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2020's New York Resolutions in Review, and Why Your Bedroom is Still Ugly

Friday December 4, 2020

Well, here we are at the end of what has been a bit of a long and annoying year. It’s time to review my new year’s resolutions before dreaming up the new ones.

(By the way, I’ve started calling my New Year’s Resolutions “New York Resolutions.” I don’t know why. I made this typo earlier in the year and decided I like the way it sounds. I also refer to them as “NYR” below.)

So, some lessons learned, about 2020’s New York Resolutions:

COVID Chaos

I’ll just note up front that every one of my resolutions was negatively impacted by COVID-19, and about 25% were made significantly harder, or completely irrelevant, by COVID-19.

An example of a mostly-irrelevant resolution would be, “upgrade your wardrobe a bit, like get some new pants” which suddenly made very little sense compared to my new goals of 1) getting used to lots of Zoom calls, 2) helping my friends and family stay happy and healthy, and 3) generally not dying.

Still, even in all the excitement, I was glad to be able to push forward on most of the resolutions. It felt resilient and healthy to do so.

Milestones

I keep a separate list of what I call “Milestones.” This list includes some things that I planned and accomplished, but it also includes things I didn’t plan for, that were kind of random, but that were still really cool or noteworthy, or even sadly transformative on a personal level.

Examples:

  • We hit the five-year INTJ blog anniversary! What a great experience this has been.
  • I published FE2M and the A2i Loop concept, and made an early start on Capture Mapping.
  • I started a new framework for learning more about CAD software, and made some first big steps in learning CAD. I have some projects for which this ought to be useful in the distant future. (I have done a lot of 3D modeling, texturing, lighting, rendering, and animation, but I know relatively little about CAD)
  • I purchased a vintage musical keyboard that I owned as a kid, cleaned it up a bit, and spent some time re-learning it and even continuing with some old goals I had as a kid. This was a lot of fun and I recorded it as a milestone as a form of encouragement, and also as an opening to reflect on what I like about music, and how music influenced me in the past.
  • A friend defended me to the point of fiercely standing up for me to another “friend”. This one still reads as a bit immature and little-picture, almost like part of a soap opera. But I’m learning that it’s important for INTJs to give attention to this kind of thing, in order to be happy, balanced, and active in real life’s occasionally important drama. This one was an important milestone for me because processing the event helped me understand better what it means to have a true friend, compared to a friend who is more of a douchebag. (I feel like I should have learned this lesson many years ago in grade school, but some lessons we have to learn across different contexts, over time, and with different details in the picture.)
  • Alex Trebek passed away. This is one of the few entries where I included a celebrity passing away, but his presence made my life more interesting and enjoyable. This milestone gave me an opportunity to reflect on my childhood, which was generally pleasant exactly because shows like Jeopardy were on the air. This event also helped me reflect on the kind of things I’d like to do going forward.

I hit 50 milestones in 2020 by November 14, and this made me happy, but a lot of the happiness comes from the activity of recording the milestones.

So: If you aren’t recording little milestones that you hit in your life, I encourage you to do that. It’s a good way of keeping a simple life history without all the writing. I use really simple bullet points.

Some Tips on Organization and Measurement

I keep a separate text file where I list my resolutions. More on this later. But one thing I do inside this text file is label each resolution with progress markers from Task BATL.

A couple of examples:

  • [F-0_] Start using dust covers on tools in the workshop.
  • [V-4i] Improve the website for your calculator collection (25m)
    • x Switch to a new layout format
    • x Use a really lightweight CSS framework
    • Decide which platform to use for the database (10m, make a comparative list between 2-3 options)
    • Break the content into separate pages (5m, copy & paste into separate files or db entries)
    • Publish and redirect URLs (10m)

These are really simple examples, showing that the first item, relating to general comfort, specifically quality-of-life items (F or circle items) hasn’t been started and has no structure. The second item, a values-based goal (V, or diamond, related to personal values) is about 50% done on a 0-9 scale.

The second item also includes the i indicator after the progress scale, meaning that it includes in-depth time and task clarity. This increases the likelihood that the item will be accomplished.

The first item shows an underscore, indicating that it still needs to be estimated in this way. This is a sign that a goal or resolution is lacking in clarity. Clarity is important for lots of different things.

Well, this notation has been super helpful in 2020. It’s easier to accomplish a 10-minute task than to accomplish one that’s (length unknown). And it feels good to do everything in my power to make a goal easier. It’s just one less mental excuse.

