Groundhog Day Resolutions for 2011: System

Groundhog by Pearson Scott Foreman Happy Groundhog Day! This is the day that I traditionally make my new year’s resolutions, because several years ago I realized that when January 1st rolls around, I’m in no state of mind to do anything resembling planning. You may have experienced the same thing; you’re finishing up stuff from last year, and you’re also trying to get ready for the new year. By now, you’ve had enough time to get a grip on how 2010 went for you, and you have some sense of how 2011 is shaping up.

I’ve done Groundhog Day Resolutions for the past four years or so, starting in 2007. It’s essentially a system of review dates that is based on the pattern of 1 month + 1 day past January 1st: 2/2, 3/3 and so forth up to 12/12. These are easy days to remember. This year’s schedule looks like this:

Date Holiday Description
1/1 New Year’s Day Start thinking about resolutions
2/2 Groundhog Day Make your resolutions. Assemble your peer group.
3/3 March 3 Review w/ group.
4/4 April 4 Review w/ group.
5/5 Cinco de Mayo Review w/ group. Think celebratory, spring-like thoughts!
6/6 June 6 Mid-Year Review w/ group. Optional break for summer.
7/7 Tanabata Star Festival Private Review. Make Wishes. Rededicate.
8/8 Chinese Father’s Day Private Review. Plan for future completion.
9/9 September 9 Review w/ group. Three months left.
10/10 October 10 Review w/ group. Two months left.
11/11 Veteran’s Day Review w/ group. A Day to be Grateful.
12/12 December 12 End-of-year Review. Break for Holiday Madness.

The effective date range is from 2/2 to 12/12, which is 10 months of resolution follow-through before the holidays kick into high-gear. I also have taken June and sometimes July off when the weather is really nice. I try to write up my reviews here on the blog, along with a few other bloggers who have taken a shine to the idea of Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDRs).

There are a few changes to the flow of the review activity as well, which reflect my experience with keeping up with the resolutions over the years.

  • First, I think that one needs to have a peer group that you talk about your reviews with. This comes from the advice from Colleen Wainwright in our Google Wave experiment, in which we discuss what we have going on during the week. And as I’ve discovered while practicing being part of things bigger than myself, that connection with other people and their dreams has a powerful motivational effect. The more you can externalize your dreams, even through mere discussion, the more likely you will be successful in achieving them.

  • I have two kinds of breaks: a mid-year I’m sick of thinking of my resolutions optional break, and also the option of not meeting with your peer group over the summer. Why? It’s summer, which in New England is a brief period of time to enjoy the sun. I try to soak up as much of it as I can, because the memories have to last through the winter. I find that the break, scheduled or not, leads to a fresher perspective.

  • The last three months of the review period are focused on finishing some of the longer-term goals. It’s by this time that I seem to have the most clarity on what’s working and what’s not working, and I’m motivated to get more things done. It’s always my hope that I can maintain this motivation throughout the year, but psychologically there is that extra boost of urgency as the days start getting shorter again.

There are a few holiday-based theme review days too:

  • On Cinco De Mayo, which is celebrated in the US and Mexico, I think of the future and of Spring-time. Following on the heels of May Day, this seems quite appropriate to me too. Also, it rarely snows in May (at least where I live). One can look forward to clearer skies and longer days, which leads to productive thoughts.

  • The Tanabata Star Festival is on July 7 (as observed on the Western calendar, anyway), which centers around a story about two lovers who live in the sky that get to see each other only once a year. People in Japan write down their wishes for self-improvement on streamers and hang them on bamboo trees, so the lovers see them and grant them. I think it’s a cool idea, so I try to make some good wishes for myself on this day to rekindle the dream.

  • Chinese Father’s Day falls on August 8, and I think it’s on this day because the word for “8” in Chinese sounds like “baa”, which is the children’s word for “Daddy”. You know: baa baa! Like Papa in English. On such a day, having thoughts about the future, one’s own responsibilities, and the people under your care seems highly relevant. It would be good to designate a Mother’s Day somewhere in the schedule too.

