All entries for January 2010

January 06, 2010

NYR 2010

I know, I said I would post these yesterday. A day late, but here they are, my New Year's Resolutions.

Quick note on the numbering system: The first two digits indicate what year the resolution is from. The next digit is the number of the resolution (1 to 5, see previous post). The last digit say what version of the resolution it is, i.e. if it has been revised.

  • 09.1.2: Get up within 5 seconds of turning off the alarm clock. Don’t go back to bed for at least half an hour.

  • 09.2.2: Exercise at least 130 times a year (corresponds to average of 2.5 times a week). “Exercising” is defined as a minimum of half an hour of working out or running, or both. Exercising several times a day still counts as a single time.

  • 09.3.1: Tidy my room every Sunday. The room is considered “tidy” when there is nothing on the floor that shouldn’t be, the floor has been hovered, there is at most one pile of papers on the desk, and no rubbish or paper remains on other surfaces.

  • 09.4.2: Reply to all personal emails, SMS and Facebook messages that require an answer, within 24 hours of reading. A message requires an answer if it is a not a response to one of my own messages, if it contains a question mark, or if it contains at least two sentences. If the reply would be more than two paragraphs long, you may give yourself more time.

  • 09.5.1: Be in bed by midnight. “Being in bed” is defined by being literally in bed, be it lying, sitting or standing. Once in bed, the bed must not be left before sleep has taken place

  • 10.1.1: Sit straight during lectures. If, on a given day, no time is spent in a lecture hall, ignore this resolution.

  • 10.2.1: Play at least 30 minutes of piano a day. Teaching or playing for others also counts. If the day is spent travelling, i.e. if the bed from which you wake up is different from the one you fall asleep in, you may ignore this resolution.

  • 10.3.1: Every day, write a diary entry. There are no restrictions on content, length or style.

  • 10.4.1: Wash up anything that has been dirtied during the making of a meal, within 30 minutes of having finished the meal. When in Warwick, “washing up” is defined as washing, drying and putting back to its place. When in a house with a dishwasher, “washing up” is defined as rinsing and putting in the dishwasher, unless someone else is offering to do so.

  • 10.5.1: Do not turn on or use any computer on Saturdays.

Some of these need a little commenting.

09.5.1: A friend of mine found this one very odd, because in her words, "your time as a student is a time for living". I don't entirely see how this is synonymous with "going to bed late", but she did have a point. So I have decided that if I get to bed late because I have been out, my resolution will have failed for that day, but I will have no scruples about it. The point is to avoid those pointless evenings surfing the net or watching YouTube videos.

10.3.1: Up until now I have had no diary at all. The reason I'm starting one is a practical one more than anything else. We think we can remember things, but slowly and gradually memories slide out of our mind. In 50 years, most of us will have forgotten the details of our childhood or adolescence, and they will be briefly summed up by a few adjectives, like "happy" or "angsty". I don't want that to happen. My diary is, in effect, going to be an archive of past events, described as they were happening, without the romanticizing effects of retrospection. If I ever decide to write an autobiography, I will (hopefully) have a massive database of memories at my disposal.

10.5.1: This one is in fact an indirect version of "work more". Most of my procrastination on weekends is caused by my computer. The idea is that if I don't turn it on, it will be easier to force myself to work. By the same token, I will also decrease my dependency on the Internet, and prove to myself that I am still not entirely a slave to technology.

Feel free to modify any of these resolutions in order to suit your own goals.


January 04, 2010

Resolutionary Theory

Happy Ew Year


Happy New Year to everyone! And welcome to the future! I look forward to writing 2010 everywhere, from now on!

Now, of course, is the time for making New Year's Resolutions -- or NYRs, for conciseness. But what happened to last year's resolutions? Were they dropped or forgotten around March, maybe? What about the resolutions from previous years? Can you even remember them? Do you even make NYRs anymore?

