New (Year’s) Resolution Mechanics

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions. They feel so much like shoveling ahead everything we hate about ourselves.

Much like everyone else’s, my last year has been filled with ups and downs. And like many, when I get introspective about the past, I tend to focus more on what worked less than what worked great.

I’d like to break that cycle. As I write these lines on January 1st 2014, I look back to the last year and decide to pick up on the best things that happened to me, my greatest personal achievements.  The more I think about it, the longer the list gets: Working on the Firefly RPG, working on the Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide, writing my very first RPG with Dave, attending my first convention with my son… but among them all, two stand out as those I’m proudest of:

I stopped drinking diet sodas and I managed to establish a regimen of regular exercise.

I managed to pull these last two lifestyle changes by using a simple technique I wrote about a few months ago. It worked so well I’m going to make using it as my only resolution: I will commit to change just one habit per month. I’ll focus on habits that will make me either healthier, help me take better care of my life or become more productive. I will pick the habit to change on a month-by-month basis, with the help of my tribe in order to gain the most benefits.

If I manage it, I will reward myself. If I don’t I’ll recommit to it the next month or choose a more realistic habit change.

As of today, here are the top five habits I plan to tackle from here till the end of spring:

  • Reinforce my exercise schedule so I return to three 30 min sessions a week (I slipped to one or two a week) to maintain good mental health.
  • Maintain a journal of what I eat and the emotions I experience.
  • Establish and maintain a budget based on living the next month with last month’s revenues (i.e. break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle).
  • Establish and maintain a nutritional strategy to reduce my cholesterol levels so I can avoid taking meds to control it.
  • Establish and maintain a simple, more efficient task management system to remain productive both at work and as a freelancer.

I already discussed with my girlfriend Caro (AKA Dr.C) about making January a “double XP” month for exercise. I currently get a “gold coin” for each exercise session I perform. She awards me with a gift whenever I cash in ten of those. Ever since I stopped biking at the end of October, I’ve had a hard time maintaining the exercise schedule I had going. So for the next month, Caro’s going to award me two coins per session! Yay!

Now since I mostly want to reinforce this habit, I won’t make this an actual change so I feel confident I can do both this and tackle another one.

I will commit to keeping a food journal. I have a cholesterol problem and I have gained significant weight in the last few months. I don’t want to track calories (yet) and I don’t want to guilt trip myself. But I know my eating pattern enough to see that I lost control of my diet. I have been eating as a form of self-medication. When I exercise less, I have an easier time managing my mood swings by eating high-fat foods. By committing to getting the notebook/smartphone out whenever I put eat or drink something, I won’t have a choice to acknowledge that I may not be eating/drinking because it satisfies a basic or social need.

This habit will help me fuel deeper, progressive changes to my diet and make me better understand how I relate to food.  Linking what I eat to what I feel at the moment will also make me realize when I don’t actually want to eat.

Plus, being a lazy bum, saving myself from making an entry in the journal will probably lower my caloric intake considerably. :)

So here I am. A new year ahead and a willingness to change one habit at a time, not later, right now. If I manage to change 4 habits this year, I’ll consider the whole year a success. Here’s to a better life!

What about you, what has worked best for you so far?

Sources of inspirations for this post:

  • Leo Balbauta’s Zen to Done (Best productivity book I’ve read in years)
  • Dr. Padesky and Dennis Greenburger’s Mind Over Mood  (If you are a geek suffering from depression/anxiety and can’t stand esoteric approaches to therapy, BUY THIS BOOK)
  • Jane MacGonigal’s Super Better game (Because life can be a game filled with win conditions)

Comments

  1. Good luck man! I’m doing the diet soda thing too! The hard part for me is remembering to drink with out a can welded to my hand. Right now I’ve got a bottle with tape on it to remember to drink eight ounces each hour or I get headaches!