A few days after New Year’s I was at my chiropractor’s office. When he walked in to the room, he said to me in a booming voice: “You seem like a highly motivated person, what are your goals for the new year?”
He was very obviously expecting an “eat less, exercise more” type of response. He’s young and still hasn’t figured out I don’t choose to fit neatly into one category or another. He was a little put off by my answer that I didn’t believe in yearly goals, that I felt like I needed to do “all the things on the daily.” I tried to explain to him that I personally believe that our birthday is the start of our individual New Year, not some day that was arbitrarily decided on to help people look forward during the darkest, bleakest part of the year.
I was totally serious what I said about what I said about doing things on the daily. For years I have kept a weekly to-do list on a spreadsheet. It is color-coded (because I LOVE color-coding,) and organized into daily and weekly goals. It has helped me stay on top of the parts of my life I consider important. This spreadsheet is a valuable tool for someone who’s attention is easily diverted by an interesting article or a creative project.
My list usually has 12-20 goals for each day, in addition to a half dozen goals for the week. I have color coded the items I want to prioritize on any given day, so I know that if I can only check off that one thing I have still accomplished something. These are not necessarily big or intimidating tasks; they’re mostly pretty mundane but they keep me on task.
This spreadsheet is not static; as my priorities change, my list changes. I will add or delete things if I feel the need. I also re-prioritize fairly frequently to be sure that what I’m putting my energy into is still important to me.
Some of the items on my current list are as simple as playing the daily games that I am hoping will help keep my brain more flexible as I age. Some of the items, especially on the weekly portion, are there to help me stay on top of things that are important, like watering the plants, going to the grocery store, and doing the laundry. I also keep track of my weekly menu on this spreadsheet, because left to my own devices I would eat out pretty much every meal.
All of these things help me stay organized. I want to spread my time and energy among multiple focuses. This list keeps me moving forward instead of stagnating in the trap of repeating the same things day after day. The list also helps me stick to the habits I feel are crucial to my mental and physical health.
Because my chiropractor’s subject of the day was goals, he rationalized my answer by categorizing my process as being a method of setting goals. Technically he was right, my list keeps track of daily goals. But my list takes the form of actions performed on a daily basis, not big goals for the year. Do they help me keep my bigger picture goals? Yes, but the flexibility and frequent recalibration feels way more practical to me than just making resolutions once a year.
I hope everyone who makes a yearly resolution embraces that resolution and maintains their better habits for life. I totally support self-improvement in whatever form it may take and that works for each individual. For myself, I will continue to work with, and fine-tune, my daily to-do list.
A year is a big commitment. One day at time works much better for me.