Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Neat Approaches to New Year's Resolutions

At the front end of 2011 I wrote at length about new year's resolutions, the three main reasons they fail, otherwise known as myths 1, 2, and 3, and some ideas about how to keep resolutions by avoiding procrastination.

If your problem keeping new year's resolutions is procrastination, or if you're curious about the three  myths check out last year's post.

What I have to offer this year, and I've deliberately timed it well into January so it can be the "just-in-time" help for anyone floundering at keeping their 2012 resolutions, is a few ideas.

The first comes from a friend, and it's wonderful in its simplicity.

Rather than make a list of the all the things she hopes to do differently, she reflects on words that surface in her mind as she reflects on how her life is.

For example, the word "connection," may arise. And so she thinks of all the ways she is connected with people and life around her, and whether there are some different, perhaps better ways, to create connections. Connection becomes a theme to be lived out in the new year.

Someone else could choose, say, the word "learning," and think of all the different ways new knowledge could come into their life.

While this approach doesn't require the traditional list of resolutions, nonetheless one needs to be aware through the year, of the words and themes which have come to mind, and have been chosen to characterize one's thoughts and actions. Journaling could be a good adjunct to this approach.

People use all kinds of tools to create their resolutions. From pens and paper to computer software, everyone has their preferred way to craft their resolutions. Mind maps are a favorite for many because they're more visual and dramatic than a mere list, and thus can have more impact.

One of the neatest examples of using software for resolutions is this one from The Brain, a unique information management program which is said to emulate the way our brains organize and connect information.

In The Brain blog, this graphic example is given of one way of organizing resolutions:

2012 Goals Visualized

The resolution is to live to be a 100, and the offshoots all relate to actions and lifestyle choices which, at least in theory, enable that to happen. Attached to some of the items displayed are links to web sites and relevant documents. This graphic from The Brain Blog does not begin to give any idea as to the program's power to handle information or to move quickly - seemingly at the speed of thought - from one piece of information to another. Some people's Brains have tens of thousands of items!

Shelley Hayduk of The Brain writes that "the news media reports that yesterday (January 9th), nine days after people make their resolution, is the day when most people give it up. So clearly without the right backup system for your goals things can slip away."

Oops! And here it is January 17th already!

Luckily there's still time to get over to Shelley's great blog post Seven Steps to Make Your Creative Vision a Reality. This post, though written in June 2010, is at its most timely right now. Anyone seeking ways to be more successful at realizing their dreams should follow Shelley's advice: "With PersonalBrain you can leverage the power of visual thinking to make your goals a reality. Here are seven essential steps to making your creative vision a reality. Be sure to download the template Brain and watch the recorded webinar at the end of this blog entry." Check it out.

There are many web-based, desktop, and paper programs for tracking the projects and next actions which flow from resolutions. One of the best web/desktop based programs is NOZBE, which is based on David Allen's Getting Things Done approach. NOZBE has recently undergone some major upgrades, works across various platforms, is compatible with Evernote, and to my mind is better than ever.  (Disclosure: I am part of NOZBE's affiliate program.)

Here's the Amazon link for Allen's best-seilling Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Also good reading is Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done. If you want to pursue Getting Things Done, or GTD as it's known, take a look at my 7,000 member Yahoo GTD group - feel free to join and to share your experiences or ask questions.

I appreciate NOZBE for tracking projects and next actions. However, as some readers are aware from other posts I've written, I struggle with ADHD and executive function issues. In plain English that means I find it hard, if not impossible, to start work, or to carry it through to completion. So I combine Getting Things Done with the Pomodoro technique. Here's a link to a free 40 page PDF booklet on how to use Pomodoro.

This technique focuses on how time is structured, and relies on a Pomodoro (Italian for tomato, and the shape of many kitchen timers in Italy) to provide work periods of 25 minutes broken up with brief breaks of 5 minutes or so. The site explains in detail how the system works. I've been experimenting with it the last few days, and have been amazed at two things:
  • How easily I start my work
  • How much I am actually accomplishing
A 25 minute unit of time is called a Pomodoro, and I have a kitchen timer which I set for 25 minutes - even its ticking in the background seems to help keep me focused. Why does it work? In part, I think because I know that after 25 minutes I can take a break - there is little to no anxiety about getting into something long and involved. Complex tasks may require five, six or more Pomodoros - one 25 minute Pomodoro at a time.

One other reason why it's working is that I have a friend with whom I've discussed my plans for the year, and for this month. We've worked out a protocol for me to be accountable to my friend as to what I intend to do, and what is actually accomplished. I keep a running log of intention and actualities on a shared Google document. From past experience, I know that if I am not accountable to someone, I'm at risk of losing track of what needs to be done, even forgetting important tasks from day to day.

For people with ADHD and/or executive function issues, more external support and structure can make the difference between success or failure. I think of my friend as my "external brain."

Because of commitment to Pomodoro and the ongoing dialogue with my friend, aka external brain, I feel more optimistic than ever that my resolutions for 2012 will be actualized.

One of my resolutions is very simple: Complete and bring to fruition those ideas and projects which are important to me, and to those around me.

Whatever ways you, the reader, choose to set up and structure your resolutions, I wish you success beyond anything you can imagine!

1 comment:

  1. I always forsake my new years resolutions, not this year though, I am going to do a skin whitening treatment this year for sure.