January 23, 2015

2015 New Year’s Resolutions

I know that studies have recently shown that tracking your progress can actually hinder success, because little victories give your brain a sense of accomplishment that might be satisfying enough to where you stop working toward your big goal. However, in spite of that, I am a strong believer that it’s hard to succeed if you aren’t measuring/tracking your progress toward a goal. I’m a total rule follower, so having some sort of unequivocal standard for my goals helps me keep up with achieving them, rather than setting out something more nebulous that I think kind of forget about doing.

I already picked my “one word focus” for the year, and so far, I feel great about how much I’ve been following my goal of engaging (see – my decision to take a huge step toward a lifelong goal and buy my first home! I officially have an offer in as of today, though we’ll see how that goes). However, I still want to make some concrete New Year’s resolutions that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound). I’ve been holding off on sharing these resolutions on the blog because I’m still trying to figure out them out in my mind – and I would much rather get them right than worry about getting them finalized by January 1st.

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.
Original image credit: Moyan Brenn

Basically, I’ve figured out the three areas where I want to focus, and have been working on those, but I haven’t quite figured out how to quantify the third one…. so this list is going to have to change a little bit over time. (Or maybe you can help me out in the comments!) Three areas may sound like a lot, but the three are somewhat intertwined. Plus, I’ve never before shied away from setting multiple goals in a year! I think three is a more manageable amount than some of what I’ve attempted in the past, and I think for me, it’s very doable. Plus, all of them have a common theme about engaging and really going after the things I want rather than just letting things happen to me more passively.

1. Engage in learning.

a. Get back to my goal from a few years ago of reading 100 books this year (or an average of about 2 per week). That was something I was very proud of doing a few years ago. While I initially didn’t think I cared about my total this year, I realized that when I stopped to think about it, it bothered me that I only read 64 books in 2014. While that may sound like it’s a little over a book a week (not bad!), it wasn’t consistent at all – some weeks I would read four books and other weeks it was zero, which told me that I was definitely capable of more when I made it a priority! My inconsistency meant that I wasn’t making the time for something I’m very passionate about, and something that really relaxes me when I’m normally so go-go-go.

b. Inspired by A Life of Productivity’s week of TED talks experiment, I’d like to watch at least one TED talk a day. Some days I’m sure I’ll get on a TED watching binge and do many more than just one episode a day, but I think one a day at a minimum will help me feel like I’m continuously learning, and learning some of the coolest ideas and insights there are. I started doing this at the very end of December, just to test it out, and what’s been working for me so far is watching/listening to a TED talk while I’m getting ready in the morning. Or if I wasn’t able to watch then, I’ll do it while I’m getting ready for bed and then finish watching just before I go to sleep. (I use the Twilight app on my Kindle so there isn’t blue light to make this disruptive to my sleep.)

I’ve been keeping an Excel log of the TED talks I’ve watched so far (please send me your suggestions!), and the only problem I’ve really run into so far is that if I watch while getting ready, I usually don’t have the time to make notes about what I learned from that talk. I want to get better about making sure I write down the key takeaways, or a great quote from the talk, so that this log will help me keep track of what I’ve seen. (And perhaps do a monthly blog post on my favorite TED talks of the month? We’ll see – I’m not committing to that yet.) There have also been a few days that I didn’t watch any TED talks (eek, embarrassing to be slacking on resolutions so early in the year), so I’m going to really make an effort to be consistent from here on out. It’s so easy, and so silly not to just do it before bed if I haven’t done it sooner! Plus, doing it before bed means it’s the last thing I think about before going to sleep and allowing my brain to solidify what I learned… genius.

