I don’t like the idea of new years resolutions. You’re already dealing with short days, cold weather, and the post-Christmas slump; why throw in an attempt to devote what little energy you have left to cultivating difficult habits?
That said, there’s nothing more uplifting than noticing the small victories. So, I’ve found myself taking a backwards approach to resolutions: I note any good habits (big or small) that I’ve picked up recently, categorise them under “New Years Resolutions”, and instantly feel buoyed by the good company I am in of fellow resolvers who are trying to make much bigger changes (and complaining about it already.)
So, here are my top three habits-turned-resolutions for 2013:
1. Keep a work journal
As a refreshing antidote to the utilitarian week-to-view, spiral-bound affair that is my diary, firm stalwart of my desk that it is, the journal is a much more svelte and beautiful thing. A6, brown, and feint ruled, in it I note down the date and every day jot down tasks I’ve done as I complete them.
There are two instant benefits to this:
The first is that just the act of writing stuff down makes you a whole lot more likely to remember it, which is a huge advantage to tasks which are ongoing over a number of days. Noting progress makes it much easier to come back to another day without feeling lost, and even if you do then having a summary of where you got to earlier in the week is extremely helpful.
The second benefit is again in the small victories: looking at a bunch of stuff you’ve done that day written down on a page is much more satisfying than looking at a list of scribbled out items.
2. Set the alarm for 6:30am every day (and get to bed by 11pm)
After many years of late nights and groggy mornings, desperately trying to deny the fact that I really am a morning person, I have finally managed to make this one stick recently. As a work-from-home type I could happily sleep in late if it suited me better. But the point is that it doesn’t, and starting work at 7am after 7.5 hours sleep is the biggest thing I’ve done to feel more awake in general and better able to make use of the day.
Discovering when you’re most productive, and fitting everything around it as far as possible, is invaluable. The added bonus is that keeping a regular schedule means much better sleep on the whole (I am a big fan of sleep!).
3. Use a spark file
This is an idea I first came across in Hacker News, and you can read Steven Johnson’s original post on it here. The idea is that you keep a file somewhere – personally I use Evernote but anything similar will do – and in it goes all of your uncensored ideas as and when they come to you.
Because they’re all in one place, this file quickly becomes fairly substantial, but the key point is that you look through it properly every month or two. This allows you to see points you may have repeated, ideas which relate to other points, and so on.
Personally, just the fact that I have one place to offload all the miscellaneous stuff is a great feeling: it’s nice to be able to brain-dump somewhere and do something about an idea without having to give any more thought to it.
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