Category: goals

A Flaw in My Reading Goal

So the other day I came across a problem the other day. A problem with my reading goal. My past approach to books has been to read into them a bit and then decide if I was going to finish them or not. If I wasn’t loving the book, I’d set it aside and move on to the next novel. This is one of the main reasons that my ratings for books were as high as they were. I’d only rate a book I finished, and I’d only finish a book I liked.

But this year my goal is to read more books. One a week, specifically. And I’ve figured I can get that done by reading 14% of a book each day, give or take. It’s been a stretch for me to find the time to do that, and I’ve definitely had to work so far to get it done. (Although I managed to finish 6 books in January, so I have a bit of a cushion now, which makes me feel much better about things.)

The thing is, this goal doesn’t give me the leeway to just give up on a book 14% or 28% in. If I set a book aside, then I’m also setting aside all of the effort I made of reading that book. I’m supposed to be 70% of the way through a book by Thursday night, but if I set one aside on Tuesday, then I have to really read a ton to be able to make up the lost progress.

So the other day I gave my first 2/10 rating to a book in a long time. A very long time. Because I finished a book I had no desire to read. I’d enjoyed it a bit at the beginning. (It was a sequel to a book I really liked.) But by halfway through, I knew where it was going and I had no desire to go there. I knew it was setting up a third book, and that it was going to cliffhanger, and I already knew there was no way I was going to want to read the third book, so why even bother?

But I was 40% of the way through the book, and I didn’t have time to turn to a different book, so I finished it. It wasn’t fun. On the other hand, it only took me a few days to finish it, since I still had the goal.

In the end, I think the goal still works. I’ll still be reading much more than I was without it, and that’s great. And I think I’ll enjoy many more books. Now and then there will be a bad apple, but as long as I’m careful with what I select, I should be okay.

But I’m not telling you what book it was. Sorry.

If it proves too problematic, I’ll have to change the goal. I could give myself partial credit for a book, I suppose, but I’d really rather not. I want to read entire novels, not a patchwork of pieces. Cross your fingers that it all works out.

How do you motivate yourself to keep doing something you love, despite not having time to do it?

Goals for 2017

Still playing catch up with my blog posts from vacation. However, I wanted to take a minute to state online what I want to get done this year. Because goals.

In 2016, I was able to do quite a few things I’m proud of. I stuck with my goal to lay off sugar (more or less, though I fell off the wagon *hard* in December). I exercised consistently. I dropped from 217 to 188 pounds. I submitted another book to editors. Big, overarching goals that were all accomplished. I’d like to keep that up. Here are some specifics:

  • Submit another book to editors. This is the only thing that’s really in my control: working with my agents to get books to the point where they feel comfortable sending them out to editors. I can’t control if editors buy them, but I can certainly control if they exist to be bought. This might potentially be a tricky goal for me this year. I have only one book that I’m sitting on (UTOPIA). Is there a chance I’ll return to it and discover it’s a big failure? Yes. Is there a chance I’ll like it but my agents won’t? Yes. Do I have a plan for if that happens? Um . . . no? Just work on something else, I guess. But I’m hopeful we all like it, though it’s a big departure for me in some ways. If UTOPIA doesn’t pan out, I’d better hope something else brilliant happens, either with MURDER CASTLE or with a new book that comes out of nowhere. (It’s been known to happen.) My hope is that consistently writing 1,000 words a day gets me there, the same way it always has . . .
  • Get down to 180 pounds. I’d like to build on my success from last year and continue getting in shape. I don’t think this is out of the question. It’ll just take some concerted effort and deciding that hovering around 190 isn’t acceptable. I’d like to hover around 180 instead. Exercise and staying away from sweets should help a lot. And not having another December for a while. (Even though I only put on 4 pounds over the break.)
  • Read a book a week. This one should be a real challenge. Especially since a lot of the books I read are long books. We’ll see if I can keep up. Basically, I need to get 14% of the way through a book every day. My Kindle can track that for me. I’m already 8% behind on the book I started January 1. Might be a struggle . . .
  • Improve my Slovak. I’d like to study some Slovak every day. 15 minutes? 30? Something like that. There are online courses available. The trick is just finding time for it. But if I speak Slovak better, I think my kids will be able to speak Slovak better. This has been a goal for a long time. I’ve just always been terrible at actually accomplishing it. (Lest you think I have a perfect track record with goals.)
  • Continue to declutter my house and life. This one is bigger and more over-arching, in that I’m not sure how I’ll break it down. 15 minutes of decluttering a day is great in theory, but I’ve found I do a bad job of sticking with it. That said, when I went to declutter this winter break, I found that many of the places that often get really bad still weren’t too terrible, so maybe I’m improving on the whole?
  • Continue reading to DC each evening. She needs the help, and I love spending the time with her. Also, it helps me get toward my reading goal. Win win!

