A Year of Mostly New Years Resolutions

Follow up to “New Years Resolutions: December Edition”

Well, happy new year, everyone!

Many people may come to this new year armed with new years resolutions. I, however, come armed with the resolutions I brought all the way from January 2013. I did it – a full year of (mostly) sticking to my new years resolutions.

In this essay, I’ll overview how I did in December, overview how I did in 2013 overall, and then set up resolutions for January 2014.

How Did December Go?

Points: My goal was to score 17205 “daypoints” over the month according to my scoring system where different habits of mine are assigned different point values for each day. Overall, I earned 16725 points, which was 97.2% of my goal.

Time on task: This month I spent an average of 8.98 hours a day working (a 62.86 hour work week), which is down from November’s 74.06 week, October’s 74.9 hour work week, and September’s 81.5 hour work week, which means I’m still trending downward, which could be problematic. (Note that work includes everything I do that’s not sleep, reading, eating, exercising, showering, getting dressed, hanging out with friends/family, video games, spacing out, watching TV, and other commonsense things.)

Time with friends/family: I spent an average of 4.72 hours a day with friends/family, which is up from 4.2hrs/day in November and up from 3.3 hours a day in October.

Exercise: I spent an average of 31.45 minutes a day doing exerciseStronglifts and some running (down from 58.3 minutes/day in November and 64.5 minutes/day in October). I improved my deadlift (215lbs to 235lbs) and squat (from 190lbs to 200lbs), but I did not improve my benchpress (stayed at 85lbs), or running distance (stayed at 6.2mi).

Other Goals: I met my goals for sleeping 69% (down from 75%) of the time, breakfast 81% (down from 90%) of the time, lunch 87% (down from 90%), dinner 71% (up from 50%), not snacking 16% (down from 45%), cleanliness 81% (down from 93%), and order 93% (up from 88%).

Overall: Overall, I have not failed my resolutions, but I have backslid on a lot of them, noticeably. I’m going to need to turn this around for 2014.

2013 Overall

Being disappointed at sliding away from my resolutions from October through December, it’s hard to remember the sorry state that I was in back in January 2013 and how much better I am compared to that. Things have transformed a lot – what started as a goal to publicly precommit ended up transforming into the Monthly Review as a part of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, with a complex point system.

Diet

I started out on the No S Diet (No Snacks, No Sweets, No Seconds, except (Sometimes) on Saturdays, Sundays, and Special days). For this, I had 100% success (Jan) and 90.9% success (Feb). I then amended the diet to be Friday/Saturday instead of Saturday/Sunday, allowed myself to have Raisin Bran and Chocolate Milk, and allowed myself to accept snacks given out by others. I continued to have 100% success (Mar) and 100% success (April).

For May, I adopted diet goals to (1) eat less than 2438kcal to ensure I lose weight, (2) eat at least 56g of protein each day, and (3) drink at least 2.5 liters of water each day, but I was unsuccessful because I was on a program that provided meals for me and my diet was largely out of my control.

For June, I switched to the point system I currently have and assigned point values to those three goals and added another goal: I would eat at least one fruit and one vegetable. I fell a bit short on each goal, consuming on average 2/2.5L of water, 100g/56g of protein, 70% success at eating a fruit and vegetable, and 47% success at eating less than 2174kcal.

For July, I decided to restrict my diet even less and modified my goals to drink 5 cups of water and 5 cups of milk a day and consume a daily protein bar. I stayed on the water habit 80% of the time and the milk habit 55% of the time, but was not able to find protein bars in England, where I was staying.

For August, I kept the milk and water goals and added a goal to eat broccoli each day and avoid sweets and fried foods. I stayed on the water habit 100% of the time, the milk habit 87% of the time, broccoli 26%, avoiding sweets 45%, and avoiding fried foods 97%.

For September, I followed the food plate and set a goal to drink 5 cups of water, 4 cups of milk, 2 servings of fruit, 5 servings of grains, and 4 servings of vegetables. My average was 4.23/5 water, 3.67/4 milk, 1.97/2 fruit, 4.2/5 grains, and 3.1/4 vegetables.

For October through Decemeber, I noticed that since I was doing my own grocery shopping and don’t mind not having variety, I could just set a particular diet for every day and use Cronometer to ensure good macronutrients, micronutrients, and calories. I then divided these goals into “breakfast”, “lunch”, “dinner”, and “no snacks” goals. Overall I was successful at breakfast 90%, 90%, and 81% of the time; lunch 90%, 90%, 87%; dinner 50%, 50%, 71%; and not snacking 45%, 45%, 16%.

Exercise

I started out pledging to Couch to 5K, One Hundred Pushups, and Two Hundred Situps. I stayed on goal 95% of the time.

