Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Usual Year-End Thing

I suppose the year’s end requires some sort of reflection. There can be value in looking back, but it seems like we look back for things to regret, mistakes made, things we’d like to do better in the coming year. This doesn't seem to me like a fruitful exercise.

I know that there is a long list of failures, objectives unfulfilled. But if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it is not to set my sights too high. Trying to achieve too much is bound to lead to failure. Overachiever or not, my expectations for myself need to be reasonable.

In thinking about the new year, and resolutions for it, I know that I need to de-task. I need to get some things off my to-do list. And not by getting them done. By never putting them there in the first place. Starting with the stacks of unread magazines. I will not be renewing any magazine subscriptions in 2012. Sorry New Yorker. Sorry BusinessWeek and Harvard Business Review. My backlog is enough to carry me a year or more without a new edition appearing in my mailbox.

Another objective must be to focus. At any given time I have many projects in the works. I make plans to do this little bit on this project, another little bit of another, filling my spare hours with this variety of tasks with completion expected by the end of the week. This might just be unreasonable. It just leaves me with a long list of partially finished or unfinished and neglected objectives. Pick the next important thing on the list of things to do (let’s keep calling them objectives) and see it through until it’s done. I am more productive when I’m allowed to obsess over one thing instead of multitasking.

This, though, applies to everything but writing. I have found that I work better in short bursts. If I sit down, writing a first draft, for much longer than an hour, I find I begin rushing to the next sign post, the next major event. When I work for short periods, I am allowed to keep my creativity focused on what is before me. In an extended period, I start trying to look further down the road, and rush to get there.

Without the looking back and beating myself up, I’ve managed to make some resolutions. Now to stick to them--and not beat myself up if I don’t.

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