I made a new year’s resolution. It’s not a very original one, in fact, I bet you all have thought about it at least once: I want to get more done. And by getting more done, I want to become a better person: fitter, healthier, smarter, better educated, with a smaller ecological footprint… And I plan to do all of that by stressing less, not more. And I will not be spending much time on it either.
I am very much aware how this is sounding: like another classic New Year’s resolution doomed to fail. But I’m pretty sure this one is not doomed. I am a woman with a plan. A plan I have to admit I have stumbled upon by accident. But a plan nevertheless, and one that’s working for me. It has already been working for me for a couple of months now, and the New Year’s resolution thing is merely meant to expand the same principle to other things in my life.
The said principle is very simple: I intend to rake up some of the “lost time” in my life, and spend it doing more useful things. These are the ground rules:
1. No stress.
2. Have fun.
3. Spend as little extra time as possible on it.
4. Keep it positive.
But more on the rules later.
This is how I got my idea: In September, I registered for a Russian language course. There’s no special reason why I picked Russian. My main goal was to challenge myself with something brand new. And an extra language is always an interesting asset for a journalist. Now that was a plan which seemed doomed to fail miserably. Not in the least because in the last decade I have already tried classes in Chinese (quit after about three lessons, by that time I had gotten behind hopelessly), German (made it through the first year, mainly because I had already learned some German in high school and so survived that first year without actually having to study) and Spanish (online, never finished the first course). During the same period I have also taken up fencing (liked it a lot, yet for some reason never went back after the first class), fitness (two attempts which both lasted about five sessions) and don’t even get me started on diets.
So learning Russian was another very brave yet impulsive plan of mine, and those always tend to… well not quite go awry, they just kind of vaporize. But somehow, this time it is going well. Very well, actually, thank you very much. I study, I do my exercises, I repeat everything regularly, good heavens, I even do my homework.
The difference between this time and all of my earlier attempts is simply this: I was expecting failure, so I didn’t bother to aim at perfection. Through out this first semester I have “lost” maybe two hours studying Russian (aside from the classes once a week of course, but then, that is mostly a matter of showing up – even I can manage that).
The trick is I carry (part of) my course everywhere I go. So I have been studying some Russian during train rides, during a huge traffic jam, while waiting for appointments, while donating blood… So basically, I have just spent a lot of “lost time” studying. And to my own surprise, this time I became a straight A student. And it feels like it has demanded almost no effort at all.
It actually fixed two problems. 1. The Russian class is going swimmingly. 2. I don’t get bored or irritated anymore whenever I have to wait somewhere.
So what I’m thinking is: Capital! More of that, please.
I am not going to set specific goals for myself (except from succeeding on the Russian exam). I have tried setting goals for myself a million times before, and those didn’t work out very well. The scenario is always the same: I start out pretty hopeful, then I make a slight mistake, feel bad about that, get stressed, mess it up completely and invariably end up feeling like a worthless heap of orange peel. So this time I’m trying a totally different approach. The goal is to look for opportunities to make small habit changes and see where that gets me. So no short term goals, and therefore no failure, but habit changes that can last a lifetime. Without putting stress on myself, without beating myself up if something doesn’t work out.
Of course, I have already figured out more self-improvement plans than the learning-Russian-on-spare-moments-thing. Plans that hopefully will get me to exercise more, eat healthier, get more done. I am planning on sharing those little schemes on this blog in the time to come. Now, I am not going to bore you all with endless updates about how many miles I have run today, how many words I have written or how many 1/1000 pounds I have shed. But when I get an idea, or something works out very well, or very horrible, I will share it.
If you happen to have any brilliant tips for me, please share them too, by commenting, or by e-mailing me at mailalmostwritten at gmail dot com.