You may say that you don't believe in the effectiveness of NYRs, because they don't last anyway. I claim the converse: Your NYRs don't last because you don't believe in their effectiveness. Deep down, you may think that they're not going to work anyway and that like every other year, you will gradually lose the will to carry on the resolutions. Consequently, the NYRs become half-hearted, and the prophecy comes full circle. Furthermore, there is in my opinion at least one good indicator that, subconsciously, you may already have damned your NYRs. I'm talking about the 'length' of resolutions.

Suppose you tell yourself: "From now on, I will go to bed earlier". This is a common NYR, yet I see a serious problem with it: when does it end? Does it last a year? Can you decide at any arbitrary point in your life to stop it? Are you meant to keep it for the rest of your life? Is the idea that the NYR will eventually become a habit? Any of these could be the correct answer for you, personally, and of course the question about length is silly since a NYR is not a binding contract. Nevertheless, it shows that on its own, the resolution I presented hasn't been well thought through.

It is my belief that only with clear and fixed rules can one take NYRs seriously. The exact nature of those rules is of course up to the individual, but I shall present my own view on the matter here. It's a system that I made up last year (I didn't make NYRs before then) and have developed a bit more this year.

Length: Once made, a NYR lasts at least one year. The resolution must be kept until the very end, until the 31st December, and only then can it be reconsidered. There are then three possibilities: Deletion, Extension or Revision. Deletion removes the NYR from your current list of resolutions, and you no longer have to worry about it. This is the only sensible choice if it turns out that the NYR wasn't that great, or if it is no longer applicable. A NYR could also be Deleted if it has become superfluous, i.e. if the NYR has become a habit and no longer requires the status of 'New Year's Resolution' in order to be kept. This is a matter of personal taste however; a NYR which has become a habit need not necessarily be Deleted. The second possibility is Extension, which makes the NYR last an extra year (after which its status must again be reconsidered). This is suitable for resolutions which were, in essence, good ideas, but which were unsuccessful -- in other words, try again. It can also apply to NYRs which were both good and successful, and which you would like to repeat. Finally, there is Revision, the act of changing the wording of a NYR slightly, before extending it. Revisions can be done both to relax the conditions of a harsh NYR, or to improve an already successful one. Because NYRs can sometimes be a bit hard to calibrate, Revisions are allowed until a specific date in January (I propose the 7th).

Type: A NYR can be either a Habit or a Task. A Habit is an act that must be performed regularly throughout the year (e.g. getting up early). A Task is one specific act that must be completed before the year is over (e.g. sort out the stack of papers on the desk). Habits usually require more self-discipline, but Tasks run the risk of being postponed indefinitely.

Wording: The wording of a NYR must be clear and unambiguous. In the case of a Habit, it must always be possible to determine at the end of each day/week/month if the NYR has been accomplished. In the case of a Task, there must be no doubt at the end of the year whether  the task is done. Whenever using words that are vague or ambiguous, elaborate on the meaning. Write down the exact wording somewhere.

Amount: Make up a fixed amount of new NYRs every year. Based on advice 48 ("Every year make 5 promises. Try to keep at least one of them."), I propose 5 new NYRs every year. These do not include the NYRs that you decide to extend or revise, so in the end you may well end up with much more than 5 resolutions. Keep track of them on a piece of paper, or in a Word document (or equivalent). Delete resolutions if the numbers become too overwhelming. Use the entire year to think of new NYRs. If, for instance, you suddenly get an idea for a habit you could need, in the middle of May, then write it down somewhere and add it at New Year's Eve.

Final advice: Based on a survey involving 5000 people, Professor Richard Wiseman recommends the following 5 principles to have a better chance of keeping NYRs:
1. Break resolution into smaller, more achivable, steps.
2. Tell friends and family about your NYRs
3. Remind yourself regularly of the benefits of achieving your goals
4. Reward yourself every time you achive one of the smaller steps mentioned in [1.]
5. Map out your progress

Tomorrow I will post my own New Year's Resolutions here, so that even if you don't want to apply my system, you can see an example of it in action.


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