New Year’s Resolutions: Strategic, Not Super

I think I’m Superwoman.

Which is fine, and even empowering. Right up until I start punishing myself for not getting done all the tasks on a list that was un-get-done-able from the start.

Here’s what I mean: as I look at 2018 (which will include a move back to the States for our next assignment), my brain’s already racking up a considerable to-do list for the next year:

  • Begin cooking more healthily (which is hard to do with a full-time “day job,” a writing career, and a foreign grocery store that doesn’t always carry essential ingredients)
  • Be a stellar bridesmaid in a dear, dear friend’s upcoming wedding
  • Add abdominal work to my weekly cardiovascular/swimming exercise regimen
  • Maintain aforementioned weekly cardiovascular/swimming exercise regimen
  • Finally take French lessons to bone up my pitifully emaciated high school French
  • Oh yes: also take Mandarin lessons to maintain my Chinese
  • Secure a new “day job”
  • Increase my writing schedule
  • Secure a new literary agent
  • Maintain my social media commitments
  • Finish my new novel
  • Begin writing more short pieces like articles and short stories
  • Consider taking freelance editing gigs
  • Read more books (perhaps 1-2 a month?)
  • Prioritize my marriage, family, and friendships
  • Apply for PhD programs
  • Finish a large painting I’ve been toying with for 4+ years
  • Complete another painting as a gift
  • Open an Etsy store
  • Produce inventory with which to keep Etsy shop stocked
  • Shop for a new apartment
  • Take lead on move into new apartment
  • Winnow down our possessions so we can fit into the apartment
  • Keep a cleaner and more organized house
  • Get 8 hours of sleep regularly because I’m a she-beast without it

And that’s just what I can come up with off the top of my head.

Time for some honesty: discipline and drive will get you pretty far. But they aren’t capable of working the miracle of shoving 38 hours of work into a 24 hour day. There are limits to time that cannot be overleapt by human effort. And having come off a year and a half of working approximately 60+ hours a week between my writing and my Embassy job, I know all too well that I–and everyone who loves me–suffers when I overburden myself. Not even the real Superwoman can make everything a no.1 priority.

It’s not that goals are bad (I actually thrive on accomplishing aims), or that I can’t be a super achiever in certain areas of my life. But during the grueling last year, I’ve learned something (painful as it is to confess): I’m finite. I have limits to my resources, energy, endurance, strength, will. But hard as it is to believe, these limitations don’t make me lesser. They just make me human.

That’s why I appreciated Allison K. Williams’ write-up–The Year of the Writer–on setting authorial goals for 2018. In it, she advocates for establishing aims that meet the “SMART” criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. It served as a reminder that selecting a few precisely executed goals is always more satisfying and productive than a scattered, shotgun approach to an unculled list of wishes.

I’m not sure yet what my SMART goals will be–if I only get to pick a few, I want to choose wisely!–but just giving myself permission not to tackle everything whisks a weight off my shoulders. And as I push myself to prioritize, I can already see a few must-haves bubbling to the surface: maintaining my writing time (whatever projects I choose to use it on); seeking a new literary agent; painting and swimming on a weekly basis (both provide stress relief); taking the time to love the husband, family, and friends with which God has blessed me. Whatever I can wiggle in around the margins will be lovely additions. But I’d rather give these few things my utmost effort than a broken half-attempt because I’ve excessively divided my energies.

After all, each of us only has one life to live. I want to have some quality in mine, and have the time and energy to offer quality to others. Perhaps that’s my ultimate aim for 2018.

So what about you? Any Happy New Year wishes for 2018? What would your SMART goals be?

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