A Little Bit of Measured Progress is Great

I also discovered that even only reaching 20% or 40% progress by the end of the year feels really good, as long as I measured the progress, and knew what to do next. In other words, at the end of this year, an F-2 is totally fine. A V-5 is awesome.

I didn’t expect that it would feel this good just to have a really clear and substantial foothold.

Easiest-first Works Best for Me

I like to keep my list ordered, from top to bottom. So far, easiest-first ordering works best. Here’s what easiest-first ordering means:

  • If it sounds interesting to me, it’s easier.
  • If I know all the steps, it’s easier.
  • If it won’t take long, it’s easier.
  • If there’s a really tempting reward at the end, it’s easier.

And then it follows that the lower-down, harder resolutions are:

  • Less interesting
  • Less clear
  • Longer in duration
  • Not as clearly related to tempting rewards

This helps me determine whether I remove the lower-down resolutions entirely, or mark them like [F-F] or [V-F], (F is for “Forward”) which means I’ve decided to put them on hold while I think about them, maybe for next year.

Calendared Reminders were Kind of Lame

I ignored about 75% of my calendared reminders to review my resolutions. This was mostly OK, but I didn’t like how it felt.

Next year I will place NYR on my weekend template, rather than on my main calendar. The weekend template is much better suited to big-picture thinking and planning, and encourages a looser approach (I’m trying to bring my weekday template closer to this kind of thing, too).

Some Money Lessons

Prioritizing money for hobbies was hard this year. I have a VERY dominant preference to spend my hobby money in little bits here and there, as my fancy strikes.

I know this is not optimal in the thinking sense, because we have big moves to make here, so why are you buying comic books and toys and candy and random MP3s by obscure musicians? But I have to do something with my feelings, because feelings are what hobbies are about, and this feels really good, spreading those creative wings broader here and there, in little ways.

As an example, I did not buy the expensive ham radio transceiver that I thought would be really cool. DEFINITELY BUY THAT, went my thinking at the time. MAKE IT A RESOLUTION. But that was also a resolution built on a particularly high emotional wave.

And I feel good about watching that wave come and go. Not buying that really cool thing made room for lots of neat little experiences. The fun was just spread around a bit, increasing the likelihood that when I wasn’t really drawn into the radio archetype, I’d be able to enjoy spending my energy on something else.

So this practice is generally more fulfilling to me in a big way. But this means that as hobbies get more expensive, I need to find new ways to approach those hobbies, finding the less-expensive part of the hobby.

I like this cost-savings challenge. To continue with the ham radio example, I can find ways to have more fun with my existing gear, or I can explore the theory side of the hobby, or I can write more instructional materials for others. There’s a lot that can be done to enjoy a hobby without spending money.

Bridging the Two Pictures

In personality type, we talk a lot about the “big picture” and the “little picture.” For example, intuitive processes (N) are sometimes explained as big-picture practices, and sensory processes (S) are explained as little-picture practices.

Sometimes the big picture needs more attention. Sometimes the little picture needs attention. I know I’ve said before: Big-picture goals really help me act in a flexible way. As an INTJ with that N intuition factor, that makes a lot of sense.

In my goal setting though, it’s bridging the two that seems most crucial. In fact, it’s not always clear whether one is working with the little picture or the big picture. It’s more like the direction of one’s attention that’s important:

  • Is my new painting hobby the big picture? Should I make some specific goals within painting, or should I move bigger-picture and explore art in general?
  • Do I really want to get better at list-keeping, or should I maybe explore the role of lists in my big-picture, general organization practice?
  • Do I want to cruise through another year of letting relationship details stay loose, or would it help me to go little-picture and set some specific boundaries here and there?

As an example of bridging the two: Big-picture goals like “give more hugs” might seem appropriate given the relative lack of importance of the goal. Especiallly compared to something like “save to buy a car.” But this goal can feel very frustrating in the end if not accomplished even a little bit. So some little-picture steps, like “make a list of people I like to hug,” “figure out substitutes for hugs during COVID,” or “hug your kids before school each morning” could really help.

I consider these steps a bridge down from the big picture to the little picture, with the “littlest picture” being things like “pick out a place to make a list,” or “ask friends how they are showing affection these days.”

