New Year's Resolutions Are For the Birds

Here's what I do instead

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I've never been very good at New Year's Resolutions or yearly goal-setting.

Throughout most of my twenties, a starry-eyed (slightly hungover) Jason would set lofty goals in January only to give them up by March. I'd always start strong, but an entire year is a long time to keep something going, let alone multiple somethings with high targets to aim for. One day off-course turns into two, then a week, then a month, and you know how it goes from there.

Last year, recognizing my shortcomings, I decided that quantitive goals were for the birds, and wrote down a handful of "focuses" instead.


A giant whiteboard I keep on my office wall

These focuses weren't things I could check off and add as a notch on my belt. They were more like reminders of who I wanted to be and where to place my attention when I felt lost or stuck. More than anything, they existed to help me make smarter decisions when I was scheming to do something stupid.

For example, if I found myself with a classic case of new-car itch (which typically strikes at least once a year), I could glance at the board and remember my focus was to spend less, not more. So instead of buying a new car, I'd divert more money into my Roth and/or 401(k). A pretty smart move for a guy who loves to do stupid things.

Looking back on 2022, the focus board worked mostly as intended. I didn't achieve anything monumental, but I forced growth in the different areas that meant something to me. Overall I'd call that a win. Focuses > goals 100%.

Unfortunately, nothing's perfect, and while my focuses were a huge leap forward from my past efforts, I fell wildly short of my expectations for my writing endeavors. 2022 was by far my worst ever in the volume of words written, pieces published, and subsequently, money earned.

Turns out, it's hard to grow an online writing business when you don't write online. I could give any number of excuses for why I didn't write as much as I'd have liked. Even legit excuses like the birth of my son, being overloaded at work, and prioritizing family time in the evenings. But in all honesty, those would just be excuses or lies to make myself feel better, which doesn't actually work for me because I'm one of those people that knows deep down I'm just full of shit.

At any rate, writing sort of fell off the map for me. I still jotted down ideas, kept a notebook, and wrote for myself when I felt the urge. Sometimes, I even cheated and republished an older piece from Quora onto Medium just to make myself feel better. But I didn't have much desire to hold myself to a publishing schedule or anything serious, not with everything else going on around me.

Fortunately, starting this newsletter, which I aptly named "Part-Time Writing", turned out to be perfect for the scenario I found myself in. I mean, I started a newsletter, wrote a few posts, then disappeared for three months! While my break was technically out of laziness and for sanity, it was in fact the most on-brand thing I could've done. Part-time writing at its finest.

But that's the whole point of it — being able to do it whenever you want, on your terms. Writing was never meant to be something I needed to do religiously. I actually hated it back when I treated it as a job or chore. Writing, at least for me, is just supposed to be there when I need it.

All that said, the urge to write and publish more frequently has grown to the point where I know I've got to do something about it, and the new year seems like the perfect time to start shoveling more coal into that fire again.

While I don't plan to turn my writing habits into a New Year's Resolution, some overly zealous goal, or whatever else those Twitter thread bois and influencers are trying to push these days, I do intend on writing a good bit this year. So it's going up on my focus board again. This time with a little more intent.

The new year, among other things, means new opportunities lie ahead. It's a great time to pick up something new or rekindle something old. There's no reason to set a big goal for whatever it is and burn yourself out before truly giving it a chance. But that doesn't mean you should do nothing. You're going to fall into and out of love with different interests, hobbies, and work. Life gets busy. Let it happen and just do more of what you want/enjoy. Set a focus and set sail in that direction.

I really liked Nat Eliason's mentality for the new year.