Using tech to keep track of resolutions

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ”
― Anaïs Nin

“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.”
― Charles M. Sheldon

Every year between 41 and 63% of us, depending on the country you are from, make resolutions, set goals and have shiny new aspirations for the year ahead. January is usually a month of promise. All our plans are firmly in our heart and mind, they are enacted with zeal. February sees us still buoyed by our visions, by March we are slipping away slightly from the goal. In April, May, June that little voice in our head tells us we really should get back on track and do that stuff we’d planned. Sadly, as the months roll on the resolution is a dim memory, discarded detritus. Most resolutions don’t see the year out.  80% are forgotten, sidestepped or bypassed in 3 months.  Does that mean it’s futile to set resolutions?  I don’t think so, though I think there are better ways to improve life.

I gave up on the resolution idea a long time ago.  It  didn’t work for me, I sucked at it and it added more pressure than was necessary to a life already complicated in other ways. I opted instead for making a bucket list to support a well lived life.  It was a long list of joyful activities, challenges and pursuits to colour and flavour the year ahead. No pressure, no strict deadlines, no do or die expectations. Some years later I started creating a photographic montage, a treasure map of sorts, a nice visual reminder of those bucket list items which I started to call my love list (giving it a more positive spin). The visual cue was  successful. I achieved way more on my love list than ever before. It was appealing, motivating and in view each day.  Some time in between I used post it notes and a big wall chart to plot my goals and progress.  The visual was good. Adding, updating and moving notes to the progressed section was appealing.  I experimented with boldly writing goals on the shower screen in non-permanent pen.  In bright colours my yearly goals were accompanied by affirmations and uplifting quotes.  There was no missing them. They were quite ‘in your face’.  I liked that too. Though I’m not sure I saw any progress.

This year, as I contemplated my visual treasure map, my son intervened.  He sent me an invitation to view his goal list for the year.  He was building accountability by sharing his goals and aspirations.  I was honoured that he would consider me a worthy ally in his quest.  The vehicle he chose to keep track of his goals is a tool called Trello.  He encouraged me to use it too. My first challenge for the year.

I have a fairly open mind when it comes to technology but I’m awkward with it.  I love pen and paper, I love building things and crafting things by hand.  So I wasn’t at first impressed by it.  It felt flat and bland and simply too hard for me to work out.  Until one Saturday morning with a cup of tea I decided to explore a little more.  I moved away from the way my son had used it and painted my own adventure.  I created something I liked. I added some images for appeal and was quite happy with my creation. Doubt lingered however. I wasn’t convinced it would be as immediate, arresting and useful as my good old A5 photographic treasure map. It required a different set of behaviours and habits on my part for it to work.  I can report, that two months later, with a little persistence and a change of attitude, I’m hooked.

I am pretty sure Trello was never designed for a middle-aged woman (despite how young at heart, vibrant and energetic she may be) to create her love list for the year.  It is, however, a brilliant project management tool that can aid the smallest personal project through to the very largest corporate projects.  It’s basically a great big empty wall you can fill with ‘post it’  notes to keep track of your stuff. You can add comments, create lists, add labels, cue due dates, send messages to other people in your project, label progress and that’s just in the free version. For a small fee there are loads more tools at user disposal.  Oh, gosh, that sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it?  It’s not meant to be.  I simply wanted to share a new tool that is working for me that may work for you.

It’s an extremely flexible tool too.  Once you create your “post it notes” you can move them around and order them, you can insert new ones at will, discard them, batch or group them.   I am finding it a useful place to hold my ideas, I can share them, I can ask for input from my son who I share my board with.  My initial fears and concerns have been allayed.  I am referring to it regularly to keep track of my progress and add new adventures.  It’s fun and engaging.  I could use it to plan an overseas holiday.  I could also have used it to plan the multi million dollar project I am managing at work.  If you are looking for a way to motivate your goal setting or a neat project management tool, check out Trello.

If, like me, you are a novice with technology, keep Walt Disney’s sentiment in mind – don’t be afraid to keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things. Being curious leads us down new paths and who knows where that will lead?

 

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Living a beautiful life

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“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”  Jim Rohn

How many versions of the ideal day exist?

As we begin a new year I’ve seen and heard quite a bit about resolutions to make this the best year yet and starting as you intend to finish. But how do you do that?  How do you manage the routine, day-to-day, and still feel like you are living? How do you stop waiting for life to begin and start living it?  One brilliant idea I’ve come across several times, this week alone, is to plan your ideal day and then live it.

