Lisa Hess ponders ways to apply organizing strategies to New Year's goal-setting.
Last January, I decided to come up with 20 things I wanted to improve upon in 2020. They ranged from being more mindful and optimistic to decluttering and using less plastic. Then, each month, when I sat down to review and set monthly goals, I'd take a look at the list to see which three I'd done a particularly good job with that month and which ones I wanted to focus on in the month to come. This helped me to keep my list in mind in a low-key sort of way. I could have posted the list prominently, on the bathroom mirror, perhaps (I do have an I need to see it personal style, after all), but I preferred to let it whir away in the back of my mind instead.
The idea was that the items were things to improve upon over time, not benchmarks to hit by a certain date. While this flies in the face of SMART goals, it worked for me, allowing me to make progress on a variety of ideas that mattered to me, rather than striving toward measurable, time-based goals.
How'd I do? Pretty well, overall. I'd say I made solid improvement on 17 or 18 of the twenty. I deemed one unrealistic (or at least in need of reworking to be more specific). And the 20th item? I failed miserably. Oddly enough, that one (set a screen time curfew) seemed fairly straightforward pre-COVID but, somewhere between April and October, I stopped caring about doing it. No motivation, no progress.
As I move forward into 2021, I definitely want to do this again. Some of the items will stay on the list because, although I got better, there's still room for improvement. As I write this, I'm tinkering with the number, though, and leaning toward sticking with 20. While 21 things in 2021 doesn't sound too daunting, I'm hoping to be around for 2035, and 35 things in 2035 sounds a bit overwhelming. More important, the goal is baby steps, and making the list longer and longer doesn't seem to be in keeping with the theme.
What does this have to do with organizing by STYLE, especially since some the things on my list had nothing to do with organizing? Lists like these go to the heart of Take small steps (the T in STYLE). When I write about taking small steps, it's usually with respect to chipping away at organization-related projects or items on to-do lists. But taking small steps is also the best way to get to big goals that mean something to us beyond simply restoring order and making day-to-day life run more smoothly.
The new year is a great time to think about these kinds of things and, since we’re already two weeks into 2021, you might have already made and kept (or broken) some resolutions. But my 20 in 2021 items are less “gotta do it” and more “wanna do it.” In other words, what kinds of small steps do we want to take toward ideas and ideals that are important to us?
Maybe, for example, I want to be more spiritual or more mindful or more optimistic, or use less plastic, less paper or just less in general. If I were crafting a SMART goal, I'd need to quantify these things and set a time frame in which I want to achieve this goal. But, if I'm developing a habit, I can simply keep these things in mind and look for opportunities to do them. The first (the SMART goal) is a focused way of taking one small step, while the second (more/less focus) is a broader approach that trains me to be open to opportunities I might otherwise miss. I could set a goal to take a reusable bag with me to the supermarket every week, for example (SMART goal), or I could keep in mind that I want to, as a rule, use less plastic. This might lead me to look around for ways to use less plastic, which might include regularly using reusable bags, along with getting a reusable water bottle and looking for alternatives to plastic sandwich and freezer bags. It might even lead me to consider the makeup of items I buy on a regular basis.
Let me be clear. Both options have merit. In fact, every step on the way to our goals is a good one. I'm sure, though, that you've already identified the approach you think will work for you -- or maybe you want to do a little of both. It depends on your style, and it probably depends on the end point you have in mind as well.
Organizing by STYLE is based on our understanding of ourselves and what we know works for us. Once we've identified our styles and learned to think of what comes naturally as an asset, there's no limit to where that thinking can take us. So, for 2021, I will once again be making it a list and checking it more than twice.
Care to join me?
Copyright 2021 Lisa Hess
Image: Pixabay (2017)
About the Author
Lisa Lawmaster Hess is a transplanted Jersey girl who writes both fiction and non-fiction. Lisa’s latest book is the award-winning Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is an adjunct professor of psychology at York College. She blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, Organizing by STYLE, and here at Catholicmom.com. Read all articles by Lisa Hess.