Resolutions Update: April Edition

Follow up to Resolutions Update - March Edition.

On 2 Jan, I outlined my New Years Resolutions for this year. I also made sure to publicly commit to these resolutions, since public commitment is a powerful tool to build habits. But it wouldn’t work if I announced it once and then never talked about it again. Additionally, as time goes on, I learn more about how things are going and decide to update my resolutions. Therefore, I’m aiming to provide monthly updates on my progress. Here’s the one for April, following the one from March.

Blogging Update

Goal #1: Publish 200 essays from 1 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2013.

Progress as of 10 Mar: 38 essays (19% of goal in 19.1% of allotted time).

Progress as of 1 Apr: 52 essays (26% of goal in 24.9% of allotted time).

Commentary: As I noticed last time, I’ve been slowing down my essay speed. However, Den Con is done and the end of school is near, so I expect there to be no problem in meeting this goal.

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Goal #2: Add four games to the arcade by 31 Dec 2013.

Progress as of 4 Feb: Three games are half-made and the last one is started.

Progress as of 1 Apr: No change.

Commentary: I ended up not doing anything over Spring Break, so I might not get a start on these projects until after school lets out. However, I’ll see if I can make some time to get one game out before May? Maybe?

Diet Updates

Goal #3: Follow the No S Diet – No Snacks, No Sweets, No Seconds, Except (sometimes) on days that start with “S”.

Progress as of 10 Mar: 90.9% Success for 4 Feb - 10 Mar; 95.3% Overall Success

Progress as of 1 Apr: 100% Success for 11 Mar - 1 Apr; 96.6% Overall Success since 1 Jan (N=58).

Commentary: The diet is going strong. Apparently, it’s not actually that hard to get myself to not do something, so this works really well. Allowing myself to have Chocolate Milk, Raisin Bran, and to accept snacks given to me deliberately by others has made the diet a lot less dreary too. I’ve generally noticed that I’ve gotten used to eating less as well, so this is less of a struggle.

Exercise Updates

Goal #4: Exercise five times a week (not Wednesday or Saturday) for at least twenty minutes, either doing circuit exercises or running aiming to be able to run a 5K without needing to stop to walk.

Progress as of 10 Mar: 87.5% Success for 4 Feb - 10 Mar, 91.7% Overall Success

Progress as of 1 Apr: 38.5% Success for 11 Mar - 1 Apr; 79.2% Overall Success since 1 Jan (N=53).

Commentary: Obviously, this Resolution has started to crash and burn. Here’s the retrospective: after being sick and injured for awhile, I got used to not exercising and my schedule shifted a bit around and I no longer have regular exercising times. It then became difficult to phase exercise back into the schedule and became an easy thing to skip.

Productivity Updates

Goal #5: For a period of four non-consecutive hours each Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, work using the Pomodoro Technique of alternating between 25 minutes doing work and five minutes taking a break. Progress as of 1 Apr: 76.9% (N=13).

Commentary: Despite a lower start, I think this is going well. It’s a good idea that works well, as long as I remember to actually do it and block out the four hours in the day, which is the hard part. I think the amount of time is a good balance as well, if not maybe a little bit too low. If I do better in April, I’ll aim to up this during the future. It could be a great way to keep me focused during the summer.

In other news, I’ve decided that the “read books instead of TV” a few days a week goal wasn’t as good as I thought. TV hasn’t been as destructive on my bedtime recently, and I think if bedtimes remain a problem in April, the easier solution would be an hours-of-sleep resolution rather than a TV-resolution. Watching TV is relaxing, and I want to be able to do it if I can.

Hygiene Updates

Goal #6: Brush my teeth twice a day

Progress as of 10 Mar: 65.4% Success for 4 Feb - 10 Mar, 73.4% Overall Success.

Progress as of 1 Apr: 66.7% success for 11 Mar - 1 Apr, 73.1% Overall Success since Jan 1 (N=82).

Commentary: Again, this still plagues me when I’m at my weakest – sleepy, either going to or from bed. In the morning, I might want to sleep in and have to rush off to class, rather than take the time to brush my teeth. At night, I’ve relaxed in bed watching television and don’t want to get out.

Last time, I had a plan that instead of getting back up to brush my teeth right before bed, instead I will brush my teeth before watching television and getting comfy and in the morning, I’d set my alarm clock even earlier so I can still “sleep in” while getting up with enough time. Both these tricks worked for awhile, but then I kind of drifted away from using them. I need to drift back.

