It's that time again to think about [New Year's resolutions]! This fine tradition dates back 4000 years to early Babylonians, with the most popular resolution back then was to return borrowed farm equipment.
Resolutions can be to work toward a specific goal, start doing something, or change your habits to do something more often, or less often, than last year. Jim Collins from 37Signals suggests a [Stop Doing List]. Colin Beavan (aka [No Impact Man]) took this idea to the extreme, giving up a year of electricity, coffee and toilet paper, and a bunch of other things, in an effort to minimize his environmental impact.
Most people just choose resolutions from existing lists. Reader's Digest offers their [6 step approach]. [Popular resolutions] include the desire to lose weight, get fit and quit smoking. There were suggestions to improve [mind and spirit], while others focused on [your career]. For amusement, here were [10 suggestions from College Candy], and some [resolutions based on lessons learned from failed politicians]. Lastly, on The Happiness Project blog, fellow blogger Gretchen Rubin offers [more tips about making and keeping resolutions].
Let's review how well I kept [my 2009 resolutions]:
- Spend More Time with Friends and Family
This one was easy. Nearly all of my friends and family live in Tucson, so spending more time merely involves spending less time out of town. With the economic meltdown of 2008, IBM set down strict travel restrictions, so I only traveled 11 weeks in 2009.
- Enjoy Life More
I have mixed feelings on this one. The four hardest hit areas of the current economic recession were southern Florida, southern Michigan, southern California and southern Arizona. Last year, I had friends that lost their job, their home, their business, or their battle with cancer. Trying to enjoy life while your friends are walking around like zombies after nuclear winter just doesn't feel right.
- Learn Something New
I was able to keep this one, in an unexpected way. Shortly after making this resolution, I was asked to teach young kids the "C" programming language so they could program LEGO Mindstorms robots. While I already know "C" in general, I had to learn to build the robots and program the interface for the robot "brick" in order to teach others. Sometimes, the best way to learn something new, is to offer to teach it to others. This was a deeply rewarding way to give back to the community.
- Make Tucson a better place, and enrich the lives of its residents
In addition to helping teach kids to build robots, I spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to support local Tucson organizations this year. Did it help? It is hard to say. For example, you can spend an entire day sorting cans for the community food bank, only to learn that this will all be consumed in a matter of days. At least I will be paying less taxes!
- Get better organized
This has been an ongoing struggle, but I made progress in 2008 and 2009. Last year, I purchased a T-mobile G1 smart phone with Google and I have been using this as my organization tool. It syncs up with my Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Remember the Milk, Delicious, and other sites I use. It certainly works better for me than my past attempt using a [Hipster PDA].
Not everybody believes in New Year's resolutions. Happy Lists gives [ten reasons not to make resolutions this year]. Perhaps [willpower is over-rated]. Another article explained [why financial resolutions fail]. Well, you can [blame it on the brain], the prefrontal cortex specifically, for not being designed to handle the added mental stress of so many resolutions. Perhaps you should only make resolutions that are [fun to keep], or limit yourself to just making [one resolution].
Should people make their resolutions public? Derek Sivers cites research indicating that [announcing your plans makes you less motivated] to complete them. Given the long waits we saw between when storage vendors like EMC announce some new feature to when it is actually delivered, there might be a lot of truth to that. So, this year, I will do things differently and NOT make public any New Year's resolutions for 2010.