03 Jan

my non-resolutions and what’s on the horizon in 2014

As a follow up from my post yesterday about what I did in 2013, today I’m sharing my non-resolutions for 2014, a couple of things that are on my to do list for 2014, and some reflections on what’s on the horizon for me in the year ahead.

I should start by saying I am more excited about 2014 than I have been about any new year in a very long time. It’s going to be a big year, full of new challenges, moving on and big opportunities.

On non-resolutions

I could write a list of fifty resolutions. Easily. There are many things I want to do differently, many habits I want to change, and many new things I want to try. But I’m terrible at seeing my new year’s resolutions through.

A wise woman recently called me on my habit of setting overly ambitious goals. She said something like this:

It’s great to be ambitious and set goals that are a stretch, but every time you set yourself a goal that you don’t end up hitting, you die a little bit inside. So think carefully about your goals because over time, consistently falling short of them wears you down.

You might think that sounds like bad advice. After all, shouldn’t we be aiming to be the best person we can possibly be? The reality, though, is that we (read: me) wear ourselves out by working like mad to hit crazy targets, and then we wear ourselves down when we miss them. Double whammy. Ambitious is fine. But achievable is critical.

So this year, instead of having a spreadsheet full of resolutions (did I just admit I’ve done that in public?!), I am making one commitment to myself from the very long list of things I might have made resolutions about. This one thing, though, will help me to realise some of the other things I might have resolved to do because it will give me back a large chunk of the commodity that is most important to me: my time.

In 2014, I am going to take a day off, every week. A whole day.

No thesis writing. No email checking. No responding to student tweets or Facebook posts. Just. Nothing. For one day, each week. Every week. Even when I have marking deadlines. And even before my thesis is done.

I’ve already tried to cut a deal with myself about this commitment. In fact, I tried to cut a deal with myself about it back in December, when I first told a friend about it. I said, “I think I’ll start it in February, once I’m passed this intense writing period”. And then I realised that was a completely ridiculous deal to be cutting. I know I need downtime to maintain my productivity and I know I need it to maintain my health, and yet here I was, ready to commit to yet another month of working seven days a week.

So I started this week, by having new year’s day off.

One day off. Every week. No matter what.

My to do list

There are three things on my to do list this year.

First, the big, obvious one: 2014 will be the year I finish my PhD. I just have to push through with writing for another six weeks or so, and then revisions for as long as that takes. I think I should feel like I’m on the downhill stretch, but the reality is submitting my thesis still feels like a lifetime’s worth of work away. I’ll nail this item on my to do list by focussing on what I have to do today, rather than what I have to do to finish.

The second and third things on my to do list are nebulous ideas and I’m not sure what they’ll end up looking like. So I’m keeping these to myself for now. What I can say is these two things don’t necessarily involve big changes, but are really about consolidating.

The horizon

On the life front, I’ll be doing more of the same in 2014, but now with more time! We have some big education milestones this year… I will finish my PhD and the twins start school (*sob*). Did I mention I will finish my PhD this year? I already have a Pinterest board full of ideas for things I want to do around the house once the PhD is done, but more than anything, I am looking forward to saying goodbye to the nagging guilt that rears up whenever I have some time off. I am also really looking forward to having a proper break from work (and PhD – in case you didn’t know, I’m going to finish it this year) and I will be scheduling in a couple of weeks of holidays in the very near future.

There’s some fun stuff happening for me at work in the next little while:

  • For the next six months, I’m acting coordinator of library and information education. Time to get my admin ninja on! We have lots of exciting things happening so it’s a great time to be in this role.
  • We are about to try out a bunch of different consumer technology products in our teaching. Thanks to a small infrastructure grant we won, we are setting up a mobile teaching tech suite. We’ll be implementing the tools in different ways – a bunch of different models really – and evaluating the success of the different models from both staff and student perspectives.
  • I am getting involved in a university-wide teaching and learning project, on a partial secondment for six months. 

So that’s how my 2014 is looking. I’m excited to see how it all pans out.