Driving Updates

Goal #7: Get my driver’s license.

Progress as of 4 Feb: Almost ready to take the test.

Progress as of 1 Apr: No change.

Commentary: As I said before, this remains mostly a scheduling issue – it’s difficult to learn how to drive while I’m at college, so I have to make arrangements to go home. I didn’t capitalized on Spring Break as much as I hoped, and it turned out I was still wrong to be optimistic. I think it would be dumb to expect to have it by 1 May too, but definitely by the end of the summer? Luckily, it doesn’t seem like I’ll have to drive anywhere regularly during the summer, but my girlfriend and friends would probably still be annoyed they have to drive me around after all this time…

Finances Updates

Goal #8: Do not have expenses I personally have to pay for (rather than my parents paying for them) exceed $2000 (while not causing myself to lose friends, sacrifice other valuable relationships, or otherwise become unhappy).

Progress as of 10 Mar: No concern

Progress as of 1 Apr: Slight concern

Commentary: It’s difficult to plan for an uncertain future, where I’m not sure how much money I’ll make during the summer, what summer expenses will be like, how much plane tickets will cost, and what it will be like to live in an apartment next year instead of a regular dorm. So I’m slightly concerned I might max out above $2000 and I’ll probably have to make a new budget with new circumstances in mind in the future. For now, however, I can rest assured I have enough savings to back up all my expenses and I have zero chance of going broke. In the end, it’s just an arbitrary monetary goal, but I still want to try and stick to it.

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Goal #9: Earn at least $6200 (while not sacrificing my long-term future by narrowly focusing on income).

Progress as of 10 Mar: $205.43/$6200 (3.31%)

Progress as of 1 Apr: $407.43/$6200 (6.57%)

Commentary: As I said before, I’ve earned some more money, but it’s still not nearly at the level I was expecting in order to meet my goal. I still think it’s good for me to focus on a route that emphasizes professional development over actual sources of income, but this goal is looking worse for wear unless I can pick up some more summer income from somewhere.

Cleaning Updates

In the spirit of the Resolution tradition, however, I’d like to add a tenth goal back to make up for the one that I’ve discarded. My room continues to remain messy even though, internally, I don’t feel like a messy person. I want everything to have it’s place and be neat and tidy, I just lack the time and effort to make it so. Thus, I’ve decided to make a resolution out of it – every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, I will return my room to it’s clean state. It might be an impressive undertaking at first, but if I can stop it from getting messy, it will be fine.

Bet Updates

In my last update, I re-wagered my friend, Eric “Harry” Brisson, that for the period of 9 Feb – 9 Mar, if I have any less than 95% success (aka any more than 1 failure) in any of my three HabitCal categories (exercise, diet, and hygiene), I owe him $20, but if he fails to update his blog at least once per week during that interval, he will give me one half of one day’s wage for him.

It looks like bets don’t work. Both of us payed each other out for our failures and my success rates are lower than ever. However, despite this, I’d like to insist that the bet did work. For it was only after I failed the bet at first that I had a “Aww, to hell with it” experience and started going really off the rails in some of my goals. While the bet was on, I was thinking a lot about how failing it would impact me.

Another problem was that I knew as soon as Eric failed to hold up his bet, I would be earning money, since he bet me more money than I bet him. This made the bet a lot harder to make imposing in my mind.

Inspired by Maneesh Sethi’s “How to Make it Impossible to Fail”, I have a new system that will fix up everything – wager money per failure rather than in lump sum. And instead of wagering with Harry, I will wager against myself. For every failure I have in any given category beyond the first, I will “donate” $5 to the US Republican Party and post the receipt on my next update.

Given my general disdain for the Republican Party and it’s mismatch with my values, this should be very motivational for me. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to give them $85 this month!

Conclusion

Most people’s New Years Resolutions fall apart pretty quickly. And if you judge my goals to have failed when I first messed up, teeth brushing would be over before it started, exercising would have made it to 12 Jan, and the diet lasted until 24 Feb. However, that’s not what this is about – you can’t make lasting habits if you give up at the first failure and then just try again next year. I’m going to keep going.

As perhaps expected, all my goals started to do worse as the year went on. But I think I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put them into place for a month versus put them into place for a lifetime.

Followed up in Resolutions Update: May Edition.