I typically take some time at the start of each year to reflect on the previous year and what I'd like to focus on in the year ahead. I've tried to uphold "New Year's Resolutions" and failed, like most Americans. If you set a resolution for yourself, Vox has some excellent tips to help keep them, and the Buffer blog has some great tips as well. In short, however, the reason 88% of people fail to uphold their resolutions is that they take an enormous amount of willpower that our brains simply can't handle. Or, at least, 88% of us who try can't handle.
The most common advice about setting goals I've heard is to be specific. For example, resolving to "read more" is very ambigious. More than what? More than before? More than your friends? On the other hand, resolving to "read 25 books" is more specific. Unfortunately, a goal like that still requires a lot of willpower to achieve. That was my primary goal last year (to read 25 books). I managed to read 13. At only half what I had hoped for, it wasn't exactly a success. To really achieve that goal, reading would need to become a habit. Habits are what I will be examining this year. Mostly.
My "Resolution" for 2016
This year, I just want to "do better". Which is purposefully vague. I'm not trying to do better by any specific amount (though my Goodreads challenge for this year is 15 books to top my 13 last year). Instead, as the year goes on I will be evaluating my habits to see if I'm doing as well as I want to be. What ever that means.
Fortunately, I've been pretty sold on the whole "quantified self" thing. I have a lot of data to use to see if I'm really doing better. At what ever. I use a number of apps and services to measure data about myself. I use Rescuetime to measure how I spend my time, I have a FitBit that monitors my activity and sleep duration, I weigh myself almost daily, I log everything I eat with MyFitnessPal because I'm trying to gain weight, I use the Last.fm scrobbler to track what music I listen to, I use Mint to track my finances, and I use Exist (one of my favorite services ever) to smash all of that together to find relationships between data and to track my mood daily. I measure a lot of stuff, mostly automatically. But making a habit of really looking at all that data and making adjustments is something I've not been very good at. And that's what this year is about.
But "doing better" isn't useful without a baseline, so here's a quick summary of last year.
Last year I:
- Spent 107% of my income (oops!)
- Read 13 books
- Had a Rescuetime productivity pulse of 55
- Averaged 6h and 47m of sleep each night
- Consumed an average of 2,559 calories a day
- Averaged 7,563 steps a day
- Wrote 8 blog posts
"Doing better" will mean improving on these metrics. Some are self-explanatory. I'm still trying to gain weight, so averaging a few more calories a day is better. I want to get more sleep, getting more than 6h and 47m is better. I want to remain active, so taking more steps every day is better. Spending less than I earn is better. Reading more than 13 books is better. Writing more frequently is better.
Being more productive is better. Rescuetime's productivity pulse is a weighted measurement of how my time is spent between productive activity and "distracting" activity on my computer. Spending more of my time doing something productive will improve that score (or spending less "distracting time" on my computer - another worthy goal).
The key to improving most of these will be forming new habits, though. So to that end, I'm taking a leaf out of Belle Beth Cooper's (one of my favorite humans) book and I'll be conducting a monthly review for myself examining all of those things. I'll also look at any relationships surfacing in Exist, and I'm giving Momentum another try.
Hopefully, with a bit of focus and being armed with all this data I can do better in 2016. Here's to better!