Here's a funny little take-away I got from, of all places, my day job: You shouldn't have too many serious goals at one time. Our annual performance review process allows for up to – but not exceeding – five major goals for each year, and my last several supervisors (I get a new one each year, thanks to the Major Corporate Machine's constant reorganizing) have stressed that you really should try to have no more than three.
So I've spent the last few weeks thinking about my New Year's resolutions, and pondering what are the priorities I have in my life right now, and what are the few things that I really care about changing. What are the things that I'm willing to put some energy into improving? At the moment, my priority list looks like this:
Effort #1: Stop watching so much freaking TV. I've lost whole days to the tube, lately. I'm trying to get caught up on a bunch of shows, and they're great and fun, but in the meantime, I'm not doing anything productive. This, by the way, also includes watching DVDs and shows on YouTube. Basically, any time spent passively watching a screen. It does not, however, include watching movies with friends or on a date, because those are social activities.
Effort #2: Be more productive. There are a gajillion projects I want or need to do. Writing and editing. Promotion of my writing, which is a whole job unto itself. I have an embarrasingly high stack of books I've been meaning to read. Scrapbooking, a little, at least to finish out the year in which I last left off. Re-organize and redecorate the house (or at least parts of it). Some of these are open-ended tasks, some of them are huge, and some just require me to get off my ass and do them.
Effort #3: Be more social. This falls into three sub-categories:
Effort #3a: Family: I'd like to spend more time with my brother and sister-in-law, who are actually fantastic people and who only live half an hour away, which makes it completely stupid that I only see them a few times a year. I'd also like to make a point of talking to my parents (who likewise live only half an hour away) at least once a week.
Effort #3b: Friends: I'd like to spend more time with various friends. It's come to my attention lately that, due to my proper Southern upbringing, I am intensely uncomfortable with inviting myself along on events or over to friends' houses, while the truth is that most of my friends are not only open but enthusiastic about this sort of thing.
Effort #3c: Dating: I've been separated for the best part of half a year now, and I think I'm ready to look around out there again. It's been entirely too long since I've dated, so it's hard to make resolutions about this, but I want to remember not to simply settle, and not to neglect my friends in the event that someone wonderful does come along.
Effort #4: Be a better parent. I waste far too much of my time with my kids. Penny was unequivocally enthusiastic about the time I had lunch with her at school; I'd like to do that more often. I'd also like to get them excited about things and do things with them that get us all out of the house once in a while.
Note #1: I'm okay with having four goals instead of just three, because accomplishing the less-TV goal will actually make it easier to work on the others: by watching less TV, I will have more time to spend on the projects and people on which my other three goals are focused.
Note #2: I feel like working on my weight should be somewhere on that list – exercising more and/or eating better – it falls pretty low on my list of priorities. It shouldn't, but it just does. It's not like I'm going to completely forget about my health or anything, but I'm going to give myself permission not to stress over it this year. Maybe, as I get wrapped up in projects and people and spend more time doing things instead of staring at a screen and chewing my cud, some health improvement will happen organically. And if not, then that's okay, too, and I can worry about diet and exercise again next year, when all this stuff has gotten wrapped into my personal patterns and habits.
It's a lot of stuff to wrap my head around, and it's all but impossible to make rules covering everything here and expect to actually follow them all. I've been turning the whole mess around in my head for a while, as I said, and here's the ideas I've come up with to (hopefully) make it work, along with their explanations and notes:
The List: Because my schedules and deadlines are so ephemeral, there's no way to just assign myself a day-by-day task list. So each day, I will evaluate my situation, and assign myself a reasonable productivity list. That list will include not only big project stuff (e.g., edit 2 stories, spend 2 hours writing, scrapbook 2 months' worth of pictures, etc.) but also the little, routine stuff (e.g., take out the trash, write a blog entry, make lunches, etc.) that has to fit into my schedule. The list will take into account whether I happen to have the kids that day, planned activities, and my general well-being. (As I write this, for example, I've got a sinus infection or a cold or something similar, and so I give myself permission to be a little slack on the productivity front – not to skip it entirely, because I'm not that sick, but to choose tasks that suit my current mental and physical state. I can do some editing right now, for example, but I feel way too mentally blah to want to do anything creative, like writing.) They may include large tasks (e.g., clean out and re-organize the pantry) or small ones (e.g., make an appointment with the eye doctor). There will be no time limit, either minimum or maximum. The goal here is a list of things that I can look at an think, “Yes, that seems like a day that was not wasted.”
TV: Until the day's productivity goals are done, I get no more than 1 hour of TV. (Yes, I'm letting myself have some TV before I do my work. I sometimes want to watch YouTube videos in the morning while the kids are eating breakfast, or unwind with a show while I have dinner by myself.) Once the day's goals are all met, I can watch all the TV I want. (Nyah.)
Parenting: One day in the next week, one of my goals will be to make up a schedule for things to do with the kids. That schedule will include: 1 day each month that I will have lunch with each kid (2 lunches/month, not including summer break), and 1 day each month that we will do an out-of-house activity, along with a list of activity options. Once that schedule is made up, I'll load those dates and activities into my calendars so that I remember to do them. That's not saying I won't need to change some of them, but it takes less inertia to move a date than to create it.
Social Stuff: This one is trickier, because it necessarily involves other people. And unlike my children, I don't have significant control over my friends' and families' schedules. I do want to take at least two solo long-weekend type vacations this year, at least one of which will be to an author's convention (GayRomLit or somesuch, depending on how the schedules fall out) where I can meet some of the Torquere staff in person; the other will either be to visit a friend or see a new place; I'm not sure yet. I want to make a date with KT and Kevin to come down to their house every so often (once a month? Every six weeks? Eight?) during the week, on a night I'm child-free, just to hang out. And ditto for hanging out with Jenn and Brian. And my friends who live in town, too, but those are easier to arrange and don't so much need to be scheduled to remind me to do it. But I need to remind myself that it's okay to say, “Hey, what's going on; can I come over and hang out?” and that if the answer is that they're too busy, it doesn't mean I'm being rude and needy; it means THEY'RE TOO BUSY, and I should try again another time.
So there are my New Year's resolutions. I don't know if I'll stick to it. Sometimes, YouTube is just too compelling, sometimes I go through mental downs where I don't want to be social, and sometimes, my kids are infuriating and don't deserve to be taken out anywhere. Such is life.
But here's the thing about a resolution. It's not an unbreakable vow. It's resolve. You plunge into the fight and sometimes you take a hit, but resolve is squaring your shoulders and going right back in. If these annual goals and targets were easy, they wouldn't be so significant.
I grew up in a house surrounded by art inspired by Don Quixote and Man of La Mancha, after all. It would be a little crazy if I didn't want to reach for unreachable stars once in a while.