This year was bad for many people but I think, and hope, we are more optimistic than ever before looking forward to the new year. Some say that their experience tells them the next year may be even worse but what do we really know? We all learnt the lesson that it’s hard or even impossible to predict … well, anything! Yet we have vaccines and emergency antibody treatments for covid-19 now, and modern technology and developments in medicine indicate that we should worry less and suggest that things should get better. Surely media coverage doesn’t help, but remember that tragic news sells a lot better than good news.
As they say, we don’t see the world as it really is but as we want to see it.
The more you focus on positive things such as your interests, helping others, exercising and spending time with supportive and inspiring people (even if only online), the better and more positive you will feel.
SUMMARISING. PLANNING. ORGANISING.
These are some of my favourite words.
What did I learn from previous years? What mistakes did I make while planning?
Quite often I ended up complicating my goals too much – by listing too many of them and then breaking them down into more steps and aspects, and that was just too much. Often, in January or other months, I simply didn’t have time to go back to these lengthy lists to check my progress.
Highlight 1-3 goals that are the most important for you and try to focus on them more.
If you end up with a lengthy list then it’s good to book some days or a weekend off every quarter to go through it, reflect on it and if necessary, make adjustments. Don’t just say: I will check this around the end of March. Put the date in your calendar. Block some time to actually do it.
I think it’s also great to send yourself reminders/summaries of goals by emailing your future self. I use www.futureme.org but I know there are a few other similar websites too. You can send yourself some reflection or write down what’s happening in your life right now and send it to yourself, say, in five years! How exciting is that?!
The 1st January shouldn’t be a magical date and it’s okay to start your goals in March, September or even at the end of December! We tend to focus so much on the 1st January that it’s almost like we feel things will get partly done on their own as we have the impression that Future Me will definitely be more energetic, healthy, optimistic, and so on … Also, if we don’t manage to do something on the 1st or 2nd of January we already feel like failures. Did you know that over 90% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January each year?!
The changes must be small or creating new habits won’t work. It can take from 30 to … over 200 days to create new habits or turn the bad ones into good ones, according to different research studies. No wonder many people give up quickly when they don’t see results. It’s hard but it’s doable.
Start implementing little changes but consistently.
We allow ourselves too little time for accomplishing goals while not properly fitting in time for emergencies and other things that come up as we live. According to some clever books on time usage, we shouldn’t make plans for at least 40% of our time because it will be swallowed up by unexpected things – a call from a friend, a visit to the doctor, feeling unwell, an unplanned trip, etc.
PLANNING YOUR BREAKS
Except for holidays at Christmas or going abroad to visit family, or a day off for a child’s birthday, I never planned an occasional day or days off just to re-charge and focus and relax (without travelling and visiting others). And this can help so much with energy levels and motivation during the year. I decided to take at least a day or a few days off every 2-3 months just to have more time for myself and my family. It would be great to fit in a block of time summarising goals and reflecting on them in such quieter ME TIME.
On the one hand, while planning, I often gave myself too much time with no deadlines or no clear deadline, even though I knew they are important. I sort of struggled to predict how much time something might take me to accomplish it. When you have two jobs and small children there is so much unpredictability and change in your life! Sometimes, on the other hand, I tried to implement the opposite, and gave myself too little time to do something that would take me a lot longer.
The best way is to do some research and also speak to people who achieved similar goals – how long did it take them? Someone managed to do a course in two months. Okay, great, but the next, even more important, step is to find out whether their circumstances are similar to yours. Probably not. We are all different. A deadline doesn’t have to be perfect if you have no idea how much time it may take you to do something but you need to learn by trial and error what may be most suitable for you. So go ahead and think it through, and put at least some reminders and deadlines in your calendar.
It’s frustrating if you need to change your goals or cannot finish them completely but then we are living in this culture and society in which finishing projects and completing goals is highly prized. We try to teach our children that things have to be finished. However, this year I asked myself: why? We don’t need to finish everything just for the sake of finishing it. We don’t need to finish an exercise from a textbook if we don’t feel it’s useful. We don’t need to carry on fighting about goals that we realised are probably not as desirable as we used to think.
At the end of the year, I no longer check only what goals from December the previous year I managed to accomplish but also what I have ACHIEVED this year. We may not meet all or even half of our goals, but also last December we possibly didn’t know all the people we know now and their impact on our life; neither did we know many things that were going to affect us. All these factors sometimes make us come up with new aims and accomplish things we didn’t think of before. What I’m saying is you might not have met any of your goals but still achieved a lot during the year!
Happy New Year!