By February, I dropped that completely, switching instead to running as much as I could of a 5K and walking what I couldn’t and did a modified version of the Mount Holyoke No Excuses Workout. I stayed on goal 88% of the time. I did the same for March, but fell off the wagon and only stayed on goal 47% of the time. For April, I was on goal 89% of the time.

On the 23rd of April, I switched out the No Excuses workout for Stronglifts 5x5 (along with running once a week). On May, I stayed on goal 95% of the time. Also, in May I finally did a 5K and now just tried to aim to add more distance each time I ran.

For June, I added a goal for walking, looking to exercise an average of 20 minutes a day and walk an average of 40 minutes a day (though, of course, not exercising and walking every day). I ended up having an average of 23/20 minutes of exercise and walked 38/40 minutes a day.

For July, I ended up losing access to a gym with weights, so I began Convict Conditioning with the Reddit modifications (along with running). I spent an average of 30 minutes a day exercising.

For August, I was biking regularly to commute, so I spent an average of 124 minutes a day doing exercise (biking, Convict Conditioning, and running). In September, I was no longer biking and I spent an average of 36 minutes a day exercising. In October, I resumed Stronglifts and spent an average of 64.5 minutes a day doing exercise, running twice a week for longer. In November, I spent an average of 58.3 minutes a day doing exercise. In December, I spent an average of 31.45 minutes a day.

Overall, I made considerable gains in fitness. Running went up from a max distance of 0.5mi to 6.2mi. My benchpress went up from 45lbs (in late April) to 85lbs, squat from 45lbs to 200lbs, and deadlift from 135lbs to 215lbs. I also went from 210lbs to a low of 172lbs and now currently weigh a healthy 180lbs.

Productivity

For April, I started doing “4x4hr Productivity” where, four days a week, for four hours each, I committed to working with The Pomodoro Technique. In April, I was successful 76% of the time. I lost my records for May. In June, I spent an average of 7 hours a day working. In July, 10hrs. August, 9.93hrs. September, 11.6hrs. October, 10.7hrs. November, 10.58hrs. December, 8.98hrs.

The Annual Goals

Back in the first post, I stated some goals I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. I ended up not accomplishing very few of these because my priorities changed.

200 essays in 2013: Overall, I wrote 163 essays in 2013. I had a goal of writing 200. I decided that it wasn’t worth writing essays just for the sake of writing them and I ended up, on occasion, deciding that doing other work was higher priority than writing, so I didn’t make this goal.

Add four games to the arcade: Likewise, I didn’t end up making much progress on games because I decided that working on games was not the best way to learn programming further. I think I accomplished the spirit of this goal by rekindling my role as a computer programmer, even though I approached it in a different way.

Earn >$6000: Similarly, I did not end up earning more than $6000 in income. This is because I decided that I had higher priority things to do with my time than earn money and I’m in a lucky position where I can spend my time as I want.

Spend <$2000: Moreover, I did not end up spending <$2000. I didn’t account for the fact that I would end up buying my own food as a college senior or have other significant expenses like going to London for an internship.

Get my drivers license: I ended up failing this goal as well. This is the one I do regret not accomplishing and feel a little embarrassed about.

What is New for January 2014?

I’m going to end up continuing as before, applying a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I still like the point system. Generally it’s a bad idea to say “just one won’t hurt” because people end up taking this too far and derailing from their habits. But it’s also true that just one really won’t hurt. The point system lets me reconcile this by allowing me to get away with a little bit without losing too much.

I still like focusing on inputs rather than outputs. It’s very difficult to work with a goal like “get stronger” or “lose weight”, even when they’re specific (“gain 20lbs on squat”, “lose 20lbs”). This is because you don’t really have a whole lot of direct control over your strength and weight. But you do have control over what you do to get stronger and lose weight – you can change your diet and exercise. So I focus on those inputs, diet and exercise, rather than outputs, like strength and weight.

I won’t be setting any more year-long goals (except for getting my drivers license). I was really bad at predicting my year-long priorities. I expect to be similarly bad at predicting my priorities, so I don’t think it will be worth setting these kinds of goals.

I’m going to be more focused about taking breaks for harder goals. When I did the No S Diet, I was really good at avoiding snacks. When I just lost points for eating snacks, I’ve been pretty bad at it. That’s because I think it was a lot easier knowing to resist snacks when I had particular days I could cheat. So I think I’ll do the same and pick cheat days for harder goals.

I need to be more careful when changing environments. A lot of my success at sticking to resolutions is based on a good routine, and routines are disrupted by moving (from college to home and back again, England, etc.). I need to be more careful about constructing a good routine the moment I move.