So You Want to Start a Resolution…(Part 2)

This is the second part of a three-part post. You can read the first here.

canstockphoto17363632I am in the giddy, excited stage of discovering something new that most people already know, but I’m a slow learner. If my friends and family hear the word microresolutions one more time (“It’s not even a real word!”), they will likely be making some of their own that involve earplugs and duct tape.

Inspired by a lot of reading and a desperate need to make some changes, I made two small resolutions four weeks ago. As a result, I sleep better, read more, eat fewer calories, and have written 40+ pages (10,500 words) in the last month that I would not have written otherwise. Painless, immediate results.

What is this magical elixir you speak of?

I log into my computer in the morning and then I log off at night.

Wait – what? This post is a scam!

Hear me out. I have two major personal goals in my life right now. I want to be a paid published writer and I want to be as fit and healthy for as long as I can be.  I am not published and my shirt buttons could become deadly projectiles should my belly continue to expand. This is all to say, that my reality is far away from my goals.

canstockphoto2656709The authoritarians among us would just bark “Write!” and “Calories in, calories out!”. Most of us know that easy answers are easy to give, but much harder to live. And if you’re truly skilled, like me, you’ve built layer upon layer of self-defeating behaviors. No single action could pierce that crust of hardened habits. The first stop on the way to any resolution is an honest assessment of those habits.

 

Finding the Tipping Point

I’m on track, taking care of business for the day and before I know it, I’ve blown the day doing things that aren’t remotely useful for meeting my personal goals. Where did I go wrong? It seemed to me that it was logging into the computer that did it. From that point on, all good intentions were gone and I was pulled along by habits – news reading, email sorting, blog surfing. Logging into the computer was where I needed to start with a resolution.

I decided that my first resolution was that I would immediately, upon logging in, write 250 words (a single page, double-spaced). I could do nothing until those words were written. I didn’t care what they were. It just needed to be the first thing I did.

In conjunction with that, my second resolution was that I’d log off the computer every night by 7pm.

Making It as Easy as Possible

Despite my long history of making life more difficult, I focused on making my resolutions as ecanstockphoto2658109asy as possible to accomplish with additional cues. I set up my computer so that a new Word document would open as soon as I logged in. The first thing I’ve seen on my computer every day for the last 28 days is a blank page. I’ve written poetry, rants, laments, essays, and silly lyrics. The task took me all of 15 minutes and I wrote an average of 380 words per session.

Every night at 6:45 an alarm goes off, letting me know that I will need to log off by 7.

Letting Everything Else Go

These were my only resolutions. That was all I had to do. I had to let go of all my goal baggage. There were things I wanted to work on – working out more consistently, improving my diet with more nutrient-dense foods, sharpening my foreign language skills. I still did some things to support those goals, but they were not required and didn’t sidetrack me if all didn’t go to plan. I only had to do two very small things.

Framing the Present

Let’s start off with a few clichés. Life is short. It’s the journey, not the destination. Be present. All of these are about today. When working out my resolutions, I made myself write down what the immediate benefits would be.

canstockphoto19357489Writing those 250 words would do this for me:

  • Start my day off productively
  • Start my day off positively (no news is good news)
  • Improve my writing skills

Logging off at 7pm would do this for me:

  • Prepare me for good night’s sleep.
  • Leave room for better choices, like reading or interacting with my family.
  • Less likely to make poor eating/caffeine choices to stay awake.

Scope Creep and Resistance

Initially, my resolutions seemed paltry. How was I going to get healthier this way? How was I going to get my novel past the revision stage? I felt the old tug of desperation tugging at me to do more, that these things couldn’t possibly be enough. I had to fight the urge to GO BIG. I’d gone big before and for the three days it lasted, it was glorious. Going small is for the long game.

If you’re like me and you get all happy-lab-puppy excited about new things, you might decide to tell your friends and family about your resolutions. They are also part of the GO BIG culture, so will likely be underwhelmed by your mini-goals. And they’ve heard your intentions before. The nice thing about easy, attainable goals is that you don’t actually need a support group for them. Maybe keep it under your lid. Wet blankets can often dampen resolve.

Unintentional Consequences

While I could imagine the possible benefits of my two small habits, they’ve turned out to canstockphoto6502520be so much more – in measurable ways. I was at the point of thinking that maybe I needed to give up my ideas about being a writer, but I rediscovered how genuinely happy writing makes me, not just as an end-goal pursuit, but in the moment. This meant the overall tone of my day improved. I was not seeing the headlines first thing in the day. It meant that before I absorbed the bad things in the world, I was first in touch with the joy.

Sleep had become a real problem for me – whether it was hormonal or anxieties, I was not well-rested, stayed up too late, and woke repeatedly at night. Logging off my computer earlier changed how I spent my evening. First of all, it made me realize how very tired I really was – a missed cue masked by a surfing habit. At loose ends, I prepped better for the next day, settled in with a book, or just engaged with my family a bit more. I slept better and longer. It also ended my nighttime snacking habit, which meant less heartburn, fewer calories, less restlessness. Good sleep is a magic potion unto itself.

