We're eight weeks into 2023.
If you don't have written down goals for this year, may I ask why not? If you do have written down goals, well done. What I can tell you is that your goals will stretch you, and if you "concentrate on your tasks, and persist in your efforts"*, you will achieve them.
I've had several insights into goal-setting this week. My intention is to share them with you in the hope that they make your own journey towards achieving your goals a little bit easier. What I realised this week is that what we're actually doing when we write down goals, and commit to achieving them is attempting to change our behaviour in ways that allow us to achieve those goals.
Certainly if you change nothing about the way you behaved last year, then you will not achieve this years goals. You will simply relive 2022. This idea has been a breakthrough for me!
Two weeks into 2023, on the 14th of January, I wrote this:
For the 2023 goals to be accomplished, I need to work on them. To be able to work on them, I need plans, and a specific time in the day when those plans will get executed. In order to get that time, some things that used up my time in the past must be dropped. Or I must get help. I chose to drop some of the old habits in order to make room for the new. Like short responses to questions and requests on WhatsApp. Previously I was writing a lot. Now I'm writing little so I stick to the most important points. It is this new habit that allows me to have time to work on the 2023 goals so I'm motivated to stick to it.
At the time that I wrote this, chatting less on WhatsApp was the only change I could see needed to be made. Whilst that was not bad for a start, I didn't have deep insight into what I really meant by "dropping old habits to make room for the new"
Still, I did what I knew to do and went full speed on executing my 2023 goals. I developed the high-level plans, and I scheduled my life on Google calendar. Although I'd attempted running my life by a calendar before in 2021, and 2022, and I'd managed to use it as a guide for my daily routine, for 2023, I wanted to go not half-way but all the way. I want to fully live by my calendar this year. And so I did try.
What my trying achieved was: by 6 weeks into the year, I was exhausted. I wasn't getting enough sleep and I was dropping balls i.e. some of my goals weren't getting executed unless I dropped execution on some of my other goals.
I was so thankful when my children got a week-long half-term break because it gave me time to catch up on sleep and recover but I wondered how I was going to survive the year if I was already wiped out only six weeks into it?
Half-term break ended and this week, they are back in school so I also picked up my routine again. But then I faced a hurdle. The hurdle was that I woke up on Monday tired because I hadn't gotten enough sleep on Sunday night. I mean I was exhausted. So much so that 15 minutes into my yoga session that usually lasts 45 minutes, I couldn't continue. How was I going to run the rest of my day? I needed sleep. So I took a 1 hour nap which was like a magic pill. Because when I woke up from that nap, I knocked all the rest of my activities planned for that day out of the park!
From that experience, I was reminded that that's how I had done 2022. But even though 2022 had been good overall, I didn't want to relive 2022. I wanted new capabilities in 2023 which would lead to new accomplishments. Then suddenly, sometime during the day, I had an insight! Taaaadaaaaa! I love when that happens.
The insight was that what was keeping me from sleeping on time was poor personal boundaries. According to my calendar, my scheduled time of work was 12 pm-3:20 pm on Mondays and 11-2:30 pm all other weekdays. But I had allowed certain things to encroach on that time. So the work wasn't getting done in the time allocated to it. And because of that sometimes at night, after the kids had gone to bed, I would try to catch up on work. Wow!
This insight led me to make three decisions:
1. I would truly start work at 11 am and stop work at 2:20 pm, and my computer would be turned off and left in the office at that time - It shouldn't find its way into our bedroom at night. God be my helper.
2. I would go to bed every night at 9:30 pm. By the indicated time, I should be tucked in and ready to sleep.
3. I would wake up at 5:30 am everyday once the alarm went off.
It's a miracle because living by these few decisions have taken away the tiredness and are allowing me to re-establish control in executing my 2023 goals.
But it did not happen without a glitch. In fact on Monday night, when I got into bed at 9:30 pm for the first time in perhaps ever, I could not sleep. I don't know if it was because of the nap I took or if it was because my body was simply not used to getting to bed at that time. I did not check how many hours I tried to sleep but it seemed like a very long time. This experience made me realise that I needed to give my body time to readjust to my new decisions. So I resolved to stick to sleeping at 9:30 pm for at least 1 month to build this new sleeping habit.
Tuesday night, I got into bed at 9:30 pm and promptly fell asleep. I was surprised, and happy the next morning. I've been able to sleep soon after getting into bed every night since. As it turned out, it was the decisions that were missing.
I'm so excited about these new behaviours because they certainly are part of the secret to actually making my 2023 goals a reality. I now wake up refreshed. I am also developing the discipline to live by my calendar.
One of the benefits of these decisions is that I am able to blog.
The core ideas
- If you wake up tired, you will struggle, as I did on Monday morning, to have a productive day.
- If you don't set and enforce personal boundaries, you will over invest in somethings and underinvest in others. In my case, I was over-investing in certain areas, and underinvesting in sleep. And the tiredness was my body's way of giving me feedback to correct things.
- The other feedback I received was dropping balls. If your goals are realistic for you but some of your plans aren't being executed despite your trying, that is a sign that something is off. Checkout my earlier post on how to become aware of and respond to feedback if you haven't seen that one already.
We usually hear of boundaries in terms of setting boundaries for other people. But in my case, this week, what I needed was to respect the boundaries I'd set for myself about the use of my time on my calendar and live by it. If my calendar says I work from 11-2:20 pm, then I have no business turning on my computer at 9 pm. And simply doing that, has been such a game changer for me this week.
If you're serious about accomplishing your 2023 goals, there's plenty in this post that can help you. If you're just getting started on goal-setting, maybe your new habit will be to set goals. If you already have goals but no plans, then your new habit will be to develop plans. If you have plans but when they will be executed aren't scheduled on a calendar, then scheduling is what you need. And if you have all the three but have some of my initial symptoms, maybe what you need are personal boundaries?
What I know for sure - to borrow an expression for Oprah - is that if you have set 2023 goals, you need some new habits to enable you to achieve them. I can't tell you what specific habit you need without knowing you personally but I know for sure that you need some of the ideas shared in this post if you really want to achieve your goals.
I hope you find this post useful. Wishing you the best in running your race.
* The expression "concentrate on your tasks, and persist in your efforts" is attributed to George S. Class in his book "The Richest Man in Babylon