My friend Nicole from Cauldrons and Cupcakes recently shared a post about her weekly planning session – the Sunday session. In this time, as well as planning and preparing for the week ahead, ensuring she keeps her long-term goal in focus, identifying a to do list and nominating time for the completion of said list, she also plans a Lucky Dip activity. A lucky dip is something to make her soul sing; a reward for the week, time out for a busy mind and body.  Martin Seligman, a leader in the positive psychology movement, supports the idea of planning a beautiful day and then living it; it makes people happier.

Some of you might know this habit as self-care. That’s a term that, while I understand what it means, grates on me a little.  (I’m not sure why but I’m sure it reveals much about my nature 😁.)  Anyway, this habit it is not about waiting until a crisis hits to look after yourself. This habit occurs on a regular basis, it’s planned for and completed weekly.

It differs to a practice I have engaged in over the past few years where I created a list of exciting and adventurous activities, a love list, to keep the enjoyment factor of life at a high. Usually there are 10 to 12 things I’d like to do, places I’d like to visit, experiences I am keen to try out in the year.  I embrace this practice and the sense of achievement from meeting each target. The ensuing flood of endorphins, from each activity, is a huge boost. While I’m not quite ready to give this away totally, I have to admit, there have been years when several items have stayed on the list, unachieved, simply because they were not planned for.  I think Nicole is onto something when she plans one small action, activity or indulgence per week.

A time out for mind, body and soul each week, no matter how small, is a brilliant way to stay focused, recharge, and keep the positivity factor high. Julia Cameron calls these artist dates. Oh, I can hear the protests already. I’m too busy, there is no time, I’ll do it next week. STOP! If you don’t value yourself enough to plan your ideal day, your lucky dip, a date with yourself then where will you find the fun in life, the joy, the real meaning? Who will look after you and your needs, if not you?  It need not be a whole day – keep Seligman’s idea for a once a month practice perhaps – a weekly lucky dip could include going to a new cafe to sit and write for an hour, having that massage you long for, taking your bike out for a ride, going for a short hike up the local lookout or a walk on the beach, redesigning your garden, seeing a stage show, visiting the gallery, eating ice cream while reading a magazine on your back deck. When the brain is happy it is more productive and (while this is not backed by any research I have read) I reckon it makes us more compassionate, considerate and patient too.

How many versions of the ideal day exist? I could let my imagination run wild and create multiple ‘ideal’, beautiful days. I certainly have a nice list of weekly lucky dips in mind too. The options are endless and limited only by the effort and time it takes to plan. The key though is living them. You need to think it. Write it. Plan it and DO it.

Isn’t it time we stopped waiting for life to begin and start living it? Isn’t it time to bring back the joy and inject some happiness into the routine of life? If you’ve committed to making this the best year yet, stop wishing and start living.

Life, it’s a gift. So write your own rules.

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
Pope Paul VI

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A friend recently wrote about attending the funeral of a dear friend at the end of last year. Reading her post I was moved and sobered by her loss, the passing of one so young, and the very gift of life itself.

Death forces us to sit up straight and pay attention. It makes all the little things, well, look just like little things. It gives us perspective. It’s a sharp hit of reality that forces us to focus on life. A death at a time of year when many people set resolutions and goals is particularly poignant.

How often do we hear that life is short? It is. It’s too short to live with regret. To live with fear. To live small.  Life is too short not to express ourselves fully, to feel deeply and to enjoy being crazy and daring and doing the things we love.

I wrote recently of setting some goals and creating a love list for the year. I’m going to hike a mountain, swing on a trapeze, I’m going to go to the beach and walk in the forest more often. I’m going to meet friends for lunch and take my husband out, to a different restaurant, each month for dinner.  I have plans for the year. My plans are my way of living. Of making life fun. Of honouring the lives of those I love who have lost theirs. But you know, I was thinking, as I was reading my friend’s blog, that to really honour our own life and the sweet beauty of it, we really ought to focus on giving stuff up too. I’m not talking about sugar and alcohol or cigarettes or whatever your vice might be. I reckon we need to give up guilt and shame and negative self talk. We need to free ourselves from the rules that have bound us, that have hemmed us in. We really ought to rewrite the rules of our lives and live on our own terms unrestricted by those old limiting patterns and beliefs, of the pointless merry-go-round of self sabotage.

The reality of our finite existence sometimes comes with the tragic loss of loved ones. What better way to honour the lives of those who have lost theirs by honouring our own.  Go ahead and make this year your best ever. What will you start doing, stop doing and do more if?

Shannyn