  • Veteran’s Day (or Remembrance Day) on November 11 is a day for reflection and thanks. With this theme in mind, it’s not a bad time to look back at what made your GHDRs successful, and consider how blessed you have been thanks to the contributions and even sacrifices of others. Give Mom a call! Hug your cat!

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p>The goal underlying this ad-hoc system of dates is to increase mindfulness of one’s goals throughout the year. While it doesn’t always stick, I am guaranteed to at least THINK about the days as they whoosh by.

The real trick, though, is to define goals that are achievable. I tend to like to think in broad artistic strokes of the brush when it comes to my big goals, which doesn’t lead to measurable progress. This is a work in progress. At least I’m getting a little bit better at it every year.

Resolutions of the Past

The recurring difficulty I’ve had for the past 4 years of practicing my GHDRs has been in making the right resolutions. This is unexpectedly appropriate, given the on-screen experience of Bill Murray’s character in the the Groundhog Day movie. After he realizes that he’s repeating Groundhog Day over and over again, he goes through many days of stumbling around trying all kinds of things, until he settles into a routine that he finds ultimately fulfilling. My first four rounds through GHDRs mirrors this, though I’m not yet at the part where I have it figured out. Last year I reviewed the overall pattern:

Year Resolutions
2007 Decided I wanted to make money doing what I love. I guessed it was writing and making stuff, so I resolved to write and make stuff for sale.
2008 Didn’t quite happen in 2007, so chose the same goals as 2007. Master resolution discovered: seek truth, make it visible.
2009 Busy with demanding museum-related work, started late. Resolutions were the same as 2007, with some slightly-more tangible refinements: write about what catches my eye, create that that illuminates, and generate products that lead to financial independence.
2009 In the second half of 2009, I noticed that the more I worked with other people’s projects, the better my own projects seemed to go. The resulting principle: be involved in dreams that are larger than myself.
2010 Started the Google Wave with Colleen™, which lead to this resolution: To create with and be around people I like and respect, and make an honest buck. This is yet another refinement to the “make money doing what I love” resolution I started with in 2007.

I actually forgot to write my 2010 conclusions on 12/12, as my Dad had just flown in for a six-week visit and I was preoccupied with finishing some project work so I could spend more time with him. 2010’s GHDR followup was comprised of my attempts to make the goal more concrete. Who do I like? What am I creating with them? How am I participating? And what is an honest buck? Many of my musings that year were centered around World Domination, which I later renamed “Empire Building” because I liked that term better. It’s been good for me, but maybe not so good for the blog because I’ve been writing almost exclusively about topics related to this. At least, it seems that way to me; I’d like to broaden the range of topics I write about for 2011.

Life balance has been on my mind a lot in the past year as well. I tried to create an application for the iPhone with my friend Al Briggs in Germany, with me as designer and Al as developer, but this stalled when we realized that making a simple application was difficult when our own definitions of life balance were quite different. While it’s tempting to make this a resolution for 2011, I’m finally getting wise to these trick goals. Life balance isn’t something I can measurably achieve. However, I can try to isolate those things that will lead to the feeling of balance. For me at this stage of my life, that’s seeking satisfaction of four simultaneous objectives:

  • doing meaningful work that I can feel good about
  • making the time to work on my own projects
  • being around people I enjoy and respect
  • not worrying about money

I have also been more aware of my cycles of productivity. There are times when I am super-productive, and times when I am super-lazy. Some of the lazy periods are triggered by trying to be productive beyond my natural ability to sustain that pace; I need the downtime to recover. Some of the down-time is triggered by just being at too many social engagements in a week, which I have found empirically to have a ratio of about 4-8 hours of recovery to every hour of socialization (travel time inclusive). It seems excessive to me, too, in case you’re wondering, but it appears to be an inviolate law. I can do simple things in the recovery period like wash dishes, but there’s a lot of silent static in my brain that takes a while to die down.

That all said, for 2011 I’m going to split my resolutions into two parts:

  • the master resolutions / personal life principles
  • specific task accomplishments that reflect the resolutions / principles

I will write about that in a separate followup post.

This year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions Posts: