Tag Archives: resolutions

Changing your life, emergently

As we all embark on the new year and face our resolutions, I want to offer some advice, both from an academic field I’m interested, and from some other smart people.  First, the academic field.  Emergence is a concept whose basic idea is that small changes, incremental steps lead to big phenomena.  Think about ants and how the operate.  They don’t know the big picture of what they’re doing.  Each ant adds a tiny amount to the life of the colony, and yet, the whole operation seems so amazing and efficient.  I think about this philosophy in my own life.  I take one day at a time.  It’s why I broke my resolutions down into daily activities: walk every day, do one load of laundry a day, declutter for 15 minutes per day.  Each day, I can ask if I’ve done those things and if I haven’t, I can tackle them.  And then those days add up, until, before you know it, you’ve established a habit.  Walking every day becomes just something that you do rather than a chore.  Which brings my to some other smart people.

In the video below, Matt Cutts, a Google engineer talks about doing something for 30 days, which is, of course, where you’ll be after doing your daily things.

Refining the resolutions

Over the last 24 hours or so, I’ve been thinking about what I really want to accomplish this year, and more importantly, why?  Here’s my list so far:

1. Keeping the house cleaner, more organized.  I find it stressful to come home to a messy kitchen with no food to prepare and piles of laundry to do.  I find the complete Flylady method a little overwhelming and too much to achieve if you work out of the home.  She does recommend a load of laundry per day, which I think I can manage.  I’d also like to get better at meal planning, recruiting the kids to do a little more in this regard.  Geeky Boy got a cookbook for Christmas, so I’ve suggested that he do the cooking on the night I have yoga.  Last year, and even the beginning of this year, I did pretty well on the meal front and had 3-4 meals scheduled each week, hoping for leftovers on at least one or two days.  Mr. Geeky does the grocery shopping, giving me some time to really think through the planning. So I think I can manage this.  I also want to really focus on decluttering.  Our house is a reasonable size, but we don’t have that much storage.  I feel that we have way too much stuff.  There are boxes of things we never use.  We have old cell phones sitting around that could be donated.  There are board games and toys that we’ve held onto for some reason. So, here’s my house cleaning resolutions in a nutshell:

  • Do a load of laundry every day. Wash, dry *and* fold.
  • Plan meals for each week and stick to the plan.  Also have easy backup meals on deck (pasta and sauce, sandwiches) for days when the plan falls apart or when the hoped-for leftovers do not appear.
  • Declutter 15 minutes/day.  At the end of the declutter session, make sure unwanted items are headed where they need to go–trash or donation pile.  I will start at the front of the house and work my way back, then move upstairs from front to back.  I think this will take the whole year.  I also think this will be the hardest plan to stick with.

2. Getting fit, developing an exercise habit.  For now, I’m not going to worry too much about eating.  Over the holidays, I’ve indulged in chips and snack food, chocolate, too much wine and beer, but during “normal” times, I’m much better and my eating habits are not that bad.  We eat mostly vegetarian and fish, not a lot of red meat and I try to incorporate vegetables as much as possible.  Though I think I should add more fruits and veggies, especially as snacks, until I’m set in my fitness routine.  Here’s my plan for that:

  • Yoga once a week, with a plan to increase to twice a week after 3 months.
  • Go for a walk every day.  I feel like I need to do something every day, and I like walking.  I don’t even need to put special clothes on.  I’m going to start with a mile, but work up to 3.  Time-wise, I’m not sure I can go further than that.

3. Sticking to the budget.  I must admit that I often hate dealing with money.  Always have.  In times when we had no money, we checked our accounts all the time, making sure we didn’t overdraw (not that we didn’t on occasion).  Now, we’re less careful, and though we don’t often overdraw, we do end up charging things or not buying things that we wanted to because we overspent.  So here’s the plan for that:

  • Reduce spending by $100/month in each of these categories: groceries, eating out (including fast food), and shopping.  The plan is to increase the reduction if possible.
  • Put the amount saved in these categories (up to $300/month) into savings.

Well, I think that’s enough to start with.  I have at least one more that I’m contemplating.  It’s kind of work-related.  Back in September, I promised myself I’d practice programming every day.  Though I’ve come close to that, it’s not perfect.  I need to make time at work to do this.  So I’m still thinking about how this would work.