2. Engage in my home.

a. Start by buying a home! As I wrote last weekend, I’m really excited to be house hunting this year. I’ve dreamed of owning my own home ever since I was a little kid, and I am over the moon about having my own place in my dream location of a lifetime. Maybe that sounds hokey, but seriously, every day when I drive out of my apartment complex and see the mountains in front of me, I just think how ridiculously lucky I am to have gotten to move here – and I want to stay forever! It also makes it extra special because right now I’m lucky enough to be working in Colorado and not traveling much more than a few times a month for my job. That may change, but I know for sure that I want to make my permanent home here.

b. One of the things I disliked most about NYC was how difficult it was to have friends over to hang out. My apartment was so small, and there were so many fantastic venues in NYC where we could all meet, that it just didn’t make sense to have people over. I think in the seven years I lived in New York, I could count on one hand the number of nights that I had guests (other than my roommate or whoever I was dating at the time)! However, I really love playing host – there is nothing that makes me happier than having people hanging out at my place, whether for an “event” like a housewarming and wine tasting party or just for a “hey, want to come by after happy hour and I’ll whip something up for dinner while we hang out and do… whatever”-type of night. (Like I had last Friday… glorious!) I’m setting a goal for myself of hosting something at least once a week at my home, whether it’s a few friends for drinks or a formal fancy sit down dinner. I’m also hoping that by having people over so often, I can become less of a perfectionist about hosting and learn to go with the flow when things (inevitably) go wrong 🙂

Whitney Cummings: "I feel like dinner parties are secretly competitions about who watches the most news and documentaries"
This tweet by Whitney Cummings cracked me up because it’s so true… and yet I’m totally shamelessly excited that all my TED watching will help me “win”.

So related to this tweet, I would like to also make some of the events I have at my home more engaging – like maybe organizing a dinner party where we all specifically bring a cool article, news story, scientific study, book, or TED talk to debrief everyone else on and then discuss. (Yes, I slipped the TED talk in there – that’s what I meant about combining goals.) I thought it could kind of be like the awesome idea of an articles club posited by Joanna Goddard, which I featured in my Links I Love a while ago. However, at this point I didn’t want to commit to doing that every week or even every month – I haven’t tried it once, and I don’t want to say I’ll do it without a trial run! I feel like it could end up being a little bit pretentious, and maybe not something to do often, but I’ll try it once or twice and see if my friends and I like it.

3. Engage on my blog.

Finally, in the last year or so, I feel like the things I’ve been writing about on the blog haven’t been quite as open or as high quality as I’d like. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve never lied on here – but sometimes it’s hard to just put myself out there and say exactly what I think without worrying what people will think. As I’ve looked back recently at some of my early blog posts (meaning from 2008-2010… gosh, I have been writing this for a while!), I found myself marveling on how open and blunt I was about whatever was on my mind. For example, my Bay to Breakers race report is definitely a lot more candid and eyebrow-raising than I would really feel comfortable writing now!

Today, particularly with my blog being so easily Googleable when you search for my full name, I’ve been a little bit more reticent. I know that some of my coworkers have stumbled upon my blog… not that it’s some big secret, but it has made me more cautious of what I write. Partially as a result of trying to keep things less personal than they used to be, I feel like my blog is less interesting to read than it once was. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to open up more and filter myself less (see: my 2014 successes and failures, which is really honest), and I’m happy with how that’s been going – so I’ll try to keep that up.

But I also want to “engage” by posting more compelling material. My Links I Love posts seem to have been pretty successful (or at least that’s what you all keep sharing the most!), and I’m usually proud of that day’s blog post. And that brings me to my real goal – to make sure that I’m proud of most of the posts I write, rather than just a few. Sometimes I feel like I’m just recapping my day or weekend without any bigger message there, and I usually feel like those are throwaway posts (although it is fun for me sometimes to get to go back and reread my blog like a diary of what I once did). Then there are times when I end up saying yes to more sponsored posts than is really a good idea, like when I haven’t had time to post some good regular content in between, like I had planned when I first agreed to collaborate with a brand. The personal posts and the sponsored posts aren’t going to stop, but I also want to mix them in with more content that I’m really proud of – like most of the posts that are on my newly-created top posts page.

Despite this being a lot of what’s on my top posts page, I’m not going to start posting tons of “how-to” guides on everything. I definitely don’t think I know everything, and I don’t want to write about areas where I’m unqualified. Although I’m really proud of those types of helpful posts, I usually only write them when someone in real life asks me for advice, or something otherwise makes me realize that perhaps I have knowledge that might be valuable to others. I like when my fingers get to just fly over the keyboard because I’m so eager to share everything in my head and get to potentially help someone with that information!

