Success with New Year’s Resolutions

Ever the cynic, I rarely had New Year’s Resolutions growing up. I was the ‘realist’ who could see the future and how quickly I would abandon my project and so I decided not to start it so I couldn’t fail at it. Sounds like a happy kid, right? What I did like was new beginnings. So various times throughout the year I would feel inspired to start new things. I didn’t want to feel stuck to January. Only in the last few years have I attempted New Year’s Resolutions.

I was reflecting on this time last year, which I spent some time planning my New Year’s Resolution. I actually managed to successfully do 10/12 months of my New Years Resolution which is an overwhelming success in my books! I took some time to think about why it ended up being the only major success in a Resolution I’ve ever had. It ended up lining up pretty well with these suggestions that I found in A New York TImes article called Be It Resolved by John Tierney, so I thought I’d share his tips instead since he’s way more credible than I am.

  1. Set a single clear goal. Instead of resolving to “lose weight” or “eat healthier,” set a specific goal — say, lose a pound a week. And limit yourself to one big resolution at a time.
  2. Pre-commit. Further bind yourself by e-mailing your goal to friends or posting it on Facebook.
  3. Outsource. You can outsource self-control by sharing your progress with friends through Twitter posts about your weight or your workouts, or by making a formal contract at Web sites like stickK.com, [I’m looking at trying out the Lift app]
  4. Keep track. Self-monitoring is vital to any kind of resolution, and new tools will do the grunt work for you.
  5. Don’t Overreact to a Lapse. One reason dieters fail is a phenomenon formally known as “counterregulatory eating” — and informally as the “what the hell effect.” Once they lapse, they figure the day’s diet is blown anyway, so they go on to finish the whole carton of ice cream, thereby doing far more damage than the original lapse.
  6. Tomorrow is another day. One of the cheeriest new findings from diet research comes from an experiment in which people had to resist a bowl of M&M’s. The ones who told themselves they could have the candy later had a much easier time than the ones who swore off M&M’s permanently.
  7. Reward often. If you use willpower only to deny yourself pleasures, it becomes a grim, thankless form of defense. But when you use it to gain something, you can wring pleasure out of the dreariest tasks.

Make sure you read the rest of the article. They give more than just one sentence explanation, which is helpful.

What about you? Have you ever had success in a New Year’s Resolution? Do you bother? Why? Why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here

Confessions of a Recovering Procrastinator: Tip Number 5

When I wrote the post I published monday about procrastination I had to face a very unfortunate reality. Not only had I procrastinated in publishing that post, I had also procrastinated in a series of other things in my life. I made reference to this relating to my reimbursements and stuff. Today I spent three hours on reimbursements alone that I had put off since September. I have six piles of receipts waiting at the office for me to finish up in the morning.

I haven’t run in three weeks. This morning was a painful reminder of that as it was sunny out! And if I had looked at the weather forecast to even try to plan a run, I would have known it wouldn’t be raining and I could have run.

Might I add that I haven’t really done any element of my morning routine in the last few weeks other than wake up at 6:45, only to roll over and sleep for another 45 minutes?

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from friends and family about this blog. People are telling me that they appreciate how honest I am about my successes and failures. Chalk one up for another in the failure category.

But! All is not lost. I was determined to set the ‘reset’ button today by diving into those reimbursements. I did have to break up the time so as to not go completely bonkers in the process. I went out for a walk and did some errands and came back to finish it. It felt good. It didn’t have to take 3 hours if I had done it regularly throughout the semester (like I had made my staff do! Gulp.). Yet, there was another moment in my day when a reminder popped up for me to start the next project and my first reaction was “put that off, it’s scary.” I half did. I thought about next steps for that problem and then stopped for another project that was way less difficult.

1. It’s Not Pointless

If you’re anything like me, killing procrastination sometimes feels pointless. “I’ll do it some other time when I have more character,” or whatever our excuses are. We know we need to do it because it’s really not helping our life very much, we know we need to do it as a part of ‘growing up’ and ‘surviving the real world’ yet it can be so darn intimidating.

2. Win the ‘war’, lose some battles

The lie I believed for a long time is that one failure equals total failure. This is not true. We can lose a battle but win the war. Learning this has helped me have big wins like today when I actually faced that literal pile of crumpled receipts and still walk away OK with the fact that I didn’t win every battle I faced. “That’s cheesy to call it a battle, Jess, it’s not that big of a deal.” Maybe. But for me sometimes it feels like a really big deal. A really big deal that through wins and loses I want to come out on top.

4 Tips for Procrastinators

A twitter friend recently asked her followers to keep her accountable to going to the gym that day. As I followed up with her to see if she did, I asked her if she noticed how good it felt to actually keep to her word. That’s something I’ve really noticed recently as I’ve been starting to run. Every time I did it, not only did the exercise feel good, but doing what I said I would felt even better. For those of you who are not procrastinators you may not be very familiar with this feeling because you’re used to just doing things.

