Posts Tagged ‘keeping resolutions’


Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions: Color-Coded To-Do List

to-do list

Book Club Members: I am up to Passover Week in Killing JesusI am finding the politics of Jesus’ time very, very interesting. How about you?

Warning: You might want to get a beverage first.

I am doing a small series on how to increase your chances of keeping your 2014 New Year’s resolutions. Most of us generally want to improve each year, but we often fail because we fail to plan. Today I discuss another way that I keep myself on track with the changes I want to make each year. It’s my color-coded to-do list:

1. I create a simple list at the top of my “Date List” that only includes 16 items each day in a Word document. Why 16? Because you have a better chance of keeping your resolutions if you are well rested. Many research studies indicate that you need 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. As we age, some of us can get away with 5 – 6 hours of sleep. If that is your situation, then you can add 1 – 3 more items to your to do list. That leaves you 16 hours a day to work, to do household chores, to study, to run errands and to improve your life.

2. I write down things as I think of them for what I want to accomplish that day. This includes daily items, such as reading my Bible and washing the dishes (They never leave the list even if I get them done every day!). It includes appointments and things that must take place that day such as: “Go to XYZ appointment” and “Take out the trash”. It includes items from my date list which now should have not only appointments on there, but also the deadline dates for the steps in my improvement projects. When I hit 16, I stop adding items.

3. Then, I look at the 16 items and find the 5 most important things for me to do that day. For instance, appointments are probably going to be red (can’t do them any other day!). I simply highlight those 5 items and click on the font color button and make them all red.

4. Then, I look at the remaining 11 items and decide which ones are the next most important to get done. These usually include my daily items, such as exercise, getting the mail, and doing laundry. I pick the 5 most important and highlight them and make their font color yellow. (Think about traffic lights!)

5. The remaining 6 items become green in font color.

6. I attack the red items first until all of them are accomplished.

7. Once all the red items are done, I attack the yellow items until all of them are done. (I at least make progress on all of them, giving each one at least 10 minutes of my time.)

8. If I am fortunate enough to get all of the yellow items done, then I start attacking the green items. Notice I said, “If”! There are lots of days when I don’t get all the yellow items done and thus, the green items never even make it to my attention!

9. I use the strikeout button to cross off the things I’ve done each day. This makes me feel accomplished, even if the only thing I accomplished was cleaning out my belly button lint. (You can’t let that stuff build up…it might attack you in the middle of the night when you least expect it.)

10. At the end of each day, I highlight everything on the list and “unstrike” them by clicking on the strikeout button again. Then, I highlight them again and turn the font color black.

11. Now, I delete any items that were accomplished and don’t need to be done ever again (or at least not the next day!). Depending on how many items are still left, I add on items for tomorrow based from my date list and any other new commitments that may have cropped up during the day until I get to the magical 16. Then, I re-code them red, yellow and green as in Steps 5-7 above.

What I have learned from using this system is that the yellow items eventually become red and the green items become yellow. Since I’m pretty good at getting the red items done every day and some of the yellow items every day, most things get accomplished eventually and amazingly, on time!

There are good days and bad days. Why? Because sometimes life intervenes and crises arise. For instance, right now a family situation has cropped up that requires a lot of my attention. But, I’m still getting at least a few of the red items done every day and the family’s agenda has temporarily become my agenda, meaning that the most important things are being done (taking care of my family)–my agenda has just become mostly yellow and green for right now.

Also, some days I lack motivation and just need a break from the to-do list, so I often look at my to-do list on these days and don’t see a lot accomplished. But, resting is important, because if I don’t take care of myself, I’ll be in a hospital or dead and then my agenda really won’t get accomplished. I do have days where I’m just plain lazy, so this past year I did even more with that to-do list to combat my procrastination tendencies:

1. Since I feel accomplished crossing off things on my list, I estimate how many minutes it will take me to get each item done. I put that number next to the item.

2. When I’m lazy, I find the red item taking the least amount of time and do it first. Then I take the red item with the next least amount of time estimated and do it next. That way I can pretty quickly cross off several items within an hour or two.