What I’d like write more of are thoughtful posts on current events and my reactions to them (even if those current events aren’t “world news” but rather some sort of #FirstWorldProblems scandal around race results), or responses to books/articles that I’m reading and want to ponder. Highlighting my favorite TED talks of the month would also fit into this category! Basically, I want to engage in the same kind of dialogue I would expect to have in person at the aforementioned articles club. I know I’m not the most insightful person in the world, but I am usually pretty proud of the posts that I write when I get inspired by social psychology, productivity, travel news, or general current events – even if my opinion isn’t fully fleshed-out and still has lots of holes and questions attached. And I love when y’all comment with your thoughts and we can get some back-and-forth debate and learning going in the comments!

I also would like to start doing a better job with the photos I post on my blog – I’ve started learning how to use some image editing software to adjust colors, remove shadows/flashes, etc. However, you have my word that I’m not going to Photoshop everything to unrealistic perfection – just try to use the editing to make the picture appear more like the real image of whatever I was (poorly) attempting to photograph.

So – this whole “engage with my blog” goal isn’t really SMART; it’s not measurable or specific. That’s in large part because I’m trying to make it realistic for me and not commit to something that I don’t intend to follow through with. But I would love to hear your thoughts on reasonable ways that I could make it specific and measurable. I’d also love to hear what kind of posts you think are my best – it might be totally different than what I expect! I can’t promise that I’ll follow your topic suggestions perfectly, since a large part of why I write this blog is for myself to be able to talk about whatever’s on my mind, but I’d be very curious to know what posts you think I should be proud of and try to replicate.

Whew, that was an incredibly long post for only three goals! Clearly I have some more thinking to do, but I’m psyched about #1 and #2, and I’m looking forward to coming up with something more specific for #3. I think there’s definitely a lot of pressure to finalize your new year’s resolutions on December 31st in order to hit the ground running on January 1, but I’m really glad I delayed (and continue to delay #3) to get these right.


5 thoughts on “2015 New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. Great goals! I do however feel that there are a TON to achieve on here. I’d love if you continue sharing your favorite TED talks and maybe even summaries. Also, if you start running/racing more some of your natural voice will come back since that is where you were the most honest?

    1. That’s possible, but right now, I’m not looking to make running a bigger part of my life; this has long since transitioned from being a “running blog” to kind of a little bit of everything, and I’m pretty happy with the balance of activities I have right now! I think my honesty wasn’t so much linked to the race reports as it was to being less self-conscious (and a lot less public!) a few years ago.

  2. Why could SMART not have been START? So strange.

    Related to 2b and 3. What is the “art of conversation”? Whitney Cummings is definitely on to something, it definitely is not a list of things. But how does an individual beget conversation? I often think of strong relationships as begetting strong conversations, but it is not always true.

    Does the art of conversation require a leader?

    Probably a good task to start with is this: after participating in a conversation you really enjoyed with someone, reflect back and try to think what made it pleasurable? What can I repeat? What are the common denominators? What kind of body language was used?

    I don’t think any of those things make or kill conversation, but I’m not sure if I could really tell you what is important…

  3. It’s interesting with reading. I find that if I push the number of books I read too high, then the quality of the books I read drops. I end up reading more escapist fiction and soft nonfiction and straying away from the tougher non-fiction and more challenging fiction. For the past two years, I have read about 70-75 books, which is pretty comfortable. This year my goal is a book a week with at least 10 classics. Three years ago, I decided to read the NY Times 10 best books of the year. That year, even though I was reading a lot, I only read about 30 books. Although it was illuminating, and I read some books that I loved and would not have picked up on my own I will never do that again. I spent a month reading Christopher Hitchens essays that I HATED.

    1. I love how you’ve set a really specific goal for reading the classics! I have to admit that I’m not at all well-versed in them. Any favorites to recommend?

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