Moving forward

So I went to a yoga class last night run by my old friend with whom I used to do yoga 10 years ago.  It was fabulous.  I am actually sore today, but in a good way.  I think I worked every muscle in my body.  The class is offered every Wednesday, so I think I’ll start going at least to that, and then maybe add another class later.

Another area I want to work on in the coming year is money.  We suck at budgeting.  We usually manage to come out okay, but every once in a while, we find ourselves resorting to a credit card, and, in general, we’re not saving enough.  I have made a good effort to pay off our credit cards, but need to do some work in that area.  One thing I keep talking about doing is canceling cable and our land line.  That would save us over $100/month.  We subscribed to Netflix streaming, and have used it a lot.  Geeky Girl and I spent our time over the break watching How I Met Your Mother from the beginning.  Though we’d seen most of the episodes, we enjoyed watching them in order.  Mr. Geeky watches whatever movies it throws at him.  He’s on a foreign film kick at the moment.

I have no problem canceling cable.  We have TiVo and frankly, if we didn’t, this decision would be a lot easier.  We’d just figure out whether to go with Apple.tv or Google.tv or Boxee, etc.  As it is, we’re trying to figure out things that will work with our existing box.  We can access Netflix and Amazon.  We could also go with Hulu plus, which is available on TiVo as well.  But newer services like Vudu are not available and you can’t really just go to a web site like Clicker.com to connect to your shows of choice.  We could connect a computer to our tv, but then we need remote control.  We’d actually lose some of the shows we watch regularly.  At least, we’d lose the convenience of being about to watch them in one place at the click of a button. So I think we’ll keep looking and thinking about it.  And I know, we could give up tv altogether.  Not outside the realm of possibility.

Mr. Geeky and I went over our budget the other day and most of our money goes to food (both groceries and eating out) and shopping (mostly for clothes).  We’re going to try to cut back a little in those areas.  I think that will have a bigger impact than getting rid of cable.  I’ve proposed cutting those by a couple hundred each.  We may have to start slow, but maybe we’ll get there.  We definitely like our food!

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Back to (house)work

Once the school year got into full swing, I found it really hard to keep up with maintaining any kind of semblance of order in the house.  I found it especially difficult to keep up with cooking and laundry, two things I really care about getting done.  Far too often, I found myself digging through laundry baskets and ordering pizza.  Jeeves, my new little robot vacuum, will help (well, at least with the floors):

I’m returning to some sort of Flylady method. I don’t think the whole system works for me, but I can adapt pieces of it.  There will be more goals for the year, but this is one I will be starting before the new year.  I need to destress my house.


Picture I made for my goals article
Image via Wikipedia

Mr. Geeky started off our before-dinner conversation by asking what everyone’s goals were this year.  Everyone was a little goofy at first but then got more serious.  Our goals include focusing more on school/work before doing “fun” things, spending more time together, walking every day, and getting up on time.  We also set goals for each other, many of which were things we would set for ourselves.  It will be interesting to see if we stick to them.  But it definitely feels like we have some accountability.

This time last year, I was on the eve of a new job, and didn’t really know what to expect.  This year, I know most of the kids (except the new ones), and I have a good idea what things will be like on the first day.  As I told someone in a meeting, my goal for last year was to survive.  This year, I have specifics.  In general, I want to do a better job.  To that end, I’ve done a heck of a lot of preparation for my new class.  I’ve established a grading scheme for my middle school classes, and I’m planning to really assess the middle school curriculum after this year.  I talked to some people over the summer whose curriculum was similar to mine, but arranged slightly differently.  I think I’m going to do some rearranging next year, but it needs some thought first.

I also want to connect more to the girls in my homeroom.  I think this will be easier this year because I know all the kids.  It’s this part of the job that seems easiest on the surface, but is actually the most difficult.  Every kid is different; every group of kids has a different dynamic.  Figuring how to deal with all of that in a positive way is a real challenge.  But I find it to be an extraordinarily important part of my job.

Personally, I have lots of things I want to do this year–staying relatively healthy among them.  I’ve pledged to watch what I eat–mostly food, mostly green, less sugar.  And I’ll walk every day.  And I want to keep working on my programming skills–which are coming along quite nicely.  I spent a lot of the weekend working on a pet project that has pushed my skill limits.  But it’s been fun, and every day, I feel a little more confident about what I’m doing.

All in all, I think we’re ready for the year to begin. Bring it on!

