Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions! I adore this time of year, the beginning, because it’s one of the few times of the year that people allow themselves a moment to think about their desires, wishes, hopes, dreams and try to set a plan of action to accomplish them (or at least you’re supposed to!). It’s a wonderful time of careful self-reflection, and self-improvement. This is not to feel inadequate, although many resolutions are made with that in mind. I find it’s a moment to think about the years past and start anew with a different perspective.
This in mind, a conversation I’ve had a dozen times with loved ones and friends is, “Is willpower enough to accomplish your goals?”
The Failures of Years Past
Last year I wanted to use an agenda and plan my life better. I started out okay, I actually wrote things down when people told them to me but by October, the agenda was sitting on my bookshelf. I hadn’t opened it in weeks. I had failed, but why?
Whenever I start working on a new resolution and fail, I try to not consider it as a personal failure, but rather a lack of proper planning or circumstances that made success more difficult. That being said, one of the reasons I failed was because I wrote things down without any intention of ever going over it. Never once did I set out a period of time throughout the day, week, or month, to review, revise, or reset. I would write down events and never look at them again, and when I missed them or double-booked, I had no method of figuring that out until it was too late.
Another reason was that I had no incentive to do so, because I wasn’t actually organizing time with a clear purpose. I had no reason to open the sucker, the important things I had to do consistently, I do automatically. I didn’t feel like I was gaining anything by using it because I had no purpose. I wasn’t organizing my time so that I could work on my goals or learn a new skill, I was organizing or the sake of it. So, when I failed at it, I didn’t lose much.
You have the same hours as Beyoncé?
A common phrase that people say that’s supposed to be motivating is, “You have the same 24 hours in a day as [insert famous person here].” For the purposes of this post, let’s say Beyoncé.
Okay, that’s not really the idea, the idea is – what’s holding you back from reaching your full potential? If Beyoncé can do it, why can’t you?
It’s super not helpful and really missing the point. We all have 24 hours, but not all of that time is ours (unlike Beyoncé, who for the most part, gets to set her own hours, objectives, and goals). Much of that time is devoted to work, some to transportation, some to bodily functions like sleep and eating, and the rest to relaxation and planning for the next day.
It’s up to you to figure out the rest. (For me the rest is typically extra sleep and forcing myself to work on some homework.)
The difference between most of us and Beyoncé, I’d argue, is that she’s had enough time to develop the skill to manage her time effectively so that she can work on becoming and being a Beyoncé.
It’s your job to become and perfect being you.
It’s a skill, I think, in creating your own routine and getting into a habit. As a PhD student with both a lot of time on her hands, and not nearly enough to get everything I want done, managing my time well has become a bit of an obsession of mine as of late.
Routines are good for morale. When you are the one setting your schedule (instead of your boss or whomever you set your time around), you feel in greater control of your time, which in turn, makes you feel more capable to take on any challenge. Routines also allow you to plan for the things that make it easier on your habits and goals. You have less friction if you remove possible temptations and distractions from your daily life.
For example, I don’t schedule time to plan and shop for groceries, I go whenever I need something, typically when I’m hungry, and I always come back with things I don’t need. Or on the other hand, if I have errands to run and I set them up on a Saturday, the friction of staying in bed and doing nothing is likely to overcome my need to get things done.
You shouldn’t rely on willpower alone to accomplish things. You have to manage your time, health, and network to get anything done and make it easier on yourself. If your body aches or you’re hungry, you’re not going to be in the mood to work, or if you don’t have supportive people cheering you on, you might not be likely to continue doing what is right for you, even if you want. And even then, once all the things you have to do are handled, what about your hobbies or your art or your loved ones or your friends? Not feeling obligated to other people’s time is good for you to work on your own things.
Philosophers call this “mesmerism,” aka putting yourself in the right frame of mind for productivity. It’s like putting yourself in a trance. For example, I’m a night owl, and my current schedule as a PhD student allows for it (it feels heavenly, might I add, to sleep in for once). But if I allow myself to sleep in and stay up late, I’m missing crucial hours for phone calls, networking, emails, and other generally productive habits. I’m not making time for my own goals. I have to make my own routine.For a video version of what I’m trying to establish, here’s the Idea Channel’s explanation.
So I’ve said alllll of this to say, I’m considering my New Year’s Resolutions in a different way this time around. Yes, I say this every year, but every year is another opportunity to try and do just that. I don’t see it as a failure, but as a chance to get it right the next time.
In what ways are you reconsidering your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have any? What are they and if not, why not? Tell me how you feel in the comments! I’ll share my Rezzes later.