How I Set Goals

I’m going to talk about goal setting in a more general way – less about the goals I’ve set, and more about how I choose to set them. I’ve mentioned previously that I have a skewed perception of how much there is of something, whether that’s a physical/concrete resource, or something more abstract like time. There’s also the fact that as much as I like to believe I can control everything (a topic for therapy, if nothing else), I most certainly can’t, and there are so many things that can come up from the beginning of the day to the end. This isn’t supposed to be defeatist in tone, but more so a recognition of the fact that I don’t exist in a vacuum and there are many things that take up my time and energy. I’m a sentimental and emotional person, so when I set my heart on a goal, the goal is likely to be lofty, life-changing, or something that becomes all consuming in some way or another until I lose motivation, dopamine, or time to keep it up.

What this resulted in – frequently, but not always – was a pendulum swing in the opposite direction of “if I can’t keep this up, I’m just not going to do it at all,” which isn’t the most helpful approach either. It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but the easiest changes to make are ones that aren’t going to build up to exhaustion, or deplete other resources like willpower or focus (not trying to sound like a hustle and grind type, I do legitimately mean that I backslide or get distracted more easily). I remember reading in a study skills guide for college students that if you studied a bunch but got a meh grade, you shouldn’t try to do a complete overhaul of how you approach studying, but should instead change one thing at a time to isolate which one thing is (or isn’t) working. I used this while studying, though it took me longer than it should to realise I could apply this to settings beyond academia – and even then, I’ve only really started using it in the last year or so.

I’m also the type of person who likes to do “prewards” (pre-rewards) as in I have the thing that was supposed to be my reward for completing a task BEFORE even starting, since having the thing first will motivate me to get the work done. While this might sound completely backwards (I mean, it is), it has worked sometimes, but it’s super context-specific and not always repeatable. Which means that it also wasn’t a sustainable approach to “treating myself” since I knew full well that if I was the one to give myself the reward, I’d just go get it/order it online immediately and then it’s done and taken care of, and the happy chemicals maybe carry me through the task until I get bored of it. Basically, unless there was someone else involved in the equation, I would get done what got done and usually put myself and my needs last (not sure if you’ve seen this trend on tiktok, but dishes are the Rocco to my Elmo, and generally the last chore to get done – and even then