangement is closer to what is usually referred to as a mastermind.
My friend wants to learn a language, and wasn’t really sure how to go about it. I don’t think she realized quite what a linguistics nerd I am. I told her all about language exchange partners, and which exact app has the language she wants to learn, since they’re all different. I told her, if she has any questions at all, I can’t help her with her chosen language, but I definitely can help her find resources and figure out her study plan.
It turns out that my big work goal of learning data visualization is right in my friend’s wheelhouse. I wouldn’t have gone so far as to ask her to look over my charts, because that’s overstepping. We did agree, though, that she could point me toward some resources. She told me I was making a really sound choice and that being good at data visualization sets people apart more than anything else.
After our talk, we were both laughing and excited. We agreed that we would do two-week sprints, just like we do at work. Our first task would be to share what we’re working on for our first sprint. Then we’ll check in every two weeks and see how we’re doing.
Our accountability arrangement is as much about sharing how thrilled we are with the whole goal-setting process and making accomplishments. I think we’ve both found that most of our friends are not up for this sort of discussion in any way. Couple of goal nerds.
If you want to do something similar, the most important thing is who not to choose. Almost all humans of Earth will naysay everything you ever wanted to do, left, right, sideways, and upside down. It’s better to keep your ideas to yourself than to expose them to this sort of negativity.
Honestly, it might be better to meet a random Internet friend who enjoys goal-setting than to choose from amongst your family or friends?
The main thing to remember is that your life is yours. You don’t owe other people an explanation for why you want to learn certain things or do certain things with your free time. You are perfectly entitled to have goals and resolutions, and enjoy them to the fullest extent. If your goal is to spend 18 hours a day with your phone, who’s to stop you?
I haven’t finished my New Year’s planning yet.
This is the first time this has happened that I can think of. Usually I spend all December working on my goals and resolutions. Now that I have a day job again, I’m super busy.
I figured it would be fine if I did the rough sketch, then spent New Year’s Day and the rest of the weekend filling in my bullet journal, making my goal board, and all that stuff.
Instead I wound up sleeping all day on the first. By “all day” I mean that I woke up in the morning, ate breakfast, and fell asleep for an hour and a half. Then I woke up again just enough to waddle to the bedroom and pass out again until 4:00 pm. I slept an average of 11 hours a day all weekend and barely did a thing.
I felt pretty bummed that I had slept all day, when I hadn’t finished all my goal stuff on New Year’s Eve either.
By the end of the weekend, when I still had basically nothing done, I thought, Oh no, the magic moment has passed.
It hasn’t, though. In one way, every day is like every other day. We each get 24 hours, and that’s the one and only thing that everyone has in common.
What I did, rather than write up all my plans like normal, was try to fit in the few things I had determined I would do. Mini actions. These are also known as ‘habits’ but I think that the word ‘habit’ has negative connotations. Action, maybe not so much.
One thing I did was to order a new Apple Watch to replace my old one, which is now over five years old. I’ve managed to crack the screen (ask me about my outrageously aggressive arm-swinging habits, which also involve having punched a fire hydrant). It’s also going dim in the middle, so that it doesn’t really serve as a watch anymore. Mainly I use it to unlock my computer in the morning.
It’ll take two weeks to get here, but that’s okay. In a way it gives me a fresh new start on trying to rebuild my baseline fitness. The only thing I really want this year is to feel that I’ve totally recovered from coronavirus.
Another thing I did was to start a new foreign language app (Speakly) and start doing 5-minute Italian lessons. If you’ve been following along, I was going to learn Dutch last year, but this app doesn’t have Dutch lessons, so *shrug* whatever. Next on the list.
This has been so much fun and so instantly rewarding that I’ve maintained a perfect streak so far. Normally I advocate for avoiding streaks in all situations (and I mean all) but especially in the sense of trying to attain instant perfection. Whatever we do, it’s more valuable if we do it 45% of the time than if we get discouraged and quit after skipping a couple days.
Io non parlo inglese!
In the app world, I also started logging my hydration and food intake again. It turns out I’ve been relentlessly dehydrated during the day. Logging my water helps me remember to make sure to drink water - it shouldn’t be 3 pm before I grab a glass. I’ve also had basically instant success with the food log, which is uplifting.
I took care of setting up a few appointments and ordering some stuff, since we were running out of shampoo and a few other things. I did manage to get the case of prescription parrot kibble, so that’s a relief. It’s hard to say what a big deal it feels like to do these 5- and 10-minute tasks when things are popping so much at work.
Sometimes it feels like a big deal just to start the robot mop, and how dumb is that?
Something that happened last year that I didn’t like was that the blog started to fall apart. I was posting more regularly when I was desperately ill than I have been since I got my job. This task that I can never quite seem to get to is to write up a list of topics and then schedule a few posts in advance, the way I used to do for years.
Part of the problem has been feeling like I’ve run out of things to talk about. It’s hard to figure out ways to talk about my cool new job without, you know, talking about it.
This is part of what I love about New Year’s. I have all these shiny new projects that I’d like to do, and I finally have enough energy recovered to attempt them. It gives me plenty to think about, and thus plenty to write about.
Not everyone likes making resolutions or having goals or projects. In fact, it seems like most people don’t, because they get so discouraged when they quit. I think this is because of unhelpful framing, lack of planning, and probably having a dark concept of what resolutions are for and how they work.
For me, it’s the light of my life.
When I was lonely and single after my divorce - I had a plan. I made over my bedroom to make space for a new love, and I started learning to cook - and then I got married again.
When I was flat broke and desperate - I had a plan. I went back to school, and I got a cruddy job, and I determined that I would focus on that job even if all I did was work, eat dinner, and go to bed. I paid off all my loans years early and the degree paid for itself the first year.
At a certain point, I didn’t have as many immediate fixes any more. I had more room to want to play around, go on adventures, and learn new things. This is of course when I started forcing difficult challenges on myself. Those have probably paid off most of all.
Could it be that I’m procrastinating on my big new personal challenge of beating my math anxiety? Perhaps.
Failing to live up to our own standards isn’t the end of the world. It’s the beginning. It’s recognizing that it’s better to have values and desired end goals than not to. It’s a reminder, one of many in a series, that we’ve chosen these purposes for reasons that are valid.
I haven’t finished all my planning for the year, even though it’s one of my favorite things, and that’s okay. The year is still pretty much brand new and we haven’t even cut the tags off yet.
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.
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