I am not.

My name is Jess and I am a procrastinator. I am a terrible procrastinator even though I am a lot better than I was as a teenager. I think procrastinators know how much procrastinating is like drugs. You do it, it feels really good in the moment, but after it feels terrible because there are consequences to your procrastination. It’s this awful cycle of procrastinating, feeling overwhelmed by the tasks, then procrastinating more to feel in control, and then the tasks pile up etc.

But I’m a recovering procrastinator! I have learned a few things about myself. Here are 4 key things that have helped me just do it when I don’t want to.

1. It doesn’t feel good.

I have come to recognize that the cycle doesn’t feel good and it feels much better to actually do stuff NOW. A lot of times I need to coach myself and remind myself of previous times when the reward for doing it now was much greater than putting it off. It goes a bit like this: “Remember the last time you went for a run even though you didn’t want to and it was your favourite one? And it felt so good to not let your laziness rule your life?”

2. The problem you’re trying to avoid will be bigger and badder if you don’t face it.

If you put off approving this reimbursement right now like you said you would, it will go into a pile of things to do that will pile up more and more until the pile is actually overwhelming instead of just appearing an overwhelming. Not confronting this person right now will make it much harder and likely more messy later on. No one wants that. If I take the time to think through the consequences of my procrastination I usually see that it isn’t worth it.

3. You can build momentum by just doing it.

I found this as I was starting to run. I did it and it was good, which motivated me to do it again, which was exciting, which motivated me to do it again, which was thrilling. Every day I didn’t put it off I found I gained more momentum in just doing it because I hadn’t let that good feeling of doing it wear off or did diminish. If you stick to your plan, you don’t feel that guilt. The last two weeks I have nott run, yet I didn’t procrastinate. I didn’t run because the sidewalks were icy and I was trying to figure out what was next for me. I didn’t let guilt build (which often promotes procrastination because you feel crappy and disempowered) because I gave myself grace to figure out this new situation. I’m still excited for my next run when I have the opportunity and I won’t put it off.

4. Procrastination is a sign of disorganization in my life.

The reimbursement example was me. I also have two other finance related things that have been put off since August that I keep forgetting because I got out of the habit of using my system I first blogged about. These are important signs to me that my life is piling up and I’m not managing it properly. It’s a sign to me that I’m making poor choices. It’s a sign I need to re-evaluate and get back to that. I read a very important book a few years ago called Organizing Your Private World which talked about how if our inner, personal life was out-of-order there would likely be evidence in the “real” world. Messy desks, filled up inboxes, piled up laundry, empty fridges to name a few examples. For me it means I’m feeling overwhelmed and I need to get back on top of things. By staying on top of my inner life (do I feel overwhelmed and stressed? Or empowered and inspired?) I am better able to manage my outer life. Sometimes though, like today, I just need to hit ‘reboot’ and get control of my life again. With time, I think it will become more and more natural.

This week’s must reads (Nov 26 – Dec 1)

Decision FatigueMustRead-nov26dec1

Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? by By JOHN TIERNEY, New York Times

Mind over Mind? Decision Fatigue Saps Willpower — if We Let It by Maia Szalavitz, TIME

Yes, No, Maybe So: Defeating Decision Fatigue – Forbes

10 Ways to Limit Decision Fatigue

Running

Does Social Media Mean Better Running? RunnersWorld

Random

Ryan Carson’s bucket list

Giant Anaconda regurgitates a whole cow. Probably the most disgusting yet mesmerizing thing you’ll ever see.

Youversion.com Advent reading plans

Building habits to help you conserve energy

decisions

The first time I really noticed a serious lack of mental energy was the final weeks leading up to my wedding. By the week before I was experiencing serious decision fatigue. I was so tired of weighing pros and cons and deciding what was best. It was extremely taxing to do so by that time. Shortly after my wedding New York Times published an article called Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? It was really enlightening. A few minutes later I realized that I was again struggling to have enough mental energy at work. As I evaluated what was going on, I found that I spent a lot of time making decisions. Since I’m in charge of my own schedule, decisions I had to make every ranged from ‘what will I do today?’ ‘what are my priorities’ ‘what should I eat for lunch?’ ‘what should I make for supper?’ on top of having intense meetings with people and speaking more and more in a second language. By November I was really tired of all the decisions I had to make all the time. I’m a really low structure person, so I love the freedom I have in my work, but I was finding it was stealing energy from my most important tasks: meeting with people.

