Resolutions Update: March Edition

Follow up to Resolution Update - February 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 March, following the one from February.

Blogging Update

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

Progress as of 4 Feb: 22 essays (11% of goal in 9.5% of allotted time).

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

Commentary: It’s pretty clear that I’m slowing down a bit, especially with my most recent week off, but I’m still keeping even with the goal and have barely fallen behind. Once Den Con is over and especially once school is over, I expect this pace to be able to pick up significantly.

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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 10 Mar: No change.

Commentary: I don’t expect to have all that much time to make significant progress on this until school is out, though I could probably do some stuff over Spring Break.

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 4 Feb: 100% Success

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

Commentary: So there was two days that I broke the diet. But it actually wasn’t a failure of willpower. Instead, for both times, it was that it was Sunday and I simply forgot that I was exempting myself from the diet on Friday and Saturday rather than the default Saturday and Sunday. Oops. But the most minor of breaches is still a breach and I wanted to document it. To fix this problem, I’ve written down on my calendar specifically which days correspond with which habits I’m seeking to cultivate.

The reason I changed from Saturday/Sunday to Friday/Saturday is to accomodate days where people offer me snacks and I feel weird or rude turning them down. It helped for a little bit, but it didn’t really cover all the bases. So what I’m going to do instead is add the following rule: “If someone offers me a snack, I may accept it in the most minimal amount that is socially respectable, but I may not abuse this rule by initiating the other person’s offering.”

Another change I’m going to make is a bit of tweaks to the idea of what counts as a “sweet”. Previously, I had been avoiding Raisin Bran cereal and Chocolate Milk. I’m going to put both of those back in, but restrict myself to only one bowl or cup of them a day (except on Friday/Saturday/Holidays).

Exercise Updates

Goal #4: Commit to vaguely exercising.

Progress as of 4 Feb: 95.7% Success

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

Commentary: More specifically, I’ve defined my exercise goal as exercising five times a week (not Wednesday or Saturday) for at least twenty minutes, either doing circuit exercises or running. I’m trying to be able to run a 5K without needing to stop to walk, and I’ve recently been really close (getting up to 2.7mi). Recently, however, a minor leg injury prevented me for running for one week and then falling sick prevented me from running for another week, so I’ve definitely fallen behind and will have to work back up to the 2.7.

I’ve also had the classic problem of occasionally not being able to fit exercise into a busy schedule. Well, I mean, I could fit exercise in better if I didn’t spend as much time randomly reading articles on the internet. Twenty minutes isn’t that hard to fit in, right?

Productivity Updates

…Which leads me into wanting to manage my productivity better. So far, I’ve had two modes – one where I’m really productive and do a lot of work and one where I feel hopelessly burnt out and unmotivated. I have enough academic work, extracurriculars, and personal projects that I have an endless supply of work to do, so I never get the relaxed feeling of having everything done.

My ability to be productive currently involves making a to-do list that ranks tasks by urgency, importance, and completion length, and then doing the steps one-by-one using the Pomodoro Technique of alternating between 25 minutes doing work and five minutes taking a break.

I’ve decided that in addition to modifying goals, I can add (or subtract) goals every month as well. I’ll be adding some productivity-maintaining goals.

4x4hr Productivity

My solution is something I think would be fun to call “4x4hr Productivity”. There are four days a week where I have a lot of free time that I will make blocks of four hours. During these four hours, I’ll commit myself to completing as many tasks as I can, without distraction as much as I’m able, through the Pomodoro Technique. After those four hours, I’ll do whatever I want in the short-term, guilt free. On the other three days, guilt-free too.

Of course, it’s not like I’ll be doing nothing those days – I might choose to do work, or there might be something too urgent to ignore, and I’ll have homework due still…

Lastly, time spent exercising is part of the to-do list, so hopefully this goal and the exercise goal will positively interfere and make accomplishing both goals easier.

Read Books Instead of Watching TV

The second round of productivity updates I want to do is get back into the habit of reading books. Recently, I’ve gotten a bit too addicted to watching television at night, even to the point where I’ve sacrificed sleep and gone to bed at unreasonable hours in order to get in an episode of television.

Instead, I’d like to replace these shows with reading books. The advantage here is I can tackle my lengthy reading list while doing something with a significantly more flexible time period. If it’s almost time for bed, I can just read ten minutes. Perhaps I might only read a page… As long as I get ahead, it counts.

Furthermore, while long-term good does come out of watching these shows, I expect even more good to come out of reading books. I’ve selected my books carefully for the ones that contain knowledge that comes highly recommended from others or from my own searches.

Therefore, I’m committing that on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, I will read from a book and not watch any television. On all other days, I can either read or watch TV, but place myself under no obligation.

Hygiene Updates

Goal #7: Brush my teeth twice a day

Progress as of 4 Feb: 77.8% Success

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

Commentary: I’ve been kind of surprised at how much of a struggle this has been, given that in theory it should be the easiest habit. But as I said before, it 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.

However, I have a plan that I think will set me back in the right direction. At night, instead of getting back up to brush my teeth right before bed, instead I will brush my teeth before watching television and getting comfy. In the morning, I’ll set my alarm clock even earlier so I can still “sleep in” while getting up with enough time. We’ll see how these two tricks work.

Driving Updates

Goal #8: Get my driver’s license.

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

Progress as of 10 Mar: No change.

Commentary: This has been 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. Luckily, it’s spring break and I now have more opportunities to finish up driving lessons. This week, I’ll schedule my test and then come back and take it. I know I was wrongfully optimistic about this goal in my last update, but I’m still going to be optimistic in this one.

Finances Updates

Goal #9: 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 4 Feb: No concern

Progress as of 10 Mar: No concern

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Goal #10: Earn at least $6200 (while not sacrificing my long-term future by narrowly focusing on income).

Progress as of 4 Feb: $51/$6200 (0.82%)

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

Commentary: I’ve earned some more money, but it’s still not nearly at the level I was expecting in order to meet my goal. In some sense, I think I’m doing ok because I want to focus on doing opportunities that help land me good jobs in the future and worry less about income now. But I don’t know how this goal is going to turn out.

Bet Updates

In my last update, I talked about how I wanted to spruce things up a bit with a bet – I 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.

…This didn’t work as well as I hoped. We both failed our bets and I actually had weakened performance on my goals. Though, I must say that I was motivated by the bet up until Harry broke his end of the deal and I knew I would be safe (since his wage exceeds $20, presumably). There were times when I thought I must get up and brush my teeth because if I don’t, I’ll be out $20.

Thus, we want to get the bet back online. Therefore, we’re going to be doing double-or-nothing. $40 of mine versus one day’s wage for him. Battle!

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: March Edition.