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Two years ago I set some new year goals. They went well till… they didn’t (around May - I wonder what happened then wink).
This time around I decided to set resolution again, with the hope of more discipline, determination and success.
For January, I set the following goals:
- Running: Run at least 1 mile every day (need to do some exercise consistently).
- Push-ups: Every other day, 3 sets of 8 push-ups (a solid, easy to do exercise).
- Pull-ups: Every other day, 1 pull-up (can’t do more, want to shore up my weaknesses).
- Guitar: Every other day, 30 minutes of guitar practice (I like playing music, I want to be a better guitarist).
- Chess: Every other day, 30 minutes of chess practice (have been improving at the game, would like to improve some more).
Goals and goal-setting
I decided to go for simple goals that I could do everyday no matter what. Many recent books on habits (like Tiny Habits and Atomic Habits) recommend this. I’m starting small, but will revisit these goals as needed every month or so.
Thoughts 2 weeks in
It’s all in the mind: The toughest part has definitely being mentally pushing myself to complete all the goals on a given day. Two weeks in it seems hard to be doing this for another twenty-six two-week periods. A major part of achieving this is knowing that it is all in the mind. You can get yourself to do a lot, and the unbending consistency can be hard.
As for the goals themselves, the push-ups goal is relatively easy. I may swap it for dips. The running goal helps with this as it forces me to go to the gym everyday.
The running goal is simple in the sense the distance doesn’t seem huge, but it’s still hard as in reality it is a mental goal, not a physical one. The challenge is getting up and willingly going for the run. Last year, I tried running longer distances (~5k) every now and then, and that didn’t work so well. Another risk is the risk of injury, which I am hoping to mitigate by going on slower runs, and shorter (i.e. not too much longer than a mile) on many days. This is one goal I’d thought about revisiting as recovery days would be good, but I also think doing it straight for 365 days would be something I’d be proud of, so I’m going to leave it unchanged.
I’m not finding chess hugely beneficial, so I may drop the goal in the future.
Managing energy is hard, especially between work and other commitments in life. I’d heard the saying “Eat the frog” before but had never executed on it - until now. Since I knew I wouldn’t be myself off the hook (i.e. I wouldn’t go to bed until all goals were accomplished), on some days I’d knock a few goals out early and then have so much of the day left. This also forced me to confront my non-resolution goals (adult chores) that I had been putting off. I feel like procrastinating on those for no reason was a new behavior for me, and one I hope to improve on.
Getting to the same consistency and delivery in other spheres of life (intentionally vague) would be a complete game-changer for me. I was spending a lot of time vapidly consuming YouTube videos (shorts) or gaming (on my Steam Deck). The goals/habits took away time from those, which I love - it feels like I’m more in control and have more time. I also see that I am refocusing my time now, not necessarily about doing more in the same amount of time, or giving up too much. For example, I’ve replaced scrolling WhatsApp/YT/Twitter on the bus with practicing chess instead. On some days, I did my push-ups while making chappatis.
Thoughts at the end of the month
Completed every goal 100%, which I’m happy with.
3 habits per day is VERY achievable. The two exercises (running + push-ups/pull-ups) can be clubbed together, which leaves only 1 habit, which isn’t really too much to ask for. Rather than set a reading goal, setting a goal to learn a technical skill through reading a book & implementing worked really well. Books take really long to read, which makes me realize I should budget more time for reading goals. I tend to underestimate and feel deflated when the goal isn’t achieved.
Warm-ups: I didn’t really believe in warm-ups, but I’ve noticed that running at 7 mph right from the get-go is quite hard. Running at a slower pace for around 0.8 miles lets me run the rest at 7 mph pretty easily. Similarly, I notice doing a few lat pull downs make pull-ups seem less riskier.
Sleep: is super important. I added a stretch goal to do 1 chapter of Crafting Interpreters per day, but when hours of sleep were falling below 7 hours consistently, I had to give that one up (4 days missed, 9 days done approx.).
Active recall: Accidentally started doing this when I read a chapter of Crafting Interpreters on one day, and procrastinated on the implementation. It worked better than I planned, so I incorporated this into the reading of the book.
Running: I need to also include some long (> 30 min), slow (< 6 mph) runs in my routine. That should have more of an impact on my 5k speed than running 2 miles really quickly.
Push-ups: at 3 sets of 8 are great, as they can be easily increased in difficulty. I mixed up chest dips & diamond push-ups to push myself, and feel like there’s still room to go. Going to add more chest dips for next month.
Pull-ups: are much slower progress in general, as adding 1 pull-up is a huge leap in strength compared to 1 push-up. Chess: isn’t really appealing as a habit. It may be because I didn’t structure it well (“30 mins of chess” is too vague). I spent most of it either doing mates in 2 or spaced repetition tactics puzzles, and I’m not sure I really improved. Towards the end I started doing puzzle rushes/puzzle storms, and while that felt like “cheating” as it was more fun (and so, easier), it may have helped about as much as the other session (which might be not at all).
Running: Excellent. Consistency is key and I pushed more than I would have expected to. I ran 60 miles over the month, and if I had set my goal to an average of 2 miles per day, I would definitely have failed the goal.
Guitar: Ok. Learned a few songs, but I could push myself to learn harder pieces.
Push-ups: Very good. Could have set it slightly harder.
Pull-ups: Good. Making slow progress, but making progress (up to 3 pull ups now).
I set a stretch goal of 1 chapter of Crafting Interpreters a day, and kept at it well enough to get through almost 9 chapters in 14 days. I’ll probably keep this but amend it to 1 chapter every 2 days for February.
On to February!