The New New Years' Resolutions - How Technology Can Help Keep 2018 Goals (Or Distract From Them)

It's January 1st, which means you've likely been bombarded with New Years lists. Allow me to add one more to the pile.

 Most New Years' Resolution lists look pretty similar. How will your goals be different, and what tools will you use to stick to them?

Most New Years' Resolution lists look pretty similar. How will your goals be different, and what tools will you use to stick to them?

 

Typically I stay away from angles like this because they're trite and easy to lose in the noise of all the other resolutions out there. But recently I've found myself in need of a realignment of sorts, or at least a reshuffling of priorities - so that's what I'm going to try to accomplish with my 2018 New Years' Resolutions. Many of these, frankly, work better as indictments of my 2017 (and earlier) behavior patterns than strictly a resolve to do specific things in the year to come. That is to say, most of this list looks backwards to diagnose problems, inefficiencies or deficiencies before looking forward to proposed solutions. 

The other thing I'd like this list to do is focus on how digital has fundamentally changed some of my behaviors, and why that's not necessarily a good thing (or, how to compensate for some of these shifts in behaviors and priorities). 

Finally, writing these items down and sharing them publicly is a form of accountability. If I think others are keeping tabs on my progress, perhaps I'll be more likely to stick to them. 

I've grouped my resolutions into some pretty basic and fundamental categories, because ultimately there are some pretty broad areas I'd like to improve in - and some specific goals I'm setting to get there. I've thought a lot about these categories and I believe they are somewhat universal, so I think they can be re-purposed for your own use and even reset year to year as your behaviors, priorities and focuses change. Really though, you'll find that most resolutions fall under one of these groups.

  1. Write
  2. Read
  3. Eat
  4. Move
  5. Save
  6. Be

(I'd also be remiss in not mentioning things like learning, and specific professional goals. I'm focusing my list on broader lifestyle goals but would certainly agree that professional improvement should be on everyone's list.)

Write

I've resolved to write 50 blog posts in 2018, which equates roughly to one per week with some vacations built in. I've often heard/read writers state that the best way that they found their voice, style, and lane was to just write. I've also found that writing, especially about digital trends and strategy, helps me to crystallize ideas and collect scattered thoughts with greater clarity, which helps me be better at my job. The biggest challenge to date, besides just finding the time (which is really the worst excuse for anything) has been the motivation to sit down and push these ideas out into a cohesive concept. Part of this resolution will be to keep notes of these ideas as they come to me in a separate notebook, which will help me focus and build on initial ideas. I'll also carve out a specific amount of time each week to dedicate to researching and writing.

To help with this process I'll be using Pocket to identify articles/research to use as resources, and Evernote to keep blog notes and ideas.

 

Read

I've resolved to read 12 books in 2018, or one book per month. Again this is a very personal list and I realize that many people would find this number to be quite low, but it's realistic enough for me given my family and work commitments. Most important will be queuing up books I'm interested in and dedicating time each night during the week to read (one of my main issues isn't reading per se, but finishing books, as I have a habit of reaching half of a book then picking up something else). I'm going to commit to reading a variety of categories, not focusing solely on one genre, including three books from the following genres: fiction, business, historical, and self-improvement. To ensure I keep at this I will create my reading wishlist and buy them all now, earmark them for each month in 2018, and go from there (suggestions welcome!). 

To help reach this goal I'll be downloading all books to my Kindle paper white.

 

Eat

Losing weight and eating right are pretty typical of most resolution lists. I do feel that I eat relatively well overall (there are some obvious ways to improve like not snacking, eating more veggies, etc.). I'm going to focus my eating efforts, however, on an approach that will have multiple benefits. I've resolved in 2018 to make myself lunch 4 days a week. I'll accomplish this by planning my meals each week, looking at my calendar to account for business meetings/lunches, and prepping food for the week via shopping lists and early prep-work. This goal won't just help me better control and improve what I'm eating, which will have ancillary benefits on energy and health, but will also help avoid eating out regularly which will help financially. I will earmark lunches now that I'll be able to dip into throughout the year so as to avoid wear-out.

I'll be using Amazon fresh delivery to help stick to this goal. By creating grocery lists and including items from my recipes each week I won't have any excuses to avoid making my lunches at home. I'll also set myself up to more easily order via voice search by creating custom lists and favorite items to help with reordering.

 

Move

Again, exercising is pretty standard on these lists and I feel that I do a pretty good job of keeping active now, working out 5-6 times per week on average. My goal for 2018, however, is focused more on the types of workouts I'm doing and when I'll be doing them. Oftentimes my workouts happen later at night (past 8pm) which ends up eating into my reading-, writing-, work-, family- or general downtime.  By committing to working out in the morning 3 days per week I'll be freeing up my evenings for these other important activities. I also have found that, although I'm not a morning person by nature, I do feel much better after working out in the morning hours (once I can bring myself to get moving). Regarding the types of workouts, my typical week now includes 3-4 in-home HIIT workouts, 2 or so sports (depending on the season) and maybe a run or cycle class. I'd like to diversify my in-home workouts a bit more by returning to the gym (gasp!) and including more yoga classes to help with recovery and flexibility.

Luckily, we have all of these amazing health tracker tools at our disposal. I myself use a fitbit tracker now but really just as a guilty reminder of when I've been exceedingly lazy. In 2018 I'll commit to using these tools more effectively, by beating my steps goals each day and making sure to take walks throughout the day. I've tested out classpass and didn't find enough value in it at the time, but I may sign up for a smaller plan to ensure I try new classes and gyms more regularly.

 

Save

There are so many ways and resources to be smarter financially in 2018, but somehow this one always ends up being the most difficult to stick to (probably because two kids and a house aren't cheap, and neither is eating out frequently!). The easiest, most obvious approach to this goal is simple: set a budget, and stick to it, which is exactly what I'll be doing. However, in terms of actively saving money, I've found that creating automatic systems to tuck money away has been the most effective method for me (so, automatically deducting a larger % for retirement, increasing amounts for kids college funds, etc). For the purpose of this list, I'm also going to be setting a more specific goal for saving which is to save for a big annual family vacation. Between work and personal obligations, we rarely take well-planned family trips - in fact this past year was the first full family vacation we've ever taken, and even that one was rather spontaneous and half-baked. By saving more effectively we'll be able to plan in advance and be smarter about our vacation.

To help save I'll be using Digit, which will automatically, programmatically deduct small amounts from my bank accounts regularly, based on income and spending habits. This way we'll be able to save without it impacting our behaviors too much, and we'll also be able to keep track of the savings to more consciously put additional money aside each month as needed.

 

Be

My final goal of 2018 is a side effect of my (our) constantly growing reliance on digital tools and technology. I'm very rarely away from my phone, without the TV on at home, or without some audio playing. I'm committing in 2018 to consciously and strategically reject technology on a regular basis, which will mean having "no phone" hours of the day and setting aside mindfulness time. 

A tool I'll be using to help with this goal is HeadSpace, which will help with guided mindfulness practice. More importantly, however, will be focusing on the lack of technology at certain times. Each night I'm committing to 2 hours not looking at my phone, and I'll also be reducing my television watching time to focus on my reading and writing goals.

 

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to re-prioritize and make conscious decisions to benefit other areas of our lives. As much as new tools can help, they can also be a distraction. 2018 is all about finding out which tools are which and acting accordingly.