Goals Started, Goals Quit

New year’s resolutions lists are also useful as a way to determine just how important a goal might be. For example, if all of your goals about writing books are being put off again and again, maybe you need to get organized, or just work harder. But maybe those incomplete goals are also telling you: “Don’t worry about this goal, it won’t be as helpful as you think, for all the trouble it will cause.” This is a very intuitive prompting. It’s more like a distant feeling or nudge.

Sometimes it’s really important to get off the rails we’ve created for ourselves, and that’s hard.

Planning Alone is a Good Outcome

We humans love to tell each other: Do it.

But in analyzing my goal activities, I found that I really appreciated goals that started with, and even ended with, “make a plan.” This kind of basic foothold-making is a really good goal for me, even if it’s a bit less tangible than having done the thing.

I usually end up creating a well-structured text file with a to-do list, some next steps, a log, and links to resources. When I return to the goal later, I can make a little bit of progress, or a lot, and the structure really helps in either case.

Making Outside Connections is Important

Some goals come from areas that are so new that a lot of outside consultation or even just venting is needed.

For example, let’s say you’re annoyed that your bedroom doesn’t look like the ones in the pictures you see online. Your wish is to sleep inside a veritable work of art like you’ve seen on Instagram.

As it is, you’ve still got a large, half-filled cardboard box next to your bed from last year’s cleaning session. A long, ugly, extension cord stretches across your room to where you charge your phone. And your ramshackle nightstand, a freebie from a relative, not exactly ugly, but also looking pretty outdated, supports a tall and dusty stack of books.

In this case there are a couple of big disadvantages:

  • You don’t have any experience creating Instagram-friendly bedrooms. This is huge. You have no idea how much of the effect comes from reduction, how much comes from cleaning, how much is painting, how much is lighting, and how much is photography. This alone can be a silent goal-killer.
  • A lot of different, detailed changes are probably necessary: Strategizing about different ways to charge your phone, what to do with the things in the cardboard box, and how to replace, dispose of, or otherwise upgrade the nightstand.

In this kind of situation, I think it’s reasonable to expect a lot of annoyance, mental blocks, and general lack of momentum. And in that kind of situation, there’s nothing like a good venting session to start to break through. Something must be done with the emotion, or, worst case, it will take care of itself through an unwanted outburst or other cringy moments.

So, I do find that it’s nice to be able to consult with others. People usually want to help, if they can. And a lot of people have resources or experiences that I don’t. In the example above, I wouldn’t be surprised if among a group of 2-3 friends or family members, you found one or two with some helpful advice, or maybe even one with a spare nightstand. Regardless, it’s the reaching out that really counts—this alone helps to settle the emotional balance and open up the door to future bursts of activity.

Some Personal Goal Examples from 2020

Here are some updates on specific goals I mentioned last year.

1. Refine my meta-organizational system for documents, frameworks, and general information

This has gone really well. As one example, when I started using text files as my main method for organization and logging, I created more files (more specific topics) than I needed. So I consolidated a lot of them, and this made it easier to find stuff.

One of the reasons I used to make different text files was that I didn’t like to scroll around so much. But now I use tags, ToCs, and the same general organization principle for every text file. So scrolling and using textual search isn’t a big deal at all, and I know where to find stuff.

2. Enhance my publishing system. Right now if I want to publish to PDF or e-Book or HTML it’s not too bad, but it could be a lot better.

This got a little better, and I made about 30% progress. I am absolutely OK with that. Lots of other, more important goals were on the list.

3. Become more of a this-or-that kind of person (not quite ready to share this yet, as 2020 is oddly specific…but I thought I’d mention the type of goal, as it’s been helpful in years past)

I made 20% progress on my “becoming” goal because it involved being around other people, and COVID totally smashed this one to bits.

4. Make more use of my Coaching website for publishing.

I made only a tiny bit of progress on this goal. Why? Well, I discovered that I have conflicting goals for my Coaching website, so reconciling those possible projects and outcomes has become a new goal.

But there were more…

I wrapped up the year with about 25 resolutions on my list, and I removed about 10-15 throughout the year. Some of my favorites were those that I added about halfway through the year.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it for now. A long post for sure, but it’s been helpful to review here and solidify my thoughts. I hope some of this has been useful to you as well.

Overall my NYR log for 2020 looks like a murder scene, with lots of edits, moves, updates, time estimates, sub-projects, and so on. And I really like this look. It looks like progress.

Here’s to a massively-improved 2021!

Filed in: /17/ | /50/ | /46/ | /84/ | /38/ | /99/

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