It’s 1624 in the afternoon in Chicago and I am sitting in a cafe. The sun would be setting right now, but it’s too buried behind clouds to see. It is January 1st of the new year, my first time writing 2017 on a page. I am starting to become sick. The girl at the counter who gave me my coffee is wearing a Bernie Sanders sweatshirt and I joke that it’s a sad start. She shakes her head dismissively, and says it’s a new year. I’ve nothing to say to that. I’m worried I’ve become too voyeuristic and walk away.
All is quiet. Nothing changes.
— transceiverfreq (@transcieverfreq) January 1, 2017
And yet, hasn’t something? Things tick on, once more around the sun, but don’t you feel different? More optimistic? Maybe that’s just the Jan 1st bump, but maybe this is the year we keep it up. I’ll admit, I started to slack at the end of the year. I slowed down on my goals. Slipped past my deadlines. Is that the only outcome? Will it always be like this?
Of course not. This year is no different or no more special than any other year before it, but maybe our mindset is different. Maybe this is the year we start working hard to make the world into the one we want to see. Or at least making ourselves into the people we want to be.
So let’s get started. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s start with some goals.
I recently met up with a few of my friends over the holidays for our fifth annual Winter party. At it, I had the pleasure of catching up with a few friends I hadn’t spoken to perhaps since last year’s gathering. One of whom gave me a lovely mug inscribed with the MONOCHROMATIC title. Weird how a year ago this little soap box didn’t exist. (Thanks Kevin!) He switched to nursing school after feeling unsatisfied with his current education choice, even so close to being done with it.
One of the guys I talked to has become a bicycle racer in the time since I’ve seen him. We had a conversation about the lifestyle, and one of the piece of advice he told me was about a personal goal he set. He said, for a few months, every time he went to get groceries, he did so on a bike. He said, “Not everyday do you love the bike, but that’s why it’s even more important to stick to it.” (paraphrased slightly)
There’s always a day one. And the second best time to plant a tree is today. Progress and self improvement is all about making and starting habits. Why not start today?
There are plenty of options for how to log this. Get a wall calendar and make color-coded checks when you complete something. Keep a log on your phone or in your notebook on how well you’re doing. I like an Android App called ‘Loop - Habit Tracker’ but there’s great options for all your devices, like Momentum on macOS and iOS.
So, I have a few habits each day that I want to work on and improve, and I log them on a habit tracking app, as well as in my daily planner notebook, a Hobonichi Techo.
Tracking isn’t everything, and fitness trackers might even make you less fit. For me, I want all the information I can get to help keep myself accountable.
One of my favorite versions of this is Devine Lu Linvega’s Horaire on his website XXIIVV. He keeps a daily log of what he works on and how long he works on it for, and this allows him to visualize how he’s doing each week, and find what might need more attention.
I intend to implement something similar to this, if far more basic, to Monochromatic when I get a chance.
The most important thing is just to make a change, and not to bog yourself down either with asking too much, or being too specific. Don’t make failure too easy. If you don’t have a plan, it can’t go wrong. Set goals, set deadlines, but be open to adjustments.
So now we have a few methods of tracking our productivity, what do I actually want to work on this year? I have a few specific goals, and a few habits I’d like to establish.
Of course a huge part of my goals for this year are writing-based.
I want to:
- Write a journal entry in my Hobonichi notebook each night by 1130p.
- Spend 15 minutes a day writing code. (Ruby)
- Write two stories and a blog post each week for Monochromatic, by Sunday Night each week.
- Submit at least 4 writing submissions each month.
- Finish writing my manuscript by March 31st.
So, I have a long term goal, two daily goals, a weekly goal, and a monthly goal. This is enough to keep me busy, as well as allowing me to work on multiple different levels. For example, my manuscript is a more free-form goal, so long as I get it completed by the correct date. I can use the habit tracking software to see how well I’m doing each week, and whether or not I’m on track.
To be a great writer you need to be a great reader. And while I love reading, I have not been nearly as devoted to this habit as I could have been. Time to fix that.
- Read the newspaper each day by 11p.
- Read one book a week. (50 books total)
Okay, similar thing going on here. As an avid fan of literature, my eyes are often bigger than my stomach. To tell you how bad it’s gotten, I currently have a 312 item ‘Book’ wishlist on Amazon. Let’s work that down a bit. I’ll be reading one book a week, from Sunday to Sunday, at least 50 weeks out of the year. I’ll be sure to keep track of this with mini reviews of each book, and you can follow along right here.
Finally, every goal list needs some personal growth. For those of you who know me personally, I love making progress. I want to be a little bit better at something each day. If I’m not improving, what’s the point? It’s not good enough for me to be good enough. I want to be the best I can.
To this end:
- Meditate for 10 minutes each day.
- Work on French 30 minutes each day.
- Run at least 5 days a week.
- Draw something 4 days a week.
Whew. Seems like a lot, but really there’s only a few tasks each day that should take around 2 hours a day. Now, that seems like a lot, but I think we’re all far worse at managing our time than we think. If something is important, we’ll make time for it.
Will I accomplish all this? Absolutely not. Failure is to be sought out, not avoided. Set high expectations for yourself, and no matter what happens you’ll be better for it.
Now is the time to make a change. From anecdotal public opinion, it seems few were happy with 2016. I certainly could have worked harder. It’s hard to change the world, but it’s easy to change yourself. Why not make a commitment this year to be better?
Change the wallpapers on your phone and computer. Do more, be better, and the world will change around you. Or at the very least, your perspective. And finally:
Change your passwords.
— Devine Lu Linvega (@neauoire) January 1, 2017
Now’s the time. #Take2017. Follow along on Twitter, and tweet me your goals.
- Ian Battaglia