Every year around this time, the instructors at the Academy of Okinawan Karate talk to us about dreams, goals, and the difference between goals for the year and resolutions. Students are encouraged to bring their notebooks to start keeping track of these things, and start building plans for the new year’s goals.
I’ve been using the same notebook for some time, so as I sat there putting my plans together, I was able to look at the plans and goals from the previous two years and do some quick evaluating. Each time, I had three areas of improvement: fitness, writing, and photography. If that’s the case, then do I even need to be making resolutions?
To an extent, yes. The key, though, is revisiting those goals. More specifically, the key is revisiting the plan for those goals. What good does writing down the plan do if I’m not going to go back to that page and see what the plan was? I had at least three steps for achieving my goals in each category, and the only one I really followed (without looking back at it) was my karate goal.
When did I lose track of my writing plans? When the shit hit the fan in the summer, or back when I closed the notebook after writing the plans down? I’m betting it was sometime closer to the latter.
Here’s what the problems boil down to: I’m not making enough time for writing or photography. It doesn’t matter how good my plan is if I’m not getting behind the keyboard or picking up the camera. And the beauty of the plans? They covered how to make that time. Too bad I let those plans fly out the window.
A common piece of advice is to post a goal somewhere prominent. Tape it up above the computer monitor, tack it to the wall, stick it to the fridge, whatever. The problem, though, is they soon blend in and are forgotten. I’ve had one of my original goals written on a chalkboard in my office since 2007. It’s a chalkboard I never use and never look at, and the goal was just written on it for a photo. When I do notice it, I say “Hmm, I should probably erase that sometime.”
This year I’m going to try leveraging technology, starting with Google Calendar notifications. These will show up on just about all of my devices and include both pop-up windows and emails. The trick, though, is shaking things up. If I set them for weekly, they’re just going to become routine (in which case I just click and ignore them) or annoying (in which case I just delete the notification). Instead, I’m going to scatter them around the year at random.
The second step is making them more directly related to goal tracking. A goal is specific, measurable, and has a deadline, so I’m going to create questions that address each of those areas. The deadline is largely covered by the date of the notice, and of course the year goal is a given. The rest is all about how the question is worded. For example, it might ask “How many words of fiction have you produced this month?” Boom. Specific and measurable. “Did you bring the camera to karate class last week?” If I say no, chances are I haven’t been carrying the camera at all, and I haven’t been taking pictures. “How did your weight change from January 1st to today?” That one should speak for itself.
And there it is: same goals, new techniques.
I guess next year we’ll find out if it made a difference.