Really, if I can stay on top of all of those goals, it’ll be a miracle. But the great thing about goals is that just by trying to reach them, we improve our performance in the areas we care about.

What are your goals for the year?

Diet Update: The 20 lb Mark

Lest you think I’ve given up on my diet, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. It’s a little over 2 months now that I’ve been on it, and I finally hit the 20 lb lost mark this morning, which means I’m also under 200 lbs again.

I’m also officially very tired of being on the diet.

The best news is that I’m just 2.8 pounds from being “Normal” once again, which is my overarching goal, of course. Because if I can be normal according to BMI, then at least that’s one area where I can say I’m scientifically proven to be normal. Right? Right.

Since I’m getting that close, my mind is starting to turn to how I’m going to ensure I don’t go back into “overweight” territory. That’s always the problem, isn’t it? I’ve proven to myself time and time again that I can lose the weight when I really put my mind to it, but I’ve also proven to myself that I’ll put the weight right back on if I don’t watch myself.

This time, I hope it’s going to be different, and I have a few good reasons to believe that hope:

  • I’m exercising every day still. That makes a big difference, and it helps me feel much better on a day to day basis. Exercise is a no brainer I should have been doing all along, but it’s one thing to know something in theory. Applying that knowledge is the tricky part. I’ve found a way to exercise that works for me, and I’ve been doing it for quite some time now, so I don’t see any real chances that will stop.
  • I’m not going back on sugar. Ever since I stopped eating so much sugar, I’ve stopped gaining weight, This was normally the thing that made me slowly gain over time: brownies and ice cream. By limiting myself, I’m hopeful that solves the problem.
  • New goal. As you know, I’m very goal-oriented. I’ve tried to think of a way to tap into this to help me not just lose weight, but keep it off. My new approach is going to be forcing myself to do a weigh-in on the last day of each month. The goal is to be below 195 on that day. If I am, I’ll treat myself to a small reward. If I’m not, no reward. (Yes. I work for Scooby Snacks.) While this might cost a bit of money, I consider it money well spent, since the long-term health benefits will save me much more than whatever I spend.

Anyway. That’s it. The diet continues for a while, and then it transitions into the monthly weigh ins. I’ll be very glad to be done weighing food every time I eat it, that’s for sure.

Thanks for the words of encouragement and support, They’re always appreciated!

What to Do When Goals Go Wrong

The fact that I’m big on goal setting has been well-established. I set daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals–you name it. And for them to really work (in my experience), the key comes down to those daily goals. Breaking up big projects into bite-sized pieces that you can focus on in isolation to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.

I’ve talked to other people about their goals, and a lot of the time it seems like they don’t like using those daily goals because they get behind on them, and then once they’re behind, they feel like they need to catch up. That’s where things fall apart.

If I have a goal to write 1,000 words each day, and I miss it one day and then roll over the balance of what I missed it by, I’m essentially going into . . . “goal debt.” (It’s like credit card debt, without the risk of a collections agency coming after you. Unless your goal was work-related.)