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Do what you love, not what makes you look good to others

I’m thinking about mantras, things that I can live by and that I can remind myself of whenever I find myself in a rut. It’s inspired by The Happiness Project. I’m kind of working on my own project, but I’m not sure how prescriptive I want to be. Gretchen has 12 commandments, and this is along those lines. It’s a phrase that keeps coming into my head lately. And I’ve actually written about this before.

I think I finished the Ph.D. this time and not the last time because I loved my topic. I had always loved it, but I didn’t realize it until I started working on it. I had chosen my former topic because people told me I was good at it and because I thought it would land me “a good job.” Once I realized there were no good jobs really, I just did what I wanted.

I have done many a thing in life because I thought it would make me look cool or look better to a particular group of people I was trying to impress. And most of the time it made me miserable. I’ve learned to recognize when that’s happening, of course, but there are subtle ways it often comes back into play. I feel like I ought to do things a certain way, read certain things, or watch certain shows. And now I’m stopping and asking myself if I’m doing something because I want to or because I think it makes me look “right.”

Now, I’m not eliminating doing things that I ought to, but don’t want to do–like eating well, exercising, or cleaning up–but I focus on what I want to obtain out of those things, not those things themselves or what they say about who I am. For example, long ago, I wanted to be seen as “the kind of person that exercises,” so I started jogging, tried to take up sports, etc. It. did. not. work. I am not the kind of person that exercises, but I can exercise if my goal fits something I really want for myself. Right now, I really do want to look good in a bathing suit, which I know sounds vain and all, but seriously, that’s what I want.

So I’m trying to focus on that as I think about what I’m doing, what I’m going to do, and not be drawn to things that might garner great comments at cocktails parties, but that would make me really unhappy.

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Resolution check-in

I was thinking this morning that I wasn’t doing so well on my resolutions. It’s true I’ve slipped a little here and there, but it’s not as bad as I thought. One thing I didn’t resolve to do was exercise, but now I’m rethinking that. But I really do hate exercise for exercise’s sake. While I want to be in better shape, feel stronger, and perhaps reduce stress, I have a problem plopping myself onto a treadmill to do so. And there’s only so much time in a day and right now, I’d be looking at probably sacrificing something that’s more important to me. But I’m contemplating it. We’ll see.

I’m doing the best in the career/work goals I set for myself, so maybe what I’m really feeling is a lack of balance in not working on the other areas more. I also think I’m still trying to get into some kind of routine now that classes have begun and the family being sick last week did not help that. So, I’m adjusting. And I must admit that winter really gets to me. I’m not as inclined to leave the house and I dislike the cold and the dreariness. Although Punxatawny Phil did see his shadow relegating us to 6 more weeks of winter, spring really isn’t that far away. All that’s to say to myself that it’s not that bad, and things will get better. Once again, I call on my friend Dory, “just keep swimming.”

Happy New Year

Sun through the window, originally uploaded by lorda.

I hope everyone started the year off well. We went to a big party, where I knew just a couple of people. It was fun but not quite what I might have chosen to do. We survived, stopping by another friend’s house on our way home, then celebrating a little with the kids when we got home.

I have been thinking about my resolutions for the last couple of days. In general, my theme for the year is simplify and balance. So here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish this year.

-write every day to work towards completing two projects
-officially set up my business

-take the kids on an international trip
-go on a date with my husband at least twice a month
-remodel a room
-continue to get rid of stuff and organize

-get outside at least 3 times a week
-get to know my city

There’s actually a lot more I want to do, but I’m going to take it one day, one week, one month at a time, continuing to evaluate as I go. i feel positive about the coming year. It feels full of possibility and change and for me that’s a very good thing.

I’d love to see everyone’s resolutions–link below if you want. And Happy New Year!

2008 Resolutions

Some people are not making resolutions. Others have themes. Me? I’m a bit of a self-improvement junkie. I love making resolutions and I don’t mind if I don’t make it. It’s the thought that counts. So here’s what I’m thinking for this year.

1. Exercise. You knew I’d put this one on the list. I’m planning 3 times a week (Tues, Thur, and Sat) with the possibility of adding more–a class maybe. My goal is to lose 15 pounds which I know can mostly be achieved by moving around more (my diet is pretty good). I’m sticking mostly with walking for now, but I own weights, a yoga pad and a couple of DVDs so I have plenty of tools to work with. I get bored easily, so I’m going to look for opportunities to hike, play games, etc. I’d like to join a women’s soccer team in the spring, but that may be too ambitious. We’ll see.

