“New year, new you”, so the popular saying goes.
However negatively this mantra tends to be received, especially online, I am here for it because for me, I have a pretty good track record of making it work.
I’m always looking for ways to get better at setting and achieving my goals. Recently, it occurred to me that I could look to my working life to inform how I perceive what I do in my free time.
I realized that my personal interest in New Year’s resolutions and general goal-setting could be framed in accordance with my professional interest and practice in program evaluation.
(It also occurred to me that some people set very poor goals and resolutions for themselves, but that is a topic for another blog post.)
No New Year’s resolution is ever achieved without a clear strategy for seeing it through to completion.
Last year, my strategy involved a quarterly assessment of my resolution progress to date. This was valuable in helping me figure out how to course-correct—or maintain—as necessary as the year wore on. I will definitely employ this strategy again this year.
But this year I’m adjusting my strategy to also be useful in the moment, rather than just in the near-future for each quarter. Because when I think about the coming year as a whole, and where I want to be at the end of it, I realize that large, sweeping resolutions lack the necessary precision to truly get me where I’m trying to go.
Which is where the connection to program evaluation comes in.
Indicative of success
In evaluation, you have evaluation questions, which are broad headings of inquiry for the specific impacts you’re trying to assess. Sometimes these questions seek to assess things that are intangible or otherwise difficult to measure numerically, for example a test group’s increase in self-esteem.
Underneath the evaluation questions you have indicators. As the name suggests, these are proxies that provide answers to the evaluation questions.
An indicator of self-esteem might be a test subject’s ability to list their positive qualities where previously they could not. Indicators are specific, measurable, and perceptible.
In looking at the totality of what I want to accomplish this year—some of which are failed holdovers from last year—I made two key observations:
- I want to do a lot of things, and
- They all fall within discernible categories.
These categories, although not properly questions, put me in mind of evaluation questions. They could be considered my overall New Year’s resolutions for 2019, and include the following:
- Become a better writer
- Improve my non-writing life
- Keep track of my achievements for the year
(I couldn’t phrase #3 as something to “improve” because I’ve four times prior failed to even achieve it.)
Getting down to a more granular level, I’m able to list a number of specific tasks (indicators) for each of these three resolutions.
Some of these tasks were resolutions themselves last year, but since they’ve already been started/attempted/are currently in progress, they no longer warrant singular focus.
These specific tasks include the following:
1) Become a better writer
- Finish the current draft of my WIP
- Read at least 18 books total
- Read at least three writing craft books
- Attend a writing conference
- Conduct research into Ancient Greece in support of my next novel
- Always be researching in general
- Devise more of the plot for my next novel
- Buy a new laptop
- Create and send out at least two newsletters
2) Improve my non-writing life
- Explore and sample potential new hobbies
- Create/put myself into situations that allow me to meet new people
- Spend less time at home/work in alternate locations
- Say yes to more social invitations
- Initiate more social events/activities
3) Keep track of my achievements for the year
- Start journaling again and write in my journal a minimum of every second day
- Use the “Bullet Journal” format
- Post my accomplishments to my blog every quarter along with my resolution progress assessment
BONUS: Stretch goals
- Attend two writing conferences
- Pitch my WIP at a writing conference
- Complete the outline for my next WIP
- Write the first chapter of my next WIP
- Read the first draft of my WIP’s sequel and make general/overall revision notes
By breaking each of my resolutions down in this way, not only will it be easier for me to see what I should be doing at any given moment, it will also makes the assessment of success or shortfall easier to track.
I’m excited to make 2019 a great year—one that is positive, productive, and most importantly, documented so that I can actually remember all I’ve done at the end of it rather than my achievements being subsumed in the mindless blur of daily life.
And now I have a plan to make it so.
What are your resolutions for 2019? What is your strategy for seeing them through?
A/N: A reminder to my regular readers and followers that my posting schedule is now the first and last Monday of each month.