Now, Make Them Stick

In the previous post I listed my New Year’s resolutions (and resettings). It’s a pretty substantial list. Naturally, one might ask how I intend to meet all those goals.

It won’t be easy, but in today’s technologically advanced society, there are tools to improve the likelihood of success.

For me, much of it depends on a massive to-do list. This list isn’t on a slip of paper in the kitchen. This list is web- and app-based, so it goes with me everywhere. It’s on my phone, and every morning it tells me what my task items for the day are. It’s on my computer, and reminds me in the afternoon what I need to do in the evening.

This to-do list includes the typical action-items of an academic trying to start a farm: Write letters of recommendation, grade exams, revise a proposal budget. But it also has recurring items: Exercise Monday through Friday, spend fifteen minutes a day doing art, write my Friday Headlines post on Thursday so it can go live on Friday. It remind me to blog daily, and it reminds me to bring $7 to work on Wednesday so I can pay for Chinese take-out.

About once a month, I review this to-do list and my annual resolutions and add other action-items, like: Make that appointment for the new therapist, try a new brew recipe, or write a new web column. This keeps me on-task and gives me smaller intermediate goals toward the long-term success that I’m hoping for.

Of course, there’s only 24 hours in the day, and I have to sleep sometime, so I don’t always meet all of my goals. I try to be reasonable and realistic. So, for example, I only plan to exercise 5 days a week and typically limit workouts to 45 minutes or less. I won’t get as fit as I’d like to, but I’m certainly in better condition than I would be without exercise at all! Sometimes I just abandon goals. I don’t always get a Friday Headlines post written. No one dies if I don’t. I bear all this in mind each month when I do my re-evaluation.

There are also things clearly lacking from the list of resolutions, like sewing new period garb, or finishing my novel. These things I want to do, but I find the best way to keep them fun is to abandon myself to them on the occasional weekend and don’t force them into my daily regiment. Because then it becomes work, and I work enough already.

For those who might be curious, the to-do list I use is called Todoist, and is available in a limited free version and an inexpensive premium version. I find it useful enough that I actually pay for the premium, but the free version is nearly as good. I’m not promoting the software. I’m not being paid to give it a positive review. But it works for me, and maybe it’ll work for you too.

Here’s what it looks like on my phone.

Todoist for Android
Todoist for Android

And on my computer. In this case, I’m showing the app, but it also looks the same when viewed on a web-browser.

Todoist for Windows 7/8. We're between semesters, so you can see that most of the items are in the category of 'personal.' Except for the reminder to order Chinese take-out on Wednesday, which is totally work-related.
Todoist for Windows 7/8

This is the one thing I do that helps most to achieve my annual goals. With it, I have managed to blog nearly daily for more than two years and exercise at least five times a week. If I didn’t have the daily reminder, I might not have been so successful.

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