Saturday, December 22, 2007

Multi-Step Solutions to New Year's Resolutions

Every year, I like to put the effort into self-improvement via the tradition of New Year's resolutions. Of all the things I've blogged, my yearly resolutions is easily the most consistent topic. The one post I really think is worthwhile is the one from three years ago that describes how to create an effective resolution; I've re-read it before I started writing this post and my old words have helped me re-think and re-form some of my goals that were a bit off-target.

That said, I am modifying my strategy a little this year. Instead of a focus on a few, more lofty goals, I've decided to be less choosy and select a larger number of resolutions; however, I made a trade-off to keep things balanced: I've reduced the quantitative expectations, with the inclusion of incremental goals that can be accomplished in each category.

What I've considered first this year are the elements that I'm interested in improving. I want to procrastinate less, take on more responsibility for my life, read more, eat better, exercise more, write more and have a better attitude. Each of these qualitative desires I matched with a basic improvement that is not lofty and should hopefully be easily accomplished. They are as follows:

  1. Procrastinate less - This is something I consider to be a matter of training. If I can train myself to be aggressive about not leaving things till later for one particular task, it should be an easier transition to recognizing tasks that don't get better when left for later. My training task is to do the dishes: I will never be done with a meal until all the dishes are out of the sink and in the dishwasher. If the dishwasher is full, I will put soap in and run it. When the dishwasher is clean, I will empty it. If there are things left to dry that are no longer wet, I will put them away. This isn't anything complicated, but it should be an easy way to train myself to not leave things till later. At this moment, upon establishing that routine, I will focus on never putting somewhere "just temporarily" or at least having a plan for when it will be put away. The formation of this secondary goal will be left until the success of the first. Success will be determined by the length of time dishes remain out of place: if dishes are put away routinely for three months, without being left out for longer than necessary.
  2. More Responsibility for My Life - Before I was married, I was responsible for all aspects of my life, including health care and bill paying. If I payed a bill late, or didn't bother taking the time to choose the most effective health plan provided by work, it only affected me. Once married, my wife had a higher standard and more demands regarding both these, as well as other, areas of responsibility. Her solution, which I did not object to, was to take full responsibility for nearly every aspect of the home. From finances to cleaning, she took responsibility. She has done an awesome job, but it hardly seems fair that she should bare the burden of the entirety of our life together, as well as our child. Deciding how to make an effective difference in helping with this burden can be tricky, since there can be a steep learning curve in some areas of household management. However, there is a series of tasks that I know I can do that will help ease the burden, and I know Kendra will offer no resistance to this specific help. Since I know that this is her least favorite part of dealing with stuff, I intend to make any and all phone calls necessary for arranging things, fixing things, or even just making simple queries. Kendra hates having to talk to these people and, while I don't enjoy it either, it seems like something I can do without as much dread. To succeed at this task, I will need to make any requested phone call within 48 hours, and do so for three months without lapse. The next task in this series will need to be determined; once I prove my effectiveness at this, I am certain I can persuade Kendra to help me expand my responsibilities.
  3. Read More - Reading is a pastime that I've always enjoyed, starting in my youth. As many people find, once you are out of school and have a full time job, reading for enjoyment is something that oftentimes goes by the wayside. While my goal from two years ago to read a book every two weeks is extreme for someone who barely reads, to read one book a month should be a much more achievable goal. The success requirement for this task is simple: once twelve books are read in 2008, I have succeeded. The next increment will depend on how long it takes to succeed. Ideally, I'd like to try to double it, shooting for two shy of my original reading goal.
  4. Eat Better - When I was originally losing weight, I knew that the changes I would need to make would be significant. Thus, to try to keep it as simplistic as possible, I put no limit on what I would eat, only caring about the number of calories consumed in a day. Doing so, I was able to lose 50 pounds eating carefully measured portions of hamburgers with fries , hot dogs and pizza. Now that I have established a calorie counting routine, it is time to look at the types of food I am eating and to improve upon it. Currently, Kendra and I scrounge for ourselves and eat a lot of instant meals (frozen meals, chips with cheese, burritos, hot dogs). My goal to eat better will be that I will plan and prepare a healthy meal once per week. To do this will require so forethought to pick a recipe and ensure the ingredients are available for the chosen day. As this is another reoccurring task, the success of it will be measured across a three month period. Once a meal being prepared weekly is established, the next level will be twice a week.
  5. Exercise More - Part of being healthy includes eating better, but regular exercise is also a necessity. Currently, I have no established exercise plan: I had tried to exercise thrice weekly for awhile, but it was more than I could keep up with and haven't done so for several months now. An easy starting place will be to exercise once per week, including both strength and cardiovascular routines. Again, this will be measured across three months. The next level will be twice weekly, either splitting and intensifying the two types of routines across two days, or doing both routines twice weekly.
  6. Write More - Every year, the lure of NaNoWriMo attracts me back to my desire to become an author. And, every year I barely make a dent in the novel I attempt to write. Part of this, I think, comes from my lack of practice with creative writing. While I am already trying to do this, I am oficially declaring my goal of posting to this blog thrice weekly as a resolution for next year. If, over the course of three months I determine I am successful, I will declare specific days that will have posts, and maybe add an additional fourth post.
  7. Better Attitude - I tend to already have a pretty good outlook on a lot of things in life. However, I still fall into unnecessary negativity at times. My way to improve this is going to actively seek out involvement with others (parties, visits and the like) regardless of whether I instinctively am attracted to such engagement. Additionally, I will go with a positive outlook and look forward to it. This is a trickier resolution to judge, so I will put a minimum requirement of one such engagement per month. I will also have to evaluate my success on a case by case basis. This isn't so much a pass/fail as a how good can I do resolution.
That should do it for 2008's resolutions. While there are a much larger number than I have previously suggested, the difficulty level is realistic and promising. We'll see how it goes. I encourage anyone who does happen to read my blog to use the comments to discuss and share their possible resolutions.


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your new year's resolutions. You impress me with your self reflection. You should come visit some time to fulfill your social engagement resolution.


Andy said...

I'm glad you appreciate it, Mike. We will definitely have to try to visit you guys.