What’s Next?

canstockphoto0201754

So while I can write my self-satisfied posts about my new habits, I am still far away from my big picture goals. Trying to decide what to do next was like starting all over again…

Tune in tomorrow for So You Want to Start a Resolution, Part 3

Building your resolutions, Jenga Tower or Rock of Gibraltar?

18 Comments on “So You Want to Start a Resolution…(Part 2)

  1. Pingback: So You Want to Start a Resolution… (Part 1) | The Green Study

  2. If I may say, “going small” IS “going big” because you’re actually accomplishing what you’ve set out to do. I am loving your “resolution” revolution and I’m starting one of my own. Thank you.

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    • I think that is really the point – giving yourself confidence that you can even meet a goal, no matter how small. I think of these things as permanent life changes. So many people have “gotten it” and there’s 50 million iterations in books, blogs, and videos about making small changes. Until I forced myself to go small, I never realized how big a difference a single habit done consistently could make. It sounds like common sense, but it never really sunk in.
      Best wishes to you on your resolution, whatever it may be!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes it alarms me how eerily you seem to channel my own thoughts and processes, Michelle. I am also a goal-setter and planner extraordinaire. This was a year of paring my goals to the few that are absolutely core to my life and then setting monthly/weekly/daily bite-sized goals/tasks which added up to the full-meal-deal. One of my most successful changes was to determine the night before what project (usually writing) I wanted to work on first the next morning and then tee it up. I also made the decision not to check emails, read newsfeeds, blogs, or any social media until I had spent at least a couple of hours doing the work that I cared about most. That has made this a productive and satisfying year and I feel the stage is set for a 2018 that is even more so. Looking forward to your thoughts for part 3.

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    • I just couldn’t seem to get out from under the thumb of grandiose expectations and failures, but for some reason the Caroline Arnold book came to my attention at just the right time. You seemed to have been astute enough to know how to break things down. I just never was. After a month of more writing, more sleep, and fewer headlines, I feel so much better. When the payoff is that immediate, I figure I’ve finally tripped over something that works.

      You sound like you have all the right ideas and I would say that limiting media until after you’d done something you cared about is the best idea. I’m reminded of the Rumi poem that I’ve used in this blog before (and have on my bulletin board):

      Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
      Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
      Take down a musical instrument.
      Let the beauty be what we do.
      There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
      Rumi

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michelle,
    I read an interview with Andrew Weir in “Writer’s Digest.” He said he self-published his first sci-fi book, “The Martian,” in serialized form on his blog, and it was picked up by a publisher from there. His second book is out now. The publishing industry is changing so fast these days. Also, your blog, which is most readable, is part of your “platform” the way I understand it, and of great importance to publishers and agents in their assessment of your writing and potential following.

    Your resolutions are making me re-think my own sci-fi novel, many years in the writing so far, but in a phase of stagnation now.

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    • Stagnation is just about where I’ve been for the last few years. I’m hoping that small resolutions that slowly creep me forward will be enough to jump start the engine again. It seems like a writing goal is no different than a gym goal – getting to the page, getting to the gym – that’s most of the battle. Once you’re there, it seems pointless if you don’t do something.

      Thanks for saying the blog is readable. I listened to agents and editors field questions at a writing conference this year and it seemed like a lot of new writers were more concerned about their platform than their work, so I tend to shy away from the idea of blog as platform, even though I take your point.

      As for working on long-term projects, this piecemeal system is perfect for that, even if you only wrote a sentence a day on your novel. There’s something to be said for meeting even the most minute goals.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree on the piecemeal approach, as writing even a sentence gets me thinking about the novel in off-hours. More rewarding than thinking about politics. 🙂

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  5. Yes, a step at a time definitely works for me too. Just now I am taking a break from writing, and letting my brain refresh itself. It is interesting how many ideas for writing I am jotting in my ideas book, ready for when I do start writing again.

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  6. Pingback: So You Want to Start a Resolution…(Part 3) | The Green Study

  7. What a great post, and so rewarding to read about how such seemingly small changes have made such a positive impact on your life. I love the idea of embracing microresolutions (a term that is new to me), especially at this time of year when we are almost conditioned to set large, rather overwhelming and occasionally impossible goals. Congratulations on your success so far, and I’m off to find part 1 and 3 of this series of posts!

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    • Thanks. I’m in the second round of microresolutions and thus far, it’s going well. I’ll be curious how these small steps will stack up. My biggest challenge is to keep them small, but I keep reminding myself that if I go big, I’m likely headed for failure. Thus far, I’ve been experiencing success and that feels pretty good. Best wishes to you in 2018!

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  8. Pingback: December Favorites (Posts I Love) | Lonna Hill

  9. I really like this concept: “before I absorbed the bad things in the world, I was first in touch with the joy.” It makes sense that we should end our day the same, finding a way to experience joy before attempting a restful sleep.

    Like

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