the obligatory january list

I'm actually someone who makes "resolutions" all the time. I'm always looking for a way to improve my routines, change my habits, or simplify my life. Over the years I've developed some pretty decent systems for managing my tasks & information (thanks especially to David Allen) and my space (thanks to Julie Morgenstern), but I periodically re-evaluate, overhaul, and fix the system or space as needed. Right now I'm in the midst of doing that in my home office -- which, if it were just my workspace, would be a lot more manageable. But I'm also the household financial officer and primary domestic engineer, so my office actually is a multi-use space...at any given time there's laundry drying on a rack, books & papers for my work, books & papers for my teaching, yoga stuff, bills to pay, etc, etc.

At the moment, I'm sorting through far too many months' worth of credit card statements, junk mail, etc. I'm usually much better about being on top of the money-related stuff (and all bills have been getting paid, so I'm doing OK) but my struggles with depression over the past year meant that various stacks of paper weren't ever processed, and just wound up in a box. So now I'm cleaning it out, and shredding vast amounts of unnecessary junk, which is satisfying.

But, back to the resolution thing. I might as well tap into the collective energy of early January and announce my current set of resolutions:
  • take all my vitamins every day (this was my resolution about 7 years ago, and it became a strong habit, until the past year when I got sloppy again. So back to the post-it note on the kitchen cupboard for a few weeks...)
  • cook two side vegetables every night for dinner (usually I've been making just one, plus whatever's in the main course)
  • read some current work in my field that's not related to a specific course I'm teaching or article I'm writing -- for at least one hour a week. My research time is so limited, that usually I wind up only reading stuff that's directly relevant to a current project. But that's not the kind of scholar I'd like to be...
  • floss every day (I'm a so-so flosser, usually every 2-3 days. But I'm probably past the age when I can get away with that.)
As you can tell, I try to set really small and therefore achievable resolutions.

And, because I'm a total nerd who enjoys crossing things off lists: I'm setting up a checklist in my Palm so I can check these things off each day that I do them. Every little bit of positive reinforcement helps. (For instance: B.F. Skinner used a time clock to keep track of how much time he spent writing. (The link is to an article by his daughter, describing his basement office. I first learned the story of his time clock from Neil Fiore's book, which I highly recommend to anyone struggling with work habits. Creating some system for recording your productivity is really powerful.)