This post is rather unstructured. I present the report of what I achieved in the last three months compared to what I planned; I argue that progress happens when we are consistent in our actions and not only when we do all that we planned to do – especially when what we want is hard and requires practice and focus.
I monitor my progress on several goals which are important to me.. As I am trying out new things, I thought a blog post would be a good place to evaluate progress after three months of 2021.
Here are some achievements:
- I managed to read some things in German (50% of what I wanted – which was not much);
- I painted a little bit in my efforts to keep up with my hobbies (50% of what I planned – which was not much);
- I wanted to blog more, but I actually ended up blogging less than before;
- I kept up with my reading (75% of what I wanted, but I am ambitious on this goal so 75% is actually good);
- I read about 30% of the number of scientific articles I wanted to read – I have high expectations here as well, so it’s better than before although not amazing;
- I wrote more than once in three days which is good, as it’s much more than I use to write but not perfect (42% of planned);
- I did an workout or took a long walk every other day (50%);
- I spent time with family and friends, as virtual meetings and phone calls count (100%) – yes, I do need to plan this because otherwise I have the tendency to isolate for longer periods of time which is not ideal;
- Although it was harder than anticipated, I kept up with the non-fiction book club.
- I also completely failed in some areas, as with the consumption of sugar which should happen less often than it does. I don’t even monitor it, although I do pay attention to only have it once a day in smaller quantities.
As observed from the above list, I am far from actually reaching 100% my goals. Which is fine because I can see progress in some areas.
Writing for work, for instance, is something I enjoy although I struggled with it for years and I still do. In order to actually do it, I need to put my critic aside [which barely wants to take a break] so that I can actually put words on virtual paper. I trick myself with writing things on paper or virtually in a software and then I take bits and pieces and connect them to themselves or to other pieces. And it works. It’s the How to take smart notes book by Soeren Ahrens which convinced me to try out this system that I actually enjoy.
The thing is that there are various seasons of life. I am in a place where I am going deep in developing habits and discipline with the purpose to know myself better, be creative and enjoy the day to day more. I’ve noticed how unhappy I am when life happens to me and when I let external events dictate how I spend my time. I’ve noticed how creativity springs from doing things even when you don’t feel like it – how, for example, it’s much more probable to have a great idea when you read and write constantly than when you read and write when you feel like it. I’ve noticed how at the end of the day I feel more accomplished for having chosen the harder thing.
I believe I am responsible to take charge and in order to do that, I need systems that help me see how I progress. What I use now is (1) having clear goals for which (2) I set clear daily, weekly or monthly actions and (3) I write whether or not it was performed as expected. I am intending to extend my system to weekly and daily planning of projects [not just goals] as I am working on more than one thing [as it usually is]. I find inspiration in Cal Newport’s podcast: Deep Questions.
I am not expecting it to be easy though, as I’ve learned a thing or two during the last three years. There are highs and there are lows and life seems to be more about consistency than about sporadic action. Here’s what I wrote in the first week of 2021:
- It’s funny to me how the first week of a new year can be the first time when you realise your plans for 2021 are actually harder to keep up with than you imagine. But it’s fine, it is just a reminder that actually, every moment can be a fresh start.
- If I decide that I want to do something every day and then I do it for a few days in a row but then I stop because something urgent and temporary came up, my first impulse is to give it all up. I took a break so I know it can’t be perfectly done anymore. Why bother?
- I however learned that I need to control these thoughts and actually strive for better than for perfect. It doesn’t come naturally, but it somehow provides some ease.
- There is another extreme as well though. Not striving for perfect, may allow the formation of a loophole. The days I don’t feel like doing something I may say it doesn’t actually matter if I skip doing the thing today, even though I know I could and should do the thing.
- Well, it actually does. Skipping a day because something urgent came up and needed to be dealt with is different than not feeling like doing something. One can be a legitimate excuse, another can be just a plain excuse.
How to avoid excuses and do the harder and rewarding activity? Know why you do it and build the habit by having something you do every time before actually doing the activity. As wearing workout clothes before working out. Or prepare two ideas to write about in the morning the night before. Set yourself up for success. It may not be perfect, it may not be liniar, but it can be progress and it can get better.
Make today count!