Just like any kind of debt, goal debt can really mess up your plans. Ideally, you set a goal that was challenging but obtainable. For me, that’s 1,000 words a day for writing. I can do that. At this point, with all the experience I have meeting that goal, I know it’s reachable. But from experience, I know that 2,000 words a day is a real stretch. I tried that last year for NaNoWriMo, and while I managed to pull it off, it took a lot of work. 3,000 words a day? I don’t think I could keep it up. I’d drown.

But that’s exactly where you put yourself the deeper you go into goal debt. Say you’re only really able to get 500 words a day in consistently, but you’ve set your goal at 1,000. So the first day, you try really hard and get 1,000. The second day, you only hit 750, so the third day, you force yourself to plow through and make 1,250. Huzzah! But then you’re exhausted, and the fourth day, you don’t write at all. The fifth day, you’re supposed to write 2,000 words, but you only get in 500. The sixth day, you’re supposed to hit 2,500, but even with working as hard as you can, you barely crack 1,000. The seventh day?

You give up.

In this case, I’d say your goal should be interest free. If you’ve set it to stretch yourself, then fine. Shoot for the stars. But don’t punish yourself if you don’t make it. Reset the goal at the beginning of the next day back to 1,000. Personally, I prefer goals I can make. I’m not trying to stretch myself when it comes to writing. I’m trying to run a long marathon. I need slow but steady wins the race, not Speedy Gonzales.

But make your goals work for you. Figure out how that is, and go for it.

Then again, sometimes you might need to set those daily goals because you have a dreaded deadline. It’s externally imposed on you. You’ve got to get that paper written on time, no matter what. Escaping goal debt is pretty much impossible, if you get behind. Believe me, I know. When I was writing my masters thesis, it seemed like I’d never finish.

What do you do then?

In my experience, you avoid the debt by working harder at the beginning. Carve out some wiggle room for yourself, so that you’re ahead of the curve. If your goal is to write 5 pages of a thesis a day, write 7 a day for the first few days. It’s tough, but doable. Then, you’ve got a bit of padding between that deadline and your goal. If you have a bad day, you can afford to miss a little here or there. It’s just like money: saving up some time (or goal currency) for a future emergency can help you stay calm and collected throughout the project.

Anyway. Those two principles have been what helped me the most to get through grad school and write novel-length fiction. I use them all the time. Any tips you have for tackling big projects?

New Year’s Goal: Keeping Track of My Reading and Viewing Lists

Something I noticed a lot of my friends doing online at the end of the year was reporting back on what they read over the course of that year–What their top books were, or in the case of my more movie-centric friends, what their top films were. That’s something that I haven’t noticed before (was I just snoozing through it? Maybe I’ve gotten different friends? Maybe Facebook was hiding it from me so that I wouldn’t feel bad?), but I love the idea, and so I want to do the same thing this year.

What’s my plan?

I’m going to keep a Google Spreadsheet listing every movie, book, and TV episode I watch. I’m also going to include the date and a rating (0-10) for each one. That way, I can look back at a particular month and see what I liked the most, or check for a year. More data means more ways to have fun with the information when the fun-having time starts.

Why am I going to do this?

Well, besides the obvious answer (“Because I want to.”), and the almost as obvious answer (“Because I think it will be interesting.”), there’s the dark,¬†real¬†answer: “Because I don’t think I’m reading enough.”

I know from experience with myself that when I start tracking things, I start doing them better. More effectively. I thrive on keeping track of numbers and statistics. That says something about me, I suppose, but I’m old enough now to be at peace with that. If I know some ways of motivating myself to do more, why wouldn’t I take them?

Tracking the number of books I read each month will help me to read more of the things. Tracking the number of television shows and movies? That’s more just curiosity, there. If anything, it might inspire me to watch less theses days. Who knows?

Either which way, it seems like a fun experiment, so I’m going to give it a shot. I don’t anticipate sharing many of the details on the blog, other than the typical reviews I post now and then. I suppose I might consider adding a little blurb at the end of each post with the current tallies, but that sounds too much like work.

So probably not.

In any case, that’s my thing I’m doing differently this year. (Really stretching myself, I know.) What are you planning on giving a spin this time around the sun?

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