Reading back through my last post and looking over the lessons I got from the Fresh Start Effect gave me some good perspective to move forward with. Especially with the goals I'd set myself at the start of this year, seeing how far I've come with all the things I wanted to do back in January, and going over what I can keep doing to improve.
One of the things I realised in 2021 is that during the middle months of the year, I was a lot more focused on constantly returning to this big picture, long term idea of how my year was going, rather than just the day to day. Keeping that in mind, even if for just a moment each day, helped me to stay on track with the progress for each of my goals (e.g. read a certain number of books this month to stay on track).
I think a big part of setting new goals is reflecting on the progress you made beforehand - explaining what went well, the lessons learned and how you can be even more effective in your actions this time. So this post is going to go over some of the ways in which I've tried to change since last year. I think I'll be treating this as much more of a personal record than an article I'll be publishing, since these are objectives that I genuinely want to continue putting effort into as time goes on.
The Habit Tracker
In this massive attempt to completely turn my life around and go for everything I wanted at the start of the year, I decided to create this page in Notion to track all of my goals - the most random, crazy things that I wanted to do or become - with no limitations. This is one section of it, where I tried to outline the tangible results I could look at to see how far I'd come. But you can see from the gaps that I didn't get round to filling it all in.
So I thought what better time to redo it than now, and include my progress so far:
Again, if you know me well you'll know I'm massively optimistic with what I plan to do. But I've come to value it - it's meant that even if I only achieve 10% of what I wanted, the fact that I aimed so high to begin with will leave me feeling satisfied. Even if I only managed a small fraction of it all, marginal efforts compound, and in the long term, all I want is to be glad of the person I'm becoming each day.
How I Structured My Goals:
General goal - some field of my life that I want to improve - sleep, for example.
Overarching goal (results based) - something I can put a tick next to by the end of the year. That could be either through sleeping regularly for a certain number of days, which I’d have to track, or through general regularity - I.e. ‘get to the point of sleeping and waking up at the same time each day, by the end of the year’.
Daily goal - easy enough to understand - something I want to do everyday to work towards the goal.
Strategies/Tools I'm Using to Help - anything I can do to reduce the friction in my mind of doing the task, and make it easier for me to get started on it each day.
Current Progress - a way for me to track how far I've come at different points of the year, and keep a tally of what exactly I've done.
Frequency and Additional Notes - for goals more tied to how often I do them, a note of frequency, as well as anything else that's relevant to the goal itself. How I've been doing them each day, or how I'm feeling towards them.
To anyone looking to set goals that they want to achieve by the end of the year, outlining them in this framework might prove really helpful.
Laying out all of these goals in separate sections, i.e. things I wanted to do by the end of the year, and how that would translate to daily progress, gave me a great idea of what I could tangibly do right now to work to reach them.
It's easy to look at the top of the mountain and be paralysed by wondering how you'll get there. But looking down at your feet and just asking yourself where you can plant your next step is one of the easiest ways to get around the mindset of it being an insurmountable task.
One thing I really didn’t do last year was outline things clearly enough - a trap that I think a lot of us fall into. I realised that giving myself a certain numerical objective would’ve helped a lot more, because it would encourage me to properly track each day, through an app, for example, and then have a concrete tick or cross by the end of the year. Setting SMART goals for yourself (simple, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) is a great way to stay in check.
So, assessing my progress on some of the important fronts:
Audiobooks and Reading:
The vast majority of my reading and audiobook listening took place in the early and middle months of 2021, during the end of my first year at university, and in the holidays when I was more free. Reading was actually a habit that I started during childhood, like a lot of us did. I was voracious, but sadly the practice didn't stick as I got older and all my other commitments started to take its place in my daily life.
For reading, it really is just a consistent effort that I need to put in - not just a specific pull that I feel towards a book that would make me read it. Maybe that just means I need to find more interesting books to read. Last year, I also sometimes cheated through the goal by reading really short but insightful books, like Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist. I suppose they still count, and maybe I'm setting too high a standard and raising the bar by saying a book needs to be a certain number of pages to qualify, but I definitely want to focus on reading more.
In terms of audiobooks, the listening process was/is much easier for me. Not passive, since I’d have to actually concentrate and absorb each word, but a lot more frictionless. I like to listen on the train or as I'm walking somewhere. Having recognised that at the start of the year, it was partially why I set the target as a bigger number - and also because of the speed function in the app.
Walking and Exercise
I think for a lot of people this goal is only really decided by your own level of fitness and where you want that to be. For me, I see myself as having a decently fast metabolism, and so no matter what I eat I tend to stay at roughly the same weight. Saying that, exercise is still important to me. At university I knew I was constantly walking around, which didn’t worry me at all in terms of accomplishing the goal. Exercise was a different story though. It was difficult for me to get back to doing push ups and sit ups, or planks, regularly, because of the active effort required. So going forward, I suppose it would help to keep track of it from the start, through an app, or some other tracker.
Cooking and Recipes
I actually did fairly well with this one, fully kicking off with my food blog over the last few months. Over my time at university I cooked and collected a decent amount of recipes, gathering around 30 in total. Some turned out well, some not. I think sub-goal I’d definitely like to focus on is spending less time cooking, since I enjoy being precise and perfectionistic which often means it takes me hours before I can eat. Another thing to try might be experimenting even more with desi/South Asian cooking and ingredients, which I've already started to do somewhat. I tend t miss home food a lot, so knowing how to cook it myself would be nice (even if it doesn't measure up - which I don't think it ever will). Other than that, seem to be doing great.
I've basically achieved nothing on this front, apart from a little revision in January - partially because I find it hard to start on any one specific language. Speaking about it with a friend, he mentioned to me that you only ever really get the proper experience of learning a language when you’re immersed - moving to the country or watching specific shows in that language. I’d known this before, and it makes sense, but obviously it’s difficult to do as a university student in the UK - the moving part at least. So for the time being I’ll stick with consistency for Memrise/Duolingo and taking notes.
Coding, Writing, Art and Music
These all go hand in hand with a vision I have, for a choose your own adventure style game/book that I've been writing inspiration and other story related notes for, for years now, in the hopes that eventually I'll return to them all one day and put them together like jigsaw pieces, to carve out this intricate storyline.
There's years of work ahead for me before I get anywhere near a first draft or idea about a finished piece - it's probably one of my most long term goals - but it's always lingered in the back of my mind, as this amazing way to express a creative interest, and so I'm continuing with it.
When I was in secondary school, there was this amazing piece of software called Logic Pro that we’d use in music lessons to develop pieces. I’ve always wanted to go back to that, to try and produce something, but, 1 - it’s costly, and 2 - it’s only on Mac. Other than that, I have a piano, so I can form some basic ideas, but I think I just need to put some creative effort in first to decide what I want to make. And get some more practice in actually playing the piano.
Consistent Writing and Organisation for the book each day:
Similar to the last goal - piecing together all the sources of inspiration I find for the novel/game. This is a much more sporadic habit, naturally - inspiration comes to me from random shows or things I watch - conversations, a line, or a picture, or even something that I can draw from. Whatever it is, I document it for later.
Other than that, putting in regular coding practice and writing is going to be very important. Flowcharts, for sure; there's a great videogame called Detroit: Become Human, where the storyline is affected by different events and creates this branching narrative that players can see at the end of each act - leading you to guess at what each action leads to. That idea always appealed to me, and so I want to make something along those lines.
As of June 25th 2021, this is something I’ve managed everyday until now, and I'm so glad I have. I have a mood tracking, habit and journaling app (Daylio) that I use, that lets me tackle a lot of these goals in one clean blow.
I haven’t tracked this as much as I’ve liked to, so maybe that’s the first step. If it’s an hour of work for my course, then that’s something I definitely need to work on. Now that the new academic year is coming it's definitely a focus for me, to stop myself lagging behind on work again.
On top of all of these, I've even made some progress with some entirely new goals:
My hope is that I can wake up in the morning excited to keep going with all of these, and really try to reach those targets.
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