2019 q4 goals

I don’t know how to set goals.

It seems like a weird thing to say, but I don’t get it.

Sure, I can come up with a list of things I want to do, but I find that there’s a disconnect between what I’m doing day to day and the overarching things I want to accomplish. I either lose sight of the big picture, or I can’t figure out how to break the goals down into things I can do in my daily life.

I’ve been thinking about this more because of Notion and having to write out specific tasks. Applying labels and categories and looking at the accumulation of things I’m working on has helped this take shape for me. I’m starting to feel a little less like I’m wandering aimlessly through a featureless landscape and a little more like maybe there’s a roadmap. But also specifically, that I’m the one creating the roadmap. So, in this metaphor, I guess I’m a cartographer? (For a map that will probably only be useful for me… Let’s go ahead and drop the metaphor here.)

This morning something clicked. I was listening to the first ep of season 3 of Genre Hustle about goal-setting, and everyone was giving AP shit (good-naturedly) for having daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. And I thought, maybe this is where my disconnect is.

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making time

It’s the month of setting new goals and resolution. I find that when we’re talking about  resolutions, people tend to talk in terms of things they want to add to their lives. I want to work out. I want to read more. I want to write/draw/paint/spend more time with friends. Etc.

Often, these resolutions don’t stick. There are hundreds of articles circulating the internet about why. About how to set goals. About specificity and actionability. But one thing that I think we need to spend more time thinking about is this: what are you going to give up to reach that goal?

Given that you are a living person (an assumption, but a relatively safe one, I think), you are already using up all the time that you have in each day. That’s not to say that you’re using it wisely or productively, but it is, most definitely, being used, simply because you are traveling forward through time (another assumption, but again…). So it’s all well and good to want to add to your life or pick up a new hobby or do more more more, but unless you’ve got a time-turner or can somehow freeze time, something has to give way.

For me, it’s useful to frame it this way because I want to be more mindful about what I’m doing with my time. There are things that I do way too much of (read Twitter, watch Netflix, the internets) because they are easy or habitual or I just need that sweet, sweet dopamine kick. But there are also many things that I would rather be doing, that I feel badly about not doing. I imagine that this is a nearly universal feeling.

So in addition to identifying the things we’d like to do more, we should deliberately figure out what we are willing to give up. Identifying the things that you want to cut down on this year will also give you a series of cues to check in with yourself.

Once you have a list of the things that you’d like to do less of, the next step is finding the time. That requires being honest about how you currently spend your time. And we all have a tendency to fudge the numbers. Some of the things we do are mandatory and regular (e.g. jobs, childcare), and that amount of the time varies from person to person. And some things are mandatory, but not fixed (e.g. self-care). But when you take a good, truthful, granular look at how you spend your time, you can usually find a hour (or five) here and there that isn’t being used the way you like.

That’s the place to start. What are you doing with those minutes or hours? Is that what you want to be doing? What else could you be doing with that time that would prioritize your goals and well-being?

And sometimes, maybe the answer is watch TV/movies, veg out, and otherwise give your brain a break. That’s totally fine too. I have plenty of those moments. But if I’m watching Netflix, I want it to be because I chose to watch Netflix, not because I fell into a bad habit loop. I don’t want to have those behaviors be thoughtless and automatic.

Tim Urban (Wait But Why) did the calculus: we have roughly 100 ten minute blocks in each day (assuming you sleep 7-8 hours a night). How do you want to spend each of those finite blocks?