I have a friend who hates New Year’s resolutions because he says we should be constantly trying to grow. I say he’s fifty percent right. We should be constantly trying to grow and resolutions are a great way to do that. They are a natural starting point for making the year and our lives better. For instance, resolutions can include taking a vacation (my favourite resolution), reading a book (an easy resolution), buying Christmas presents before December (a great resolution for husbands). What people tend to screw up is they make terrible resolutions that are doomed to fail. For instance, resolving to be happier or to be nicer are awful goals because what does that mean? Resolutions (aka goals) need to be measureable. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina, Brad Pitt formed a charity to help a specific area build 150 well-designed, green, affordable homes. Other groups said, “We’re going to help,” but if it’s not measureable like 150 homes, how do you know when you’ve done enough? Keeping it measureable is important.
Keeping it measureable in a constructive way is also important. For instance, saying, “I’m going to lose forty pounds,” is measureable, but it’s dangerous because many people lose the forty and then get lazy with the goal being achieved and then gain it all back. People also have a tendency to go too big: “I never work out, but this year I’m going to work out three days a week!” A smarter resolution is “I’m going to work out once a week every Saturday morning for two months (specific), and then add in Tuesday night for the next two months. After that, I’ll see if my schedule can allow me to do three times or not.” See how measureable that is with specific days chosen and how it’s gradual? This resolution is much more likely to be kept. Most times it’s better to keep changes to the routine simple and then slowly increase it.
Following this advice, here’s my challenge: Get a large paper calendar that you enjoy looking at (easy enough) and use it to track your monthly goals (that’s a little harder).
Writing out your monthly goals can take three forms (pick one to try). The first is simple since it’s looking over the year and dividing things up. For instance, this can be when you’ll do family dinners, friend nights, date nights, sex nights, girls’/guys’ nights, vacations, when to put up Christmas decorations, when to do certain jobs you want done around the house, etc. This is a great way to take pressure off you in the moment because it can feel like a mountain of things need to get done if you see all of it at once. If you divide the jobs up over the year, it can free your brain to focus on what needs to be done now. This is big picture thinking, and a great way to make sure you make time to do the things that are important to you. This is essentially having a budget for your time.
The second form is writing monthly goals at the beginning of each month as they come up. I did this last year and it was amazing how much it helped me feel a sense of accomplishment and reduce feeling overwhelmed. For instance, for August my goals were to enjoy my week vacation, pack, unpack, write five weddings, perform three weddings, and clean the gutters. Because it was spread over the month, I didn’t get discouraged if one day suddenly got busy and prevented me from doing it since I had the rest of the month. This is particularly helpful for wives who want to get their husbands to do certain jobs around the house because if guys are given a month to do the agreed upon chores, they can have some control for when they do it and it helps the wives not have to nag. Even better, if the guy doesn’t finish the tasks by the end of the month, his wife now has proof that he ignores her wants and she has a right to feel hurt, which is very logical preventing the guy from brushing her off as being too emotional and controlling.
Finally, the calendar can be used to track certain behaviors as they happen like who cooked dinner, sex nights, family time, etc. This can be particularly helpful to keep track of bad behaviors that need to be reduced like yelling fits, drinking, and how many times the partner looks at their phone when they shouldn’t. When both people know the action is being tracked, it can encourage better behavior and record the improvement, which is great for celebrating, and better behavior should be celebrated. For instance, going one month without drinking should be celebrated by someone who is trying to quit.
This New Year make your resolution to use a calendar.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)