The two-week experiment|The Sunday Monday Post

We’re two weeks into 2018.

How many new year resolutions have been broken and revitalised already? How many are still going strong?

That doesn’t matter too much. We all hear the same advice – make it a habit. Shoot for sustainable change rather than drastic alterations to our lifestyle. If you slip up once, get back on track as quickly as possible.

I agree with all of this advice because it’s helpful. However, it doesn’t address the main problem I find with New Year Resolutions.

They’re often boring and create too much pressure for perfection.

Who cares about being healthy when Pringles are £1? or exercise when it’s raining and windy?

2018 isn’t special. Neither will 2019 be. There is nothing grand about the change of year. We all know this, yet depend on it anyway even if we decide not to formally create any resolutions.

Why is this a misleading mindset?

Let’s take a quick look at the term “resolution”:

The firm decision to do or not to do something

“I’m going to exercise more”

“I’m going to eat less junk”

“I’m going to call my parents once a week”

Whatever the form, the underlying philosophy is that “this is the time I finally make a change!” When we make resolutions, we often treat them as though we should make a specific change and if we fail, we are failures. That isn’t true – it’s a misleading train of thought.

Experiments and Projects

I returned to an idea I probably heard from the likes of Tim Ferriss and that is the two week experiment and six month project. 

Experiments are an opportunity to try something new or do something slightly differently. They view failure as a possibility rather than something which must be avoided at all costs.

With New Year Resolutions, we always have the possiblity that we’ll fail but it’s as though we choose to ignore it because we believe we can will ourselves to success (it’s not that easy).

Two weeks is a short enough timeframe for our efforts not to feel unproductive and damaging. If we choose to jump ship early, we haven’t sunk too much time into it. If we enjoy it, we can simply carry on and maybe we’ll stick with it long enough.

It’s also a short enough timeframe for it to stay exciting, I’ve found. It’s like we get to become a slightly different person for a short time! Given how easy it is to get stuck in mundane routines, small changes can be wonderful.

The six month project allows for an overarching theme to come from the experiments.

A six month project: Learn data visualisation.

Two-week experiment no.1: Only utilise data on a sport you know nothing about when creating visualisations.

Two-week experiment no.2: Produce a new visualisation every two days.

Two-week experiement no.3: Work on a detailed visualisation that utilises a new skill and produce a story at the end of the two weeks.

You get the idea?

A current example of mine is the following.

Six month project: Lose weight.

Two-week experiment no.1: Have a vegan meal a day

It’s been going very well actually. They’re fun and a helpful break from the bad and good habits that I’ve maintained for a while.

Try the following:

  1. Write down a goal you’ve wanted to achieve.
  2. Think: six months has passed – what do I want it to look like? That is your new project.
  3. Experiment: what’s an interesting way to make progress on your project? What haven’t you tried before? What has been unsuccessful in the past and how might you make a change to it?

Now, be reasonable. I don’t recommend you try fasting for two weeks or skydiving without a parachute to aid weightloss.

Happy 2018!

What might you experiment with next?

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Why you’ll fail your new years resolutions

They are created impulsively.

They are vague.

They are unplanned.

They are too big.

They are ultimately unimportant to you.

Many goals start off in such a fashion. Our pursuit of them works for a short while because we’re still in the ‘This year is a new me!’ stage. We have vast amounts of motivation because we now write 2014 instead of 2013.

After all, that was the push we needed to pursue the change we want. A change of date.

When we make new resolutions on new years, we attempt to change almost instantly. If you’ve been eating bad food for years, why would it be easy for you to change your mindset towards food in a day? If you spend all your days sitting down, why would it be easy to start a rigorous exercise regime after a New Years party?

We move far too quickly with no real direction when we attempt to complete our new years resolutions. It’s why the gym is packed to the brim in January but quickly empties during February. They’ve probably told everyone about their new goals which leads them to feeling slightly accomplished about their goals (even if they’ve done very little). No one will ask for a follow up on their friend’s progress because they have better things to do. Then they’ll look back on the statement they made at the beginning of January and realise they haven’t stepped into the gym for over 6 months.

How do you stop that from happening this year?

Making valuable progress towards your goal 

  1. Start small

This is probably the most important thing you can do if you want to make progress. It makes it much more difficult for you avoid and much easier to make steady progress towards a goal. Focusing on one goal is much better than making a weak effort towards five foals.

2. Focus on a routine rather than the goal

This emphasises consistency. Working on building a reliable routine more than you do a goal means you’re more likely to work towards it steadily throughout the year instead of making random bursts of effort towards it.

If you want to improve your writing over the next year, make sure your routine involves writing regularly (if not everyday). If you want to lose weight (or gain muscle), make sure your routine involves going to the gym at least 4 times a week.

3. Make your goals specific

No more ‘I want to be happy’ or ‘I want to be a better person’. If you want to improve your grades in school, say what grades and by how much. If you want to lose weight, say how much and how you’ll do it.

A new year is not the reason why you’ll become a better person. You are. You shouldn’t depend on motivation throughout the whole year because it burns out quickly.

Start small, remain consistent and that’s the way we make progress.

Are you keeping any resolutions for the new year?