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We’re into the third week of the year, which for most people means the new year’s resolutions are fading into the background.
And it’s no wonder, considering the mere statement of resolution is a bit lame and tame. “I resolve to…” Starting a plan that way sounds vague, almost wish-like.
And let’s be honest. If you do make resolutions, they can become high maintenance in a flash. They nag at you, remind you that you have unfinished business, and demand accountability – until you stop taking them seriously.
The reasons why resolutions tend not to work are many and varied, depending entirely on the complexities of the individual, but the fact that they transmute so quickly from imperative to ignored says everything.
Have I convinced you yet that I’m not a fan of resolutions? Good. Because I’m going to ask you to stop doing them. Right now. There are better methods out there that can help you chart a better course for yourself and kick your productivity into high gear.
Here are a few to consider:
A vision board is a series of images clustered together, something like a collage, that is used to help clarify and keep focus on the things you want to achieve or acquire. A vision board puts what you want into visual form. It’s not just written down: You can see it. There is something powerful about having your dreams in concrete form in front of you.
- Creating a vision board is a creative exercise.
- You can change or update it as often as you want.
- Working on a vision board can be revealing in that it might help tap into subconscious desires.
- The vision board can double as a work of art. After you create it, put it on the wall.
- It only shows the end results – the things you’re aiming for – without considering the means to get there.
How to get started?
Grab a poster board, some colorful magazines, scissors, some glue (or tape), and piece together what you want your future to look like.
Habit tracking is the act of monitoring specific things you do every day. These behavioral changes can help you achieve small goals that eventually add up to significant improvements in your life.
- Habit tracking provides the means to an end – or to other changes.
- You can measure the progress you’re making; or, if you’re not making progress, the tracking might help you understand the reason why, and you can take steps to improve.
- There are several habit tracking apps to help you keep track of your progress.
- There’s a psychological reward in “checking the box” when you meet the goal.
- When the habit is established (i.e., has become automatic), you can stop tracking it and move on to others.
- Habit tracking is high maintenance, requiring constant monitoring and accountability.
How to get started?
Get a calendar, a dot journal, or a spreadsheet, and create a daily checklist of things you want to become a habit. Alternately, you can download a habit tracking app, and it’ll do a lot of this for you. Check the things you do each day; leave blank the things you don’t do that day. (Honesty is a must here.) Your progress will be easy to spot.
Setting intentions is the practice of becoming “on purpose” in your daily life. With a starting point of “I intend to…” (and checking your fears at the door), your purposeful intentions essentially draw a map of where you want to go. Though they sound like resolutions, intentions are typically more positive-focused than resolutions and are therefore easier to commit to.
- Setting intentions helps bring your heart and mind into alignment, allowing you to consider the “why” behind your intentions.
- Intentions begin with a focus on what you want to achieve, which can help you envision the means to get there.
- You can develop a stronger sense of connection to your plans.
- Intention setting involves appreciating the journey, not just arriving at the destination.
- You must find a way to make the intentions measurable and accountable.
How to get started?
Open your journal book every day (I recommend doing this in the morning) and start with “I intend to…” and keep writing until all of your hopes, dreams, and desires are examined. Get into the “why” of it. Ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Why do I want this? Be ready to reconsider some of your intentions as you get the answers to these questions.
At first glance, goal setting may sound like intention setting (which itself may sound like resolutions), but there are differences – the key difference being that goal setting is specific and defined, whereas the other two are often broad-based and vague.
- Goals involve specific achievements, which help lay out the path to get there.
- Goals require action, which keeps them from being pie-in-the-sky wishes.
- Goals are typically time-bound, which means there will be a deadline to meet.
- Similar to habit tracking, there’s a psychological reward in “checking the box” when you meet the goal.
- Depending on how many goals you set for yourself, you might become overwhelmed, creating unnecessary stress and pressure.
- The goal must be attainable within a reasonable amount of time or you’ll set yourself up for failure.
How to get started?
Whether you use a calendar, spreadsheet, chart, or some other tool, there is one thing you must do: Write it down. Goal setting does not work if you keep it all in your head. Write down what you want to achieve, make plans for how and when you’ll work toward that goal, and track the progress. My personal favorite tool for goal setting is the comprehensive checklist I created, which you can check out here.
Test these out and see which fits your style. And you don’t have to limit yourself to one. You can do a vision board and goal setting, or habit tracking and intention setting. Or all four.
Whatever you choose, go with it at full speed and full confidence.
And remember what Mark Twain said: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Today we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights activist who delivered one of the most powerful speeches in history in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.
The speech is a total of 1667 words, every one of them meaningful, and not one of them wasted.
You can hear the speech thanks to this recording from the U.S. Archives.
I’m hard pressed to come up with a favorite part, because all of it is magnificent. However, if I HAD to choose, these two would be among the top contenders:
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
This one too:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.
It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Click here for more Vim & Verve.
I confess. I’m something of a to-do list fanatic. Give me some lines with checkboxes and I’m in heaven. This is how I keep track of everything in my life.
Over the years I’ve looked into a lot of different systems. And while I haven’t ever found one system that works, I have discovered that I can pull pieces of many different systems and make them work for me.
And that’s what it all comes down to – what works for the individual.
I offer here what’s been working for me (i.e., my compilation of various systems) in the event any of you out there want to take this and incorporate pieces of it for yourself.
This is what it looks like:
I track six days’ worth of activities, and my week is Monday–Sunday, so Saturday and Sunday are lumped together.
After keying in the specific dates (i.e., WEEK OF 1/11 – 1/17), I list in order of importance:
Row 1 – Most Important Things (MITs). These are, as stated, most important. They’re the things that will move my career forward, win the deal, give me a sense of accomplishment, etc. If I accomplish nothing else during the week, I want to hit these.
