Thursday, January 27, 2011

Resolution Overload

I have seen lots of blog posts lately about goals for the new year.  Most of them typically explicitly state they are not at all listing their new year's resolutions, but really resolutions are goals, aren't they?  Other blogs complain about the resolutions of other bloggers, which still makes me think about my goals for this year. 

Goals do need a timeline.  A year is a very realistic timeline for a larger goal or achieving a milestone in your career or education, or whatever it is that you do or aspire to do.  So why not start up new goals on January 1?  It makes sense to me and puzzles me that people lately are so negative about resolutions, as if by calling it a resolution you are giving up on it before you start.  So we can call them goals, whatever?

I am a very goal-oriented person.  I am happy when I am working toward a larger goal, when I have a purpose and have something to stay busy doing.  Otherwise, it is very easy to sit around the house, especially during the winter, and waste time watching the plethora of reality t.v. and NCIS reruns.  Marathons of Top Chef get me every time, but now I know what gnocchi is and how to spell it, so maybe the time spent in front of the t.v. wasn't really a loss.

The problem I have and other bloggers like me seem to have is keeping the to-do list manageable.  Aspirations are very motivating, especially if you are able to set concrete milestones for yourself.  The problem is over-allocation of your own time, as is the case if you are the project manager for a large team of people in the workplace.  There are only so many productive hours in the day - once you over-allocate, the project is doomed. 

For my goals this year, I recently committed myself to polishing up my children's book so I can attempt the daunting task of getting it published, writing a new novel that I have already started, getting all my preparations done so I can apply to graduate school with unswerving confidence, and losing the requisite ten pounds. 

To further these goals (except the losing of the fat), I just enrolled my toddler in a really awesome preschool, a school that is so awesome that I have no need to feel guilt sending him there - in fact, we had to coax him out the door.  The benefit to him is greater than the benefit to me, so as a mother I feel good about it.  Doing something just for me feels painfully selfish. 

But the daycare only buys me an additional six hours a week added to the two hours I have been able to squeeze in most weekends.  That's only eight hours a week to write a book, edit another, and re-read much of what it took me four years of full-time college to read in the first place.  I don't think so.  If I had the insanity or the time to fire up Project and list out the time I need to accomplish all the goals, I would absolutely find that I can write or I can study in the time I have allocated for me.

I know from the work I did last quarter that I tend to write a chapter an hour and take more like two hours a chapter to polish and edit, re-read, and then polish and edit again only one chapter.  If this is correct, it is realistic that I can write eight chapters or edit four.  I can write two chapters and edit three.  I can write six chapters and edit one.  But I cannot write a book, edit a book, and reread the Norton Anthology of English Literature while cramming for the GRE with only one normal workday a week spread out over three or four days. 

The risk here is that I am always going to feel bad if I set unrealistic goals for myself, and so will you.  I still want to go to graduate school, but it is not realistic to prepare for it in the time I really want to set aside to write.  My only real option is to cut out other slots of time - time spent watching t.v. seems to be the only option, but I usually only watch t.v. when I am tired or overwhelmed.  I'm not sure if that's the time to break out the Norton's - in fact, I'm sure it is not, which is why I haven't. 

It is a little depressing to realize only a fraction of my goals are achievable in the time I have allocated right now.  Just like I would do at work, I need to put those extra projects on the list and get to them when I can - maybe later this year or next year.  You can only do so much at one time.  On the up side, I absolutely will be able to achieve my writing goals assuming the daycare is as good as it seems, that my little guy and I are healthy during my working time, and that I can focus for eight hours a week spread out over three or four days. 

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