Article by Sabrina Basilio
There comes a point where New Year, New Me declarations and resolutions become subjects of self-deprecating humor if not sources of frustration linked to incompetence, bad timing, or laziness. But more often than not, unaccomplished New Year’s resolutions really just suffer a lack of specificity and arbitrary ambition.
Here are ways you could try to solve that for an exciting self-actualizing year ahead.
I. INTENTION > RESOLUTION or WILLPOWER ISN’T EVERYTHING
Focusing on a resolution tends to ignore the process and ends up being preoccupied with the result. Instead of asking yourself what you can do to be healthier, you end up checking the mirror everyday wondering if you’ve achieved a healthy state yet.
It also involves an extensive amount of what people often call willpower, a mysterious and elusive trait that benefits some people, but actually frustrates everyone else. A lot of people will attribute a lack of willpower to their unaccomplished goals, but research already tells us that this kind of thinking is dangerous.
While exercising willpower is important, the constant act of exerting self-control can actually exhaust other functions of the brain and therefore decrease chances of following through. There are other equally important factors in habit-building—like environment—that are easily overlooked and taken for granted.
Another way is to choose a resolution that adds something to your life instead of taking away, that way it can be perceived more as rewarding rather than restraining. Instead of “cutting down on sugar,” “learn how to make healthy homemade smoothies.” Instead of “spending less time online,” “join a book club” or “pick up an instrument.” Placing your guitar where it can be easily seen lessens the activation time and effort needed rather than having to open the closet to take it out and then again to place it back in.
It’s always best to start with small activities that don’t require extreme effort to sustain, and then challenge yourself bit by bit from then on.
II. ORGANIZE YOUR SPACE
As mentioned earlier, the environment plays a huge role in maintaining discipline and establishing a sense of structure to follow throughout the year. How cluttered the workplace is directly affects how cluttered the mind can get. Not only is clutter unhealthy and possibly hazardous, but it also breeds inefficiency, accommodates distraction, and kills productivity.
It sounds difficult, especially since even just cleaning a bedroom can take more than a day. The key to all intimidating projects like this one is to take it a step a time. If it isn’t possible to set a day aside for de-cluttering and organizing, then perhaps 15 to 30 minutes a day will do.
There are lots of anti-clutter blogs and how-to books on tidying that could recommend processes to follow in categorizing and discarding your belongings. There’s the minimalist approach of the Japanese called the KonMari method, the popular Four Box method of the Minimalists, or even the incorporation of Feng Shui.
At the end of it all, you will be rewarded with a refreshed mind and a rediscovery of sorts. That’s because cleaning is a process that requires you to re-evaluate what you have, what you need, and what you do everyday. It is that same disposition that allows a person to sort out priorities on a larger scale, like work and school.
III. START SMALL
Create small manageable goals with realistic deadlines. It’s difficult to track and evaluate progress on arbitrary measures like “lose weight” and “be a better person,” and that is what leads a person to think they aren’t getting anywhere with their goals.
But rather than dropping the goal altogether, it will instead help to write down more realistic goals at the beginning of the year. It requires a right mix between knowing what is more attainable given your circumstances and past patterns of behavior and knowing when you’re pushing yourself too much.
Instead of telling yourself to “be more fit and healthy,” try “gym thrice a week” or “limit fast food and processed meat to twice a week.” Instead of simply saying “improve concentration,” provide yourself quantifications like a finished novel every month, or a 10-day meditation streak. Instead of wanting to “save money,” which usually means dropping leftover coins at the end of the month, want “PHP 5, 000 by the end of October.” The more specific, the more you can determine your progress. The clearer, the better!
IV. USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
There exists a wide selection of Lifestyle and Productivity applications available on the market, most of them free and quite easy to navigate.
For example, iOS and Android both have several apps for mindfulness and meditation that serve as both a source for relaxation reminders and as a personal coach that adjusts to your schedule and attention span. Paralign, Headspace, and Aura are good options to name a few.
There are also plenty of free efficient apps for habit-tracking. If you’re into role-playing games and want to ascend levels by working on good habits and quitting bad ones, then the HabitRPG app can help you. Of course there are also simpler apps that provide easy access to organization like the consolidation of files, regularization of activities, and evaluation of performance.
As suggestions, Habit Minder, Mvelopes, Coach.me provide consistent and professional help to those who want to establish a system of habit improvement to follow throughout the year. Monefy and Unsplurge are top-rated very user-friendly budget apps for those who want to save up. Don’t even get me started with all the Health & Fitness apps out there!
The key here is to use your resources wisely. If one app doesn’t work for you, then move on to the next one. It’s okay to experiment and take time in finding the right program for you.
V. KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING
The days of ridiculing adults for still keeping diaries are over!
Nowadays, people can even make a lot of money by selling their old journals and sketchbooks to total strangers. This rekindled appreciation for pen-and-paper notetaking can be attributed to humans’ natural inclination to grasp for a sense of time. Keeping a record of our thoughts, aspirations, and immediate feelings is one of the ways we attempt to do that. It is the same humility before time that compels us to obsess over the content of our Facebook timelines and measure the weight of memories in years.
Journalling also serves a very practical purpose of a) keeping things in control, and b) allowing a good overview both of the current state of things and the things to come. The bullet journal, for example, has recently been taking the Internet by storm with its creative but effective analog system. It follows a basic structure that welcomes stationery lovers, craftsmen, artists, and even just people who want to have a neat and coherent handling of all their to-do lists. But these aren’t the only requirements to having a bullet journal. The best thing about it is that you can fill it up anyway you want to.
Some people prefer to keep things simpler with a small notepad and a daily log for quick notes or random musings. How far you want to take your journalling is really up to you; the important thing is that you use it consistently and prioritize above all the task of scheduling effectively.
Logging things down allows you to check on how long it takes for you to accomplish something and thus provides you the groundwork for improving your time management.