3. The increasing number of items crossed off motivates me to get those yellow items done next. By the end of the day, that “lazy day” turned into a pretty productive day!

Do you have to do this exactly as I have described above? No. Do what works for you! But, get busy and try some system and see if you can’t keep those resolutions better in 2014! Even if you fail and your system didn’t work, you at least tried and learned that you need to try a different system and that, my dear reader, is progress and improvement.

Point to Ponder: Try the system above if you’ve never done it. If you aren’t a computer whiz, then just use a notebook to make your to-do list and use highlighters to color-code it. You can also use “A”, “B”, and “C” to order your priorities for the day. Or, “R” for red; “Y” for yellow; and “G” for green. The point is to get started today…somehow…some way. Do it! No more procrastination! Then, give yourself a small reward for being so good!

Friday’s Post: Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions: Blissful Sleep!

You might also like: Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions: the Date List and Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions: Backwards Planning


Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions…Backwards Planning

painting a wall

Warning: You might want to get a beverage first. 

Last Friday I discussed that a possible reason why we don’t keep our New Year’s resolutions is because we fail to break down these lofty ambitions into “bite-sized” pieces. In the past when I have succeeded at keeping my resolutions, it has helped if I take those pieces and schedule them onto my daily “to-do list.” I work backwards on this. How? I take the date I want to realize my goal or resolution and then order the pieces backwards from that date, putting the last critical piece closest to the “due date” to complete the resolution. This year I really need to get busy and paint one of our bedrooms. I’m trying to turn it into a guest room.

I may have visitors wanting to use that guest room by as early as February 1st.  So, here are the pieces of that painting resolution, in reverse order:

1. Dust and vacuum finished room.

2. Remake guest room bed.

3. Put furniture back in place.

4. Remove all drop cloths and painter’s tape.

5. Clean up paint cans, trays, rollers and brushes.

6. Finish 2nd coat trimming.

7. Finish 2nd coat painting.

8. Finish 1st coat trimming.

9. Finish 1st coat painting.

10.  Spackle holes or dents.

11. Tape around door and window frames. Put down drop cloths

12. Move or cover furniture.

13. Purchase paint and spackle.

14. Select a paint color.

15. Get paint samples.

Since my health adventures can often derail these resolutions, if I don’t plan for them, I also try to build in a few “ill days” just in case. This is a good idea, even if you don’t have my health adventures–you never know when life is going to hand you a “curve ball.” So, if I’m working backwards, here’s when I need to get each of these steps done, date-wise:

February 1st – Ready for company

January 31st – Dust and vacuum room

January 30th – Remake bed.

January 29th – Put furniture back in place.

January 28th – Remove painter’s tape and drop cloths.

January 27th – Clean up all painting equipment & finish 2nd coat trimming.

January 25th – Finish 2nd coat painting.

January 24th – Finish 1st coat trimming.

January 23rd – Finish 1st coat painting.

January 22nd – Spackle holes and dents

January 21st – Tape around door and window frames. Put down drop cloths.

January 20th – Move furniture.

January 18th – Purchase paint and spackle.

January 17th – Select a paint color.

January 16th – Get paint samples.

Once the above is completed, I start putting the first dates’ tasks on my to do list as I complete other tasks. My daily to-do list only has 16 items on it. Why? Because you cause your body undue stress and illness by not getting 8 hours of sleep per day and that leaves you 16 hours to get things done out of a possible 24. Granted–some items on my to-do list take much longer than an hour, but many also take less than an hour, so this seems to work for me.

What if a resolution requires the same repetitive step day-after-day? This is also true of me. It needs to stay on that to-do list so you remember to do it and not allow other things to get in the way of completing it, if at all possible. I make this easy for myself by keeping a simple Word document of my daily to-do items. It makes deleting and color-coding my list really easy (more about that in a later post). I tried to do this on a fancy planner and on a computerized and smart phone version and I grew irritated with all of them. The KISS to-do list document works best for me and I’m not killing trees in the process. I started using this process in grad school and seem so much more productive since then. (Not perfect, but better!) But, if you like the fancy planner, smart phone or computer-version, be my guest and use it. The biggest mistake is not to plan at all!

