One absolute blessing of volunteering right now is having an abundance of time. Time to think, time to go at my own pace, time to imagine and prepare for the upcoming year.
About three weeks ago, I started Chris Guillebeau‘s annual review process, which you can read more about here. He tells you to grab a pen you love and a notebook and try to get away from the world for a week in order to reflect on what went well and what went badly in 2012. Once you’ve spent some time gazing into the past year, you can move onto planning for 2013.
Since I’m already sort of tucked away in my own rhythms here in Mae Sot, I kept up my routine of using my morning pages to write about whatever came to mind for the review of last year. I’d say it spilled out pretty easily, a testament to how much I’ve improved with writing quickly without thinking and constantly self-editing.
Then came time to think about what I wanted for the new year – and it got a bit scary. For a few minutes, I came face to face with my old mistrust of setting goals for fear of failure, and we grappled and bickered for a while over whether I would be mad at myself for not reaching my self-imposed high standards.
Luckily…I won that showdown.
Whew! Does this mean that I’ve finally learned to embrace the ideas that 1) failure is actually good for you because it means you tried something new, and 2) making mistakes is not as bad as you once thought, and it’s actually sort of fun?
I think yes. I think this is a good thing.
Flash-forward to New Years Day, and let me tell you, it did take a lot of writing and thinking and dreaming and research to set my goals for 2013, but I finished that night.
I think the Annual Review really would have necessitated a long weekend or a week off ALONE if I had a 40-hour-a-week job and social obligations. I started tracking my time right around the time I started (thanks to Randy Pausch’s time management lecture), and I can tell you that I spent at least 15 hours on it if not more.
Point being that it’s not just something you can throw together automatically, and that it’s a good idea to spend quality time on it. Now that I’m done, I’m really glad that I followed the spreadsheet instructions and focused on setting specific goals and metrics, a.k.a. S.M.A.R.T. resolutions.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. And it’s a good thing I’ve been writing grant proposals lately, because it’s clearer to me than ever that you can’t achieve a goal, you can only achieve an objective (light-bulb moment!).
‘Cause like Randy says:
Time must be explicitly managed, like money.
You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?
He’s absolutely right.
There is no need to be a time martyr…like, ever. Those mistaken beliefs I held in high school/college that longer hours made me a better student? Uh-uh, no way. I’m done with those. This is the year to work smarter (no pun intended) not harder.
So this brings me back to this week’s photo-challenge of a resolution I’ve made for 2013.
Gone are unrealistic and vague expectations of “I’m going to exercise more this year,” because there is no way to measure that ish, man!
Is more every day? Every week? Every hour? More than my mom? (That’s actually pretty hard; she’s a fit 64 year old lady). No wonder I ended up feeling guilty in the past! Derrrrrr.
Instead, here is an example of two of my new-and-improved SMART resolutions, which are not in fact for the new YEAR but for just one month at a time:
Goal: improve posture
2. I will make a $10 kettlebell in late January. From February 1-28, I will do 75 kettlebell swings, 2-3 times per week.
After those two activities, I’m going to check my posture (I took some before pictures) and then see what the next small objective is. Or, if it is better, then I will celebrate.
And that’s it! I’ve got these small, achievable objectives in all of my “life areas” for the rest of the year, and I’ve got a place to track my progress on the same spreadsheet. Creating a place to stop and reflect on my progress? This is major.
Big dreams? I’m all for them, but they are overwhelming. I am happy with the small things for now, and I know that somehow when I look back at it all, it’ll be the small adventures and trials that lead to somewhere bigger – so why not enjoy the journey?