I love New Year’s Resolutions. Continuous improvement is compelling, but it’s hard to develop new ideas to and new commitments every day; starting fresh on the first of a year is a good way to find an opportunity for change. A solid resolution can create a structure for ongoing self-improvement throughout the year. That’s why, every year, I like to look at how I did on my resolutions last year, and make new ones for this year.
SMART New Year’s Resolutions
I have a format for my resolutions: the SMART goal system. SMART is basically a nifty tool for goal formulation that makes it easy to set achievable, meaningful goals. SMART stands for:
S pecific — that is, an unambiguous commitment.
M easurable — we must be able to measure our performance against a goal level and know if we’re doing better or worse, objectively and in a way that nobody would disagree with
A ttainable — many people overlook this one, but it’s key; the goal must be something that can be achieved. If you want to be the biggest movie star in the world but aren’t even an actor yet, don’t set the goal of being the biggest movie star, set the intermediate goal of getting extra parts.
R elevant — something else easily forgotten: it must be actually relevant and important to the bigger picture. If the goal doesn’t fit into life and larger strategic objectives, it’ll get dropped when the going gets tough.
T ime-Bound — there must be a when for this goal to be done. Otherwise, the goal can always be achieved “later.”
2014’s New Year’s Resolutions
Nonetheless, that’s exactly what I did last year. Briefly, let’s review my 2014 goals:
- Take the family out for a fun expedition monthly
- Take the wife out for a surprise date monthly
- Have a monthly photo project
- Blog weekly
- Revise my novel
- Network regularly
- Do a specific thing to advance my ability in my career
- Learn self-hypnosis
Some of my goals were just not Attainable, given the responsibilities of being a father; and some were not Relevant, given what I want to do with my life. Those goals fell to the side, and I feel okay about that. The two that failed in these ways were:
- Blog weekly, which was just too frequent of a standard for the responsibilities I have in my life. I can certainly write regularly, but expecting completed product on the regular like that was not realistic.
- Have a monthly photo project. This seemed like a good idea, but I didn’t really ever get traction on it. I love photography, but letting the natural rhythms of my life define what I shoot is probably smarter, until my son is older.
The first two, the fun expedition and the surprise date, ended up falling apart too. For the first half of the year, my wife’s work schedule didn’t allow it; for the second half, I dropped the ball.
On the others, I did well:
- My novel is on Amazon (which, incidentally, is probably something I should talk more about)
- I’ve been regularly seeing people in my network
- I took on a serious reading list and did well with it
- I’m learning 7th Path Self-Hypnosis, which is looking as if it could be a good tool
OK, so I’ll give myself 100% on 4 of 8; 33% on 2 of 8; and 0% on 2 of 8. That’s, on average, a 58.25% performance… or, um, failing.
My New Year’s Resolution Resolutions
So how can I avoid the same level of performance in 2015? Well, my plan is this:
- Part of the problem was taking too much on. So, I’m only going to allow myself 1 big, new thing.
- Again, I can’t interfere with the natural flow of my life every single day. So, my goals need to fit smoothly in my life, or add a maximum of 3 things I’ll need to do in a given month.
Overall, this means maybe 6 or 7 goals, rather than the 8 I had last year; and paying attention to balance as I schedule the goals. That’s how I resolve to resolve my resolutions.
2015 New Year’s Resolutions
Some of my resolutions last year were great, so I’m going to bring them back:
- Take the family out for a fun expedition monthly — I need to plan some fun experience for my son, and also my wife, once a month.
- Take the wife out for a surprise date monthly — I figure out what we do, it’s out of the ordinary, I book the sitter, and it happens. No quick trips to the movies here, these dates need to be unique.
That’s two things I need to make time to do a month.
I’ll also modify one existing resolution:
- Blog monthly — Every month, I’m going to output either a personal post here, or a professional post on LinkedIn. Focus is on length, quality, rich content, and not a quick product. Functionally, this means at least a couple of hours of work every weekend.
That’s the third thing I need to make time to do every month.
Then there are some new ongoing goals:
- Be happier — I’ve always been good at beating myself up, and bad at celebrating my successes. This year, I’m going to work on being happier and being nicer to myself. I should feel happier by my birthday, and my wife should agree.
- Be faster — I’ve been running the same route for almost 2 years now, pushing my son in a jogging stroller at essentially the same speed. This is my major exercise for the week, and I love it. I should get better at it, either running further or faster. To keep things measurable, each one of these 4 miles should be completed in under 10 minutes by the end of the year.
- Stick with my systems — This merits a future blog entry all its own; I’ve been good at finding ways to make my personal and work lives smooth, but I haven’t consistently applied them. I need to stick with these systems week in and week out this year. My goal is to complete the weekly parts of the systems at least 40 weeks this year, and the monthly parts at least 11 months.
These all fit into my everyday life, so they don’t count against the “new things” total, just against the “total goals” metric.
And, finally, one big, hairy goal:
- Buy a house — It’s time to be an adult. We’ve been ready to settle down for a while, but, for various reasons, never pulled the trigger on buying a house. This year, we will.
That’s my one big goal allowed.
So that’s me: 7 total goals, 3 new things a month, and the rest all fitting in neatly. What about you? What are you committing to this year?