Point to Ponder: Ready to get started on putting deadline dates on all of your “pieces” for attaining completion of that resolution item? Good for you! It’s okay if you struggle to put the “pieces” in reverse order as I did above. That’s what a delete key is for! Just keep working at it until you have thought of every step or piece and keep re-arranging them until they are completely in reverse order. Then, assign a target date to complete your resolution. Then, schedule target dates for each of those steps/pieces based on your target completion date. Don’t forget to build in some “days off” for unexpected things!

Friday’s Post: Keeping Your 2014 Resolutions…Color-Coding Your Daily To-Do List

You might also like: Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions…for good; How I Cope with a Heart That’s a Ticking Time Bomb, and You 3.0: Questions & Tips, Part III


Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution…for good…



Book Club Members: I can’t seem to put down Killing Jesus. How about you?

I, like many of my friends and family, have made New Year’s resolutions in the past. Some I am successful at keeping and others I am not. When I closely examine the ones I’ve kept, I have noticed a pretty strong pattern. I do certain things that allow me to gain ground on a bad habit of mine. Hopefully someday, I will manage to apply this pattern to all areas of my life. In the hopes of being helpful to others who may struggle to eradicate bad habits and to establish good habits in their stead, I will share the pattern that seems to work.

Thing # 1:

Break that resolution down into tiny, manageable steps. 

Many of us make lofty goals (resolutions) and fail to break them down into steps that we can easily handle over time. Why would I assume that I could drastically change several areas of my life at once? It took time to develop those nasty habits and it would now require time to replace them with good habits. There is no more place more evident of this part of the pattern than when I decided I had to undo the damage of bad eating and exercise habits. I, like many people, failed miserably at taking off excess weight until the day when I finally made a list of small changes I could take on, one at a time:

A. Eat on smaller plates and from smaller bowls.

B. Drink more water.

C. Brush my teeth more often (Consumption of food never tastes great after doing this!).

D. Re-organize my pantry so that the healthy snacks and foods are right in front of me when I open the door.

E. Re-organize my refrigerator so that the healthy snacks and foods are in front of me.

F. Figure out what eating plan works with my particular personality and other habits and living style.

G. Get a treadmill.

H. Walk 10 minutes on a treadmill.

I. Make a list of healthy foods that I usually enjoy eating.

J. Gradually replace unhealthy foods and snacks with better ones.

After making the above list, I looked at which one would be the easiest for me to make a part of my life. Obviously, some must come after others. For instance, if I’m going to walk on a treadmill, I probably need to buy one first! I started with figuring out what kind of eating plan works best with my personality. It took me a full month to figure that out! But by the end of the month, I figured out that I needed to “automate” my eating by using pre-portioned low calorie foods. I don’t enjoy cooking, except during the holidays and I am often alone when eating, so making huge meals for 6 people seemed a bad fit for me. I also hate counting points and calories, so that pretty much excluded Weight Watchers or any other plan based on such a premise.

I’m also a cheapskate and often fail to remember to re-order things on a timely basis, so using Nutri-system, Jenny Craig or another similar service seemed frivolous and not easily worked into my life. I finally decided to do my own version of such a system by purchasing Lean Cuisines to eat twice a day. I also allow myself to consume my favorite in-season fruits for snacks and have some popcorn once in a while. I also like Atkins Endulge bars when a chocolate attack hits.

By the end of Month 1, I had already transitioned to this way of eating. May you find success in breaking down your first resolution into something manageable and easy.

Point to Ponder: How could you break down a resolution for 2014 into several manageable steps? Do that now. 🙂 After you’ve had 24 hours to think about those steps, pick one that seems the easiest or the first thing that has to be done to move towards completion of the resolution. Start working on that easiest/first thing before next Wednesday. Share your success with MIP readers so you can help others, too.

Monday’s Post: What does styptic mean?

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