On New Years Eve night, as the clock on TV was counting down the last 10 seconds, along with everyone in the room, I had a terrible thought.
“This is all crap. Nature and the universe don’t give a damn about this arbitrary clock and random date we’ve picked. It means nothing. It’s the same as the midnight before and the midnight after. Why is everyone so excited?”
What a party pooper.
I didn’t voice that to my wife or guests, of course.
But then—much like the Grinch whose heart suddenly grew three sizes more—I had a revelation. I saw the spirit of it, the function, the purpose. Sure, the night sky and the seasons and the universe don’t notice what day we pick to celebrate our calendars turning over, but we can.
The benefit of the New Year is as much a renewal for us as the spring is to the world around us. (And spring is less predictable these days than it used to be. At least we know when to restart on the calendar!)
It really is our chance—and our choice—to start new. To drop all that weight and stressful burden we’ve been carrying and dragging around for the past year, let it crash to the floor, take two more steps away, and then turn and ponder. Get a good look. Say to ourselves, “Wow, no wonder I’ve been tired and my back’s been hurting! Look at all that shit I’ve piled up on myself!”
Pretty much all indie writers expect too much of themselves. And get frustrated when they don’t somehow manage to pull it all off.
But it’s not just writers. Everyone can think this way.
So we toss out last year’s calendar and hang a new one. A blank slate. A chance to reassess and set a new plan. Great!
Thus, the New Year’s Resolution.
And in having my epiphany, I went a little further: What is the main problem with the New Year’s Resolution?
The problem is, we don’t keep them, right? The gym fills up in January and is empty again by February.
I think one major factor is the scale.
Not the one you stand on and groan. It’s the proportion of your goals. They’re too big. We try planning for a year. A whole year! Who does that? And who can keep it up for that long?
Almost no one.
So my solution…
THE RULE OF 3
The solution is, you scale is back. You don’t set these big, lofty goals. You don’t load that big, heavy pack of shit back onto your shoulders and go right back to trudging up the mountain. Didn’t work last year, right? Why do it again?
Instead, you set smaller goals. Smaller time frames. And no more than three of them at a time.
For example, if you have today off and you make your list of things to do, how long does that list get? If you’re like me, there’s 8 to 12 items on there. And I know I’m not getting them all done. No way. But right after I say that out loud, I say, “Oh yeah, and fix the garage door. Add that on there, too.”
Not gonna happen.
As I look at my ever-increasing slate of writing activities and plans, I realize that I can’t swallow it all. There are so many items I’m putting on my plate, I’d choke.
How many pills can you take at a time? How many will get caught in your throat?
Rule of 3.
(Intentionally “3” not “three.” I know it should be spelled out. But seeing the digit tells me 3, no ands, ifs or buts.)
Put no more than three things on your list. If you find that you have to add more, then you need to scale back your time frame.
For example, I made my writing expectations list for the month of January. It had 3 items on it. Then 4. Then, oh yeah, number 5, gotta do that too.
Do I really need all five?
Well, over the course of the month, yeah, I kinda do. All those things really should get done. But five items on my list is a bit overwhelming and violates the Rule of 3.
Okay, then, what about the next 2 weeks? Half the month. Scale it back.
Hmmm… Yes, I can set goals for the next 2 weeks and keep it to just 3 items.
Great! So my goals are for two weeks only.
I’m not stressing myself out by thinking too far ahead. Nor by thinking too far back to all that heavy junk I was carrying last year and never quite finished. If I start throwing too much on my plate, I won’t be able to chew it all. I won’t even be able to wrap my mind around it all, I’ll get stressed out, and then give up. And, therefore, get none of it done.
The solution: Scale it back. Chunk it up into bite-sized hunks. Rule of 3.
So my plate, my slate, my timeframe is 2 weeks. Here is my very doable 3 things to get done and I have 14 days to do it. That I can handle. And when I do, then I’ll move on to the next set of tasks.
Here’s another example we’re all thinking about:
You want to lose weight?
We all do! Seems impossible, though, right?
Let’s say you want to be 25 pounds lighter. That’s 2 pounds a month over the course of 2019. That should be doable. (Even if you want to lose more, start small. Accomplish the small steps before trying to tackle the big step. You can’t do the big one if you can’t do the small one, right?)
So I’d like to average a loss of two pounds per month. How do I do that?
Break that goal down further: What 3 things are you going to do to accomplish that. Measurable, simple, mark-off-your-checklist kind of things?
Well, first let’s scale it down to a manageable size. A week. What 3 things can I do this week to progress toward my goal?
I’m going to exercise in some form—be it walking, biking, yoga in the morning, or somehow actually dragging myself to the gym—three times a week.
For me, since I’ve already proven to myself that paying for a gym membership is just donating money to some corporate folks in better shape than I am, I’m not going to bother with that in 2019. Let’s face it: I’m not going to the damn gym! So I need to do something at home. At least until I establish a good habit that might then be translated to the gym or YMCA pool. If I can’t make myself workout for free, I’m not going to drive somewhere and pay for it every day.
In my house, we’re also bad about eating out, which almost always makes us fatter. So I’m going to make sure we actively cook supper 3 times a week. With leftovers, that should forcibly reduce the eating out.
And I’m going to set a drinking limit: I’m only allowed to have water, tea, and milk. Nothing else, except for special occasions, say once a week. (Not too hard for me, I don’t drink much beyond that anyway.)
And I’m going to plan on eating one protein and two vegetable servings every meal. And reduce my processed food and carbs to near nothing.
Oops, wait a minute. That’s four items.
- Any form of exercise is better than none, 3 times a week.
- Cook 3 times a week .
- A 3-item drinking menu.
- A 3-item eating menu.
(Notice I’ve really taken the “rule of 3” thing to the extreme on these threes!)
But that’s four items. Perhaps more than I will realistically do for myself. I should only tackle only 3 things at a time. So, even though they’re all good ideas, I’m going to cut the drinking thing. I pretty much do that anyway, no need to add it to a list.
Or, I could cut both of the last two bullets and say, “I’m going to drink 3 liters of good old-fashioned water every day.” (A nice, measurable goal.)
Notice I didn’t say “I’m going to weigh myself.” Actual weight loss has a lot of factors to it and that can fluctuate from day to day, no matter what habits I start. Your actual weight is not totally in your control. And weighing yourself too often can deal an unnecessary blow to your confidence. I suggest no more than once a month, or every two weeks if you just can’t stand it. But once a month is best.
Again, the number on that scale is not always accurate or controllable. It doesn’t always reflect all the positive changes I’m making, or as quickly as I’d like. But coming up with 3 items that I’m going to make sure I do within a defined time frame—that I can control.
And once I make those 3 items habit, routine, then the weight will start to come off. But not right away. In the beginning, I’m still bouncing back to my bad habits here and there. I shouldn’t expect big changes during that time.
In fact, maybe I should weigh myself now, and then not again until March! I’m giving myself a year anyway, right?
And reducing stress helps lose weight too. By having a simple, executable plan that you can realistically stick to, you’ll reduce your stress. And thereby, your weight.
Rule of 3. Whether you’re writing a novel or losing 10 pounds. Simple, doable, bite-sized chunks, and no more than 3 of them makes it easy to keep track.
I just thought I would share this one, true, obtainable New Year’s Resolution with you. I hope it does you as much good as it does me!