New Year's eve is approaching, which means that people are making their New Years' resolutions and asking me what mine are. I don't have any, and I think that's a good thing.
The problem with New Years Resolutions is that they're not motivated by a burning desire to change. Wee all know that most people don't really change, and we know how hard it is for us to change ourselves. The only fuel powerful enough to push through that pain period is the burning desire for results. New Year's resolutions don't have that burning desire. Instead we realize it's a new year, get the fluffy feeling that a fresh start is upon us, and then scramble to make up New Year's resolutions. That method of change is about as effective as the US' "war on drugs" is against drug addiction.
How motivated can you possibly be if you're willing to wait until the ball drops before taking action? Not very. I have a friend who is capable of, and has executed on many occasions, 180 degree life changes. On a normal day if he told me he was going to do something difficult, I'd have full faith in him. But he recently picked up smoking and told me he's quitting for New Year's. I bet he won't. Quitting cigarettes requires a fundamental hatred for the effects smoking has on your body and life. Anything less is a break from smoking. If he had that harsh emotion, he wouldn't be smoking today.
This is relevant at times other than New Year's, too. When someone tells me that they've decided not to eat unhealthy anymore, and they start their new diet on their next meal, I give them the benefit of the doubt. If they say, in between gobbling down moonpies, that they're quitting in a week, I'd bet strongly against them.
All that said...
New Years does seem to be a good time for reflection and planning. It's cold, so spending an hour or two inside at your computer making plans seems reasonable, and Christmas always tends to be a slow productivity period, which incites me to step up my game a bit.
Because of various studies and TED talks, I've been keeping my goals to myself recently. I don't think it's made me more motivated. My readers tend to bug me (in a very good way) when I'm not putting out stuff I promised I'd put out, and I find that motivating. I also benefit from the feedback. So I'm going to go back to my old ways of talking about what I'm working on. Here's what's on my plate:
I have two unfinished projects that are both long overdue. One is a social productivity site that Todd and I (and a few others) have been using for almost a year. You put stuff on your todo list every day, your friends can see it and keep you accountable. It needs a bit more polishing before it's ready for prime time, but I'm thinking about releasing some invites for readers. In fact, here are 15:
Each one comes with a free invitation code for your friend. DO NOT USE A CODE UNLESS YOU'LL GET A FRIEND TO SIGN UP TOO. I've invited a limited amount of people already, and every single person who sticks with it has had a friend keep them accountable. To use a code, go to www.tasksmash.com and mention in the comments which one you used.
The next project is a short book called Life Outside the Box. I think it's my best writing yet, I have some amazing people featured in it with guest essays and such, but it's still missing something. A twice NY Times bestselling author has been giving me his notes on it, and he's pointed out that while it all makes sense and is compelling, it doesn't end with a clear path on what to do next. I'm working on that, because I really want it to be a knockout.
I also have an idea for my next book, but I'm not letting myself start until I finish LOtB.
The project I'm most excited about is one that I can't say much about. But I can tell you a bit about how I came to decide on it:
In 2011 I turn 30. In practical terms, this is a totally arbitrary number. Nothing changes between the day before my birthday and the day after, but there is an undeniable mental switch that happens somewhere around then. Ten years goes by fast, and I know that in the next ten years I will probably start a family. That's a big change, and it leads me to start thinking that I need to buckle down and get serious about business. I feel like that's the one area of my life that I'm comfortable and happy, but not totally knocking out of the park.
And that got me thinking about what knocking it out of the park would mean. To me it comes down to a combination of three things. I need a project that has the potential to make a lot of money, has a big impact on something I care about, and keeps me fully engaged. Blogging fulfills the last two, but I don't expect to make a million dollars from my blog. That's not the point of it. I could always make a good amount of money teaching pickup, which does have a pretty big impact, but the truth is that I'm over it and it doesn't keep me engaged.
After thinking about all that for a few months, I came up with an idea for a new site that I think could be huge. If I can execute it properly, I think it has the potential to be in the same league as Twitter and Facebook (although it's not similar to either). I've already started work on it and have a very rough version running. I've told the idea to a handful of people, including a couple very successful startup people, and everyone shares my excitement about it. And that's why posts have been sporadic recently. I stopped writing my 1000 words a day because I was coding too much. I'm sorry I can't share more details now, but they'll be posted here first.
I do have one concrete measurable goal: my goal is for this site to be in the top 50k Alexa by September 2011. Right now I'm somewhere around 70k.
Once again, sorry about not sticking to my Monday/Thursday schedule. I really value you reading my blog and don't take the responsibility of writing for you lightly.
I also have the goal of traveling slightly less (mostly restricting travel within the US). I don't feel like I've "earned" the amount of travel I've been doing recently, in terms of productivity.
Your blog is a breath of fresh air. I'd love to test your Tasksmash ap if invites are still available. What can I do to help you in exchange?
Great post - My husband and I have this conversation often. He's very successful in his job and very successful in a game that he released in the FLOSS community - now how to merge those to entrepreneurship :)
Will you be releasing more codes to taskSMASH soon? (That's how I found your site)
Great post and right to the point! You don't have to make it a New Year's Resolution to make changes in your life. If you want something real bad, you'll do it right now and stick with it! There is never a perfect moment to start changes in your life!
Cool site. I got in, but couldn't post here because the comments weren't working. How do I invite my friend now?
What are you thinking of doing to raise your Alexa ranking? Better promotion or improving quality/quantity of posts? It would be interesting to know which method you use gives the best results.
I tried the Task Smash awhile ago when you were doing the beginning trials and I had some ideas that would make it better.
1. Email reminders of tasks.
2. Text message reminders of Tasks.
I already use google calendar on my android, but I can't get enough updates to do things I need to get done.
Very cool idea though.
So back in January, I wrote out my 7 goals for the year. It's been two months, so let's see how I'm doing :
1. Become FULLY polyphasic
I'm close on this one. Many days I go perfectly, sometimes if I have nothing to do I oversleep and then skip some naps during the day. I'm actually pretty satisfied with that, as I'm only sleeping 2.5-4.5 hours per night, I'm never tired, and can always count on being awake early and staying up late. I'll keep pressing to be more consistent, but I'm satisfied with where I am.
I like new years resolutions. It is like having a shower where the sins of last year are washed away. Even if you did not achieve a single resolution last year, your lizard brain is quick to point out that this was the younger, more immature version of you that just could not stick to things. That unreliable guy is nothing on this year's version. This guy sticks to things.
So, I have got twelve resolutions for this year (I wrote these down before the new year begun) so I wanted to get them out there so I could track them from here. They are:
1. Write a blog post twice a week - Yep, that's this thing. I have committed with a buddy to write every day. He has suggested that we do half an hour a day which is a little daunting but I am certainly prepared to give it a go. This is the first day of it and it is actually happening. I aim to post twice a week.
2. Read 25 books - Last year I tried to read 20 books which I did not complete. I had read 18 by early November, however life got in the way for the last two months of the year. It was annoying but I am not sure if it is the number per se, but rather that I read a lot more every year. I think if I read for an hour a day I should be able to get through 25 books. I read three in January already which are 1. The Catcher in the Rye 2. Blood Meridian and 3. Your Money or Your Life.
3. Relearn German - A few years ago I could have a basic conversation in German and write a little. Now I can barely do it at all which is something I want to remedy. This year I am going to study all the German Pimsleur levels which will hopefully get me back to having conversations in German. I will also either try to meet some local Germans or join the German speakers group in my local city.