By Kaydee Donohoo
Yes, you read the headline correctly. This is a piece on how I kept my New Year’s resolution last year, 2015 for an entire year. This is not about new resolutions, because somehow it’s almost February and a lot of what we wanted to do differently for 2016 has already slipped out of our hands like kite strings.
So how did I keep a resolution for an entire year? You might have heard that goals must be specific and measurable and all of that. Those things are usually true, but I’m hoping my story will add to the picture of what a successful goal can look like.
There are goals we construct through a thought process, maybe to floss three times a week, because you felt that’s something you should be doing. But other goals seem to be made for us, because we can’t help but want them. These are the big goals like being a singer, or a CEO, or having your own cooking show.
Mine is to have a fictional novel published. These goals seem to be meant for the abstract future, but my New Year’s resolution was to change that.
It all boils down to time. We waste time, and have limited time. Now no one can make a goal to never waste time, and I by no means wanted to. That said, after my 2014 Christmas I thought of how my time was running out. All of our time, even if it seems to be moving slowly, is running out. That is because time is passing.
Here I was, like all of us around New Year’s, keenly aware of how fast time goes. I knew that in no time at all it was going to be the next New Year’s. Time was going to move forward whether I allowed it to or not. I might as well use it, and ride along with it, to end up on the other side of the year with something worthwhile.
A lot of us can create or do worthwhile things, but we just need the time to do them. There were 8,760 hours in 2015, and I only took 183.5 of them to work on a novel by simply telling myself: half an hour a day.
By the end of the year, I was (as I am now) working on my third draft of a 42,000 word novel. It is anywhere close to being publishable? Probably not. Novels are hard to write. What thought scares and amazes me, though, is that if I hadn’t had this plan I could have very easily had nothing at all at the end of 2015.
Because I stuck to my goal I have a big, fat, beginning of something without feeling like I lost any time at all. It wasn’t painful or noticeable to “lose” that half hour each day. (We all waste half hours on things anyway without even realizing it.) I enjoyed my time with my book. It frustrated me at times, but it’s something I love to do.
Other than wanting to take advantage of passing time, I was also successful because I let myself mess up. If I was busier than expected I would let midnight slip by without working on my novel. I would simply keep track of this with a simple, cute little frownie face in my planner, dorm chalkboard, or, as my friends have noticed, on my arm.
I’ve had up to ten frowny faces at a time, and I’ve made-up the time for all of them because I trusted myself to. I didn’t let mistakes keep me from wanting to stick to the resolution unlike so many of my other goals.
While we hear that goals should be specific in general, I think this one helped me by being vague. “Working on my novel for half an hour a day” could mean a lot of things. I let it mean a lot of things. It could mean the actual process of typing, planning what I’d like to type with a pencil, internet searches for character names, internet searches for necessary background information, writing character profiles, rereading what I’ve written, editing, taking notes for what to edit later, and of course staring at the screen, because that’s a necessary step.
Working on my novel, however, did not mean that I could jot down ideas for sequels, wait for microwave popcorn, check Instagram, or be far from the computer screen. This list was just as important. Deciding what not to do is sometimes key for conquering procrastination in general.
So I challenge you. Sure, it’s too late for 2016 New Year’s, but you can consider it a February resolution if needed. Think of your far future “unreachable right now” goals. Dreams can stay “unreachable” forever if you never start to work on them. I didn’t write 42,000 words in one day. I just had to let myself take small steps that would look like bigger steps collectively.
We view successful people through their finished products. But I can bet you that every one of those success stories were just a bunch of small steps added together over time. When you think of it this way, there is nothing separating you from having the accomplishments of the best version of yourself. There is nothing separating you except for time, and that’s pushing you forward anyway. You might as well invest some of that time as it pushes you.