No more New Year’s resolutions
Cath Vincent ends 2016 on a high note for those people who end the year on an empty tank.
Ever continued driving around in your car with the petrol light on? You know you’re running close to empty, but you just keep going. A little errand here; a quick trip there; you squeeze out another little bit of mileage. Finally the petrol light comes on; now you’re definitely on empty.
Even so, you continue until, one day, you really fear that you can’t go another kilometre, another step. With relief, you limp into the petrol station, and you can hardly believe how much was needed to top up!
Of course, I’m not just talking about petrol in your car. More specifically, I’m talking about the fuel that keeps YOU going. That’s a mixture of all the things we know are essential and good for us – sleep, nutrition, exercise, down time, etcetera.
We need to do all these things but we don’t. The small amount we do manage to put in sits on one side of the scales, completely dwarfed by what we take out. But don’t worry, Christmas is coming! We can finally take some time to top up ( but only after we have driven ourselves much harder and faster than normal so that we truly ‘deserve’ a break.) Whether we admit it or not that’s the sign of a workaholic, and addictive work tendencies are becoming the norm: • Habit – we’re just so used to working all the time, and habits (even uncomfortable ones) create a sense of predictability and therefore safety. In the end, it’s actually easier to work than to do something different. • Lack of imagination – we get up in the morning, and in checking our smartphones before breakfast, we’re working before we’ve had a chance to think about what other options there might be. • Self-worth – the adrenaline surge that goes with feeling incredibly busy is a highly addictive drug in itself, so increasingly we’re attaching our sense of worth to working. After a blissful three-week Christmas break at the bach last year, I resolved that I would spend more time there all year round. Just recently a friend commented, “You’re away again? You seem to go away a lot.” “Awesome,” I thought. “I’ve finally cracked it!” One year, feeling great after my Christmas break, I wondered how I could feel great all the time. I resolved to make a practice of working in a focused way so I would be more successful without running out of energy. And I was right – what I didn’t bank on was the discipline it takes to quit when you’re ahead!
I promised myself I would set three high-value tasks each day and work only on those, and that when they were done I would be free to do whatever I liked for the rest of the day. What a great incentive to complete tasks quickly! On the first day, all of my high-value tasks (which included a successful sales phone call, and difficult conversation I would normally put off ), were already complete in the first hour.
“Woohoo, it works!” I thought, “Focus really is the key, and now I can stop work for the day because I’ve already had a successful day, and because I promised myself I would.”
But somehow, I found it impossible to stop. I’d only used five percent of my energy (fuel), I was so used to using more (habit), I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my day (imagination) and I felt restless even though I had had a ‘successful’ day (self-worth). Would it really be OK to stop work and ‘top up’ quite so soon?
If, as you read this, you feel like you’re sprinting towards Christmas with a sense of urgency, and hanging out for your break on the other side, wouldn’t you rather top up more frequently instead of having to wait till the end of the year?
Whilst I urge you to find a way of operating differently, please don’t make a New Year’s resolution! Starting the year with energy, goals and excitement that steadily leaks away over the course of the year is just so depressing! Instead, why not renew your resolve (and energy) more often? Why not try a ‘Tuesday’ resolution, or a ‘3pm’ resolution instead?
And so, in the festive spirit, let me be the first to wish you a very happy Tuesday and a prosperous 3pm!