2. Declutter the house. It stresses me out to see stuff piled in the corners. I think this will go a long way toward helping me relax. Thanks to the Unclutterer blog, I’ve gotten some great ideas. The main idea I’m going to work on is scheduling cleanup time. I’m very organized about my time, so it makes sense to take advantage of that (as I’m doing with exercise). I hate cleaning, but if I’m supposed to clean for 1/2 hour, I will. I’ve scheduled one room per day for 1/2 hour (today is the kitchen/dining area). I’m also creating playlists for musical cleaning. I’m hoping most of this time can be for decluttering and not general cleaning or that it will eventually. For example, the kids and Mr. Geeky are responsible for basic kitchen cleaning. If the kitchen is clean, I can do things like reorganize a cabinet. And once that’s done, I can cut cleaning time to 15 minutes. Yes, I’m very optimistic.

3. One day without screens. Our geeky household spends a lot of time in front of the computer or a video game console. It’s not that I think all such activities are bad, but it definitely takes time away from other possible activities and I think it would be a good example for the kids. I did this yesterday–no screens until 5:00. Geeky Girl followed my lead most of the day and read a book and played with other toys besides her video games or webkins. I didn’t tell her to; she just did. Now if I could get Mr. Geeky to follow suit . . . I’ll admit this was hard for me. But I think it will be worth it.

1. Blog three times a week. I let the blogging slide this semester because I was really busy. I think the blog can be a good tool for getting out information, so I need to do it more. Again, I’ll schedule this time.
2. Schedule time for research/reading. I was doing this, but I let it slide, so I’m reinstating it. In order for this to happen, I have to leave my office–sad but true.

That’s really it. I have a lot of little things I want to try to do–like use LibraryThing and do Project365 again this year. But those are minor.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve. Here at the Geeky household, we’ll be finishing a Risk game, drinking champagne and watching Monk.

Resolutions past

Before I post this year’s resolutions, I thought I’d take stock of previous years’. I make resolutions twice a year, now and at the start of academic years. Let’s see how I did.

According to this post from 2004, recording resolutions for 2005, I wanted to do the following:

1. Walk at least 30 minutes per day (may be substituted with other exercise)
2. Write at least a page a day.
3. Cut my debt in half. Ideally, I’d eliminate it, but I think that’s unrealistic.

That first one has been a perennial item on the list. The desire to exercise in some form or another comes up almost every 6 months on this blog. Earlier this month, I started walking–running even–but then weather and/or illness have prevented me from being outside and/or mobile for a couple of weeks now. I’ve decided that trying to exercise every day is crazy. If I miss a day, I feel horrible and that’s just counterproductive. Three to four times a week is more reasonable. I can almost always do something on both weekend days and that just leaves two days during the week to squeeze in time. I obsess about this for two reasons. One, I’ve gained about 15 pounds over the last couple of years. Two, I’m not getting any younger. I really do want to be in decent shape as I age.

Two and three are pretty moot. I’d like to get back maybe to writing for fun (besides here), but I’m not sure if I’m ready to add that to my life. The debt is more than cut in half, but not eliminated. It seems likely that I could do that this year, but it’s not a top priority.

One new year and one academic year saw finishing the dissertation at the top of the list. There are some other interesting things on that academic year list: taking hikes, going to kid events, quitting the inadequacy schtick. I’ve done okay on the second and third items, but the first, not so much. I might be able to add that this year. January 2007 was also a year of interesting resolutions. Family game night didn’t pan out. We did plenty of stuff as a family, but it wasn’t always game night Date nights worked out pretty well also, especially after the dissertation was handed in. And work is, well, work. I’ll have more to say about that later.

Most recently, of course, I made another set of academic year resolutions. I still think I could work on relaxing. I’m planning some meditation or something. The exercise, of course, a struggle. Publishing something–I think that’s going to happen. We’ll see.

So, I’ve kept a few resolutions, missed others, but haven’t let failure hinder me from continuing to put them on the list. A quick Google search brings up some interesting articles on how to keep resolutions and/or set goals for the coming year. I like the idea from this article of setting mini goals each month that are part of the greater goal. I especially like this post from lifehack.org, which suggests doing what I just did–looking back at past resolutions and seeing what didn’t work and why. What resolutions have you not kept and why? What’s on your list for this year?