I know the new year is always a bit confronting, but I’m finding this one especially so. I’ve always considered 2020 a landmark year, primarily because it was my original thesis submission date back when I enrolled in 2013. It always felt so far away, and now it’s here. Geez.
I took a leave of absence when I had my son, so that required submission date has been extended to 2022 now. But I would still like to finish this PhD in 2020. It’s been long enough. I would really like to get a proper job again one day. Well, sort of.
Now, being the New Year there’s a lot of talk about goal setting. I’ve set goals in the past and I have even achieved them, yet I don’t find them particularly useful. I think there are two main reasons for this.
The first is that I am very much a pressure prompted performer. If I set a goal with a specific timeframe and I’m tracking along to achieve it, I will often ease off and get disinterested from actually completing it. I get lazy. Or I achieve said goal efficiently, go full on toward achieving it, but then once I’ve achieved it I revert back to whatever I was doing before. It doesn’t result in a sustained change.
The other problem I’ve found with goal setting relates to me feeling like I’ve already achieved something just by setting the goal. I’m very much a “figure shit out” person by nature, rather than a “get shit done” type. I can plan with the best of them, draw up something that looks amazing on paper. I am capable of implementing the plan, but it’s not my natural preference. I avoid the doing. I struggle a bit with long term goal setting because I get caught up in making elaborate plans.
So I’m going to try something different. One of the things that I learned from Atomic Habits last year was about thinking about the type of identity you want to become. Then focus on the processes you need to put in place to become that. Valuing process over outcomes means your more likely to create a new habit.
Last year I did this in three areas, all of which are very cliche. But for the first time I actually translated intentions into ongoing sustained action. Comparing this year to last, I am now a regular reader, runner (jogger) and writer (as in, I write regularly, not that I would be at a party and introduce myself like that!).
So this year I absolutely do want to complete my thesis. This is obviously a specific outcome related goal rather than an identity based one. But I think I can still benefit from focusing on process over putcome. I’ve been thinking about what processes I can put in place to steadily track toward this. NOT a strict schedule that I either get ahead of and get lazy, or procrastinate until the deadline. An ongoing sustainable process to grind through the work with discipline.
Here’s the plan. I’m going to draw up an overall outline of all the chapters and the order in which I am going to write them. At the start of writing each chapter I’ll make a detailed task list of all the sections that need to be written. At the beginning of each week I’ll review where I’m up to overall and prepare my goals for the week ahead. Each workday I’ll to stick to the same routine – exercise, write new content, lunch, revise existing content, revisit task list. I think if I do this consistently I will get through the work and achieve the desired outcome.
I do have other thoughts on identity related goals, but they can be for another day. That’s not what’s making me feel anxious, the thesis is. And now, with my plan in place that anxiety has reduced. Nothing to it but to do it now!