I’ve always been good at coming up with “big ideas”; no one’s ever criticized me for lack of ambition or vision. However, my eagerness to embrace and pursue new, big projects tends to be self-defeating. Eventually, I end up drowning under all of the demands that I’ve placed on myself. To make matters worse, I tend to “rescue” myself by simply throwing my energy into some new project. This tendency makes New Year’s Resolutions dangerous territory for me: I’m always ready to take on something new and, as a result, none of the old gets finished.
I have gotten slightly better at this over the years. Most notably, working on my dissertation has forced me to commit, with real accountability, to a single project. (This did not stop me, however, from recently submitting an abstract to a conference for a paper that dealt with an idea that I wanted to pursue precisely because it didn’t fit into my dissertation…) Nonetheless, I still really struggle to recognize that saying “yes” to some things also has to mean saying “no” to some other things.
As a result, this year all of my resolutions are going to focus on projects that I’ve already undertaken. I’ve learned the hard way that there are only two things that actually make me do things: deadlines and routines. Deadlines are all well and good and I’ve certainly got plenty of them, but I’d like the work that fills my days to be motivated by something beyond crushing fear and its corresponding adrenaline rush. Routines—once I’ve established them—work, but it’s always a struggle to make them in the first place. So this year I’m resolving to establish some routines to help keep the commitments I made to projects last year. I’ll get to what those are in a moment, but first I should explain why I find routines so difficult to begin with.