Row 2 – Tasks. These are not as mission-critical as the MITs, but they’re things that must be done, so I don’t want to lose sight of them.
Row 3 – Routine Items. These are everyday things that I might forget if I get too busy. Plus, I like checking them off. On my list, I have things like doing blog posts, exercising and taking vitamins. (Yes, I am prone to forget to exercise and take vitamins. Seeing it in print is a good reminder.)
Below the three to-do rows is where I list info on my current projects to keep them in front of me.
At the bottom are two “parking lots” where I keep track of things that need to get onto the calendar (i.e., usually into the MIT or Task rows) eventually and the list of long-term projects (e.g., pruning the berry plants, which I won’t do until the Fall).
The page is laid out on 8.5×11, landscape. The gap in the middle of the grid allows you to fold the paper without creasing over any text.
For some people this might look like overkill to the Nth degree. But it’s a system that works really well for me.
Want a free Word version of this to tinker with on your own? Drop a comment below.
Grammarcat couldn’t agree more with the first part.
Click to embiggen.
See more of the Belle Tower Epistle comic strip.
Today is Epiphany in the Christian church calendar.
Now, I’ve already mentioned the significance of this in terms of holiday decorations, but today I refer to Epiphany for an entirely different reason: It marks the start of a new Wednesday feature called Right Now.
This new feature is all about productivity, time management, and energy management. Essentially, it’s taking a butt-in-chair approach to getting projects done.
Which is where I am this year. I’m on a dedicated mission to get my articles and other assignments filed, my blog posts posted, my books written, my ebooks published, and my screenplays to “fade out.”
But you and I both know that those words aren’t going to write themselves. It’s going to take management to do it, and by that, I mean serious management of my time and energy.
So what does this have to do with Epiphany?
This holiday, in the Christian church calendar, is also known as Three Kings’ Day, when the magi visited the Christ child, bearing gifts. So, metaphorically, this focus on industrious use of time and energy can be a gift to myself and my projects.
Or, without delving too much into the theological aspect, the word epiphany also means manifestation or showing forth, a sudden revelation or insight, a transmuting of a belief into a realistic experience.
Which is a bit like taking thoughts and making a blog post or an article or a novel out of them, right?
Or, to narrow it further, it’s an emphasis on light and vitality: the spark! And when there’s a spark, energy naturally flows.
In these Wednesday posts, I’m going to talk a lot about sparks and energy management. There’s a connection between enthusiasm (the spark) and energy. Have you ever noticed that when you’re pumped about a project, the energy to get it done is almost self-generating? It’s true.
I believe maintaining positive energy is the key to seeing a project through all the way to completion, especially long-term projects like novels and screenplays.
And that’s how the mission gets accomplished.
If you choose to come along on these Wednesday adventures, and I hope you do, here’s your first assignment. Give some serious thought to these two questions:
- What sparks you?
- What are you doing about it?
Search your heart. Journal about it. Throw the questions out to the universe. Ask close friends what they think the answers are.
And then come back next week for more ideas and insights on how to keep the creativity flowing.
By the way, why am calling this feature “Right Now”?
Because there is no time like the present, as the saying goes.
Because putting off your creativity does not serve you or anyone else.
Because the world is waiting for your work, and there is not a moment to waste.
The calendar says today is January 4, which means Christmas is over and we’re into a new year. This much we know to be true.
And yet: There are technically a few more days of Christmas left. And by technically, I mean if you follow the church calendar, Christmas keeps on keeping on until Epiphany (January 6). Which is why some people keep their decorations up until then.
Ha! Not me.
Sure, I follow the church calendar too, but when it comes to the trees and lights and garland and elves (whether on shelves or not), it’s high time they all went back to their storage bins and hibernated for about 11 months.
Not that I’m anti-Christmas or anti-holiday or anti-anything. My official policy is that the holidays are delightful. Enchanting. Blessed. And let’s be honest, a season of good cheer and good will to all is a pretty darn good thing, especially in this day and age – and this is only one reason why I celebrate it.
In fact, I’ve mentioned before how I love the magical tranquility of the days before Christmas.
But here’s the thing. It’s a season. Which is to say that it has its moment in the sun, after which it is meant to fade into the background, at least for a while, to be replaced by the next season.
And that next season is known as: Okay, everybody, up and moving, time to get organized. Or, as some call it: the new year.
For me – the consummate organizer – that season can’t come too soon. Almost as soon as the gifts are unwrapped, I’m ready to move on and get the house back in order. That table has been over in that corner making room for the tree for far too long. That garland wrapped around the banister is becoming an eyesore. The candelabras in the picture window are getting on my last nerve.
I need my house back, y’all. My surroundings require a place for everything and everything in its place.
The new year is here. I have a colossal project list, along with a daily planner that, if all holds true, indicates I will have to schedule my headaches. So be it. I’m ready for a substantial to-do list and the work it will take to get it done. I need checklists is what I’m saying.
As we move away from the meandering of the holidays and pick up the pace toward efficiency and productivity, I have a strong urge to enter the new year unfettered by the ghosts of months past.
My breakup letter to the past year notwithstanding, I’m done with excoriating 2020, as if continuing to rake it over the coals would mitigate one millisecond of the angst it caused.
To everything there is a season, so the scriptures tell us. Maybe the time for beating up 2020 is over. You’re forgiven, 2020. Go in peace.
Let bygones be bygones, I say. Let’s start fresh, with no past recriminations, no grudges held, no burdens of regrets and misgivings to carry around.
There’s a year to take hold of and make the most of.
Let’s get on with it.