The Power of Habits

Back in October I listed this interview in my weekly must read. It helped me figure out how to manage some of those problems I had last year. If you don’t have time to watch the interview, here’s the key thing I took away from it: your brain actually powers down when you’re engaging in a habitual activity. That’s why smoking is so hard to quit. It isn’t necessarily the nicotine so much as it is the rest your brain gets while doing that habitual activity. I bet you know where I’m going to go with this now.

Developing Habits to Conserve energy

Last year I took a step towards controlling my life and decided to do meal plans. I found that I was so tired after work that the idea of thinking of what to make was just too much, even though I really enjoy cooking! So Sunday evenings I make a meal plan for the week and go grocery shopping on Monday evening after work. Then I post the meal plan in our kitchen so I don’t even need to think. I’ve already decided what was best to eat what day based on what we were doing. Setting aside 30-40 minutes to meal plan and grocery shop every week at the same time saved me a lot of mental stress. It was a real turning point for me. This one switch had a real impact on my life.

Practically speaking

This might mean different things for different people. Some might benefit from the meal-planning idea. Others might benefit from having a set schedule every week at work (if their jobs are like mine) where they have allotted time for their various responsibilities and keep that pattern every week so they don’t have to think ‘what do I do now?’ after an appointment. For business leaders it might mean sticking closely to your Strategic Plan, instead of changing and rethinking it every month. If you focus on executing, you’ll have more energy to do just that. If you’re a mom, maybe the habits that would be helpful to build is a routine/schedule with your kids so you have more energy to deal with their meltdowns.

The point is, when you’re not making 1000 decisions a day about what’s next or what your priorities, you have more emotional energy for the people/things that matter most.

So what about you? What habits or routines do you think would be helpful for you to incorporate in your life/work to avoid decision fatigue or wasting mental energy? Click here to leave a comment.

6 things about Nanowrimo 2012

It was surprisingly easy this time around.

I’m a little embarrassed by how easy it was. I guess my life is not really all that busy or I can write like a machine compared to the first time I did Nanowrimo 8 years ago. But it was quite easy. Then I surprised myself by accidentally finishing two days early! These are not meant to be brags! I’m honestly shocked and like I said, embarrassed. I’m embarrassed because I’m hearing ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s about how I’m writing a novel (which isn’t a big deal because people do it all the time with Nanowrimo) and people make it sound like it’s hard when it’s just not. Not because I’m special, but because people are just making it out to be bigger than it really is. I think? That’s why I want people to do Nanowrimo. So they can see that it’s not that hard. Just like anyone can run a 5K, anyone can win Nanowrimo with the conditions in their favour.

Having cheerleaders helps make it fun and actually get it done.

This year I got to know a group of Montrealers who were doing Nanowrimo as well. I had a lot of fun encouraging them via twitter, writing with them in real life (the one time I was able to make it to a write-in), doing word-wars with them where we’d compete to see how much we could write in 10, 15, or 20 minute time slots. The first time I did Nano, I was keeping it a secret from basically everyone because I didn’t want to be embarrassed by my own failure if that was the case. Being open about it helped so much! I would never do it alone again. That’s torture.

StayFocused was hugely helpful for my focus (thanks, Di!)

My friend Diane suggested the browser plug-in StayFocused. You input the sites you want to block and what days/hours you want them blocked and it will simply not let you on them at those times. It was really revealing how in a split second I could open a new tab and be on Facebook, completely subconsciously! Even after I would just close the window, I’d lose my train of thought and be back. It was actually kind of eerie a few times. StayFocused helped me, well, stay focused.

It turns out I have a lot of free time in the evenings/weekends.

This semester with my husband having to leave by 5:45 every day for class, it means that we eat early. It also means I can get a lot done if I actually have things to do and energy to do it with. I can only think of three days where my story was hard to write and it took me 2 hours to write my 1667 words. Otherwise, I pumped out my word count in an hour and then did other things. The main thing is having motivation to do things with people since I find myself pretty tired from hanging out with people all day long at work.

My favourite thing about Nanowrimo

My favourite thing is the freedom in writing to let the story tell itself. If you sit in on the NanoMTL chat room you’d daily hear someone say “I have a block” and then someone else say “KILL A CHARACTER” with much viciousness. Both times I did Nano seriously, I was shocked at how the story ended up telling itself almost better than if I had painstakingly planned out every scene. I just planned broad stroke ideas. It did the rest. I love that. And no, I didn’t kill any characters (though in my first novel, I burned down an old folks home. Everyone that was healthy made it out safe because I couldn’t bear anyone actually dying.).

Finally: “Can I read your novel?”

People have been asking me if they can read my novel. At this point, I’m probably going to say no – mostly because taking the time to read through it to make sure there are no major plot holes etc. will take time. Writing in 1667 word batches makes for a lot of forgetting what was said/done in the previous section! But I might be persuadable as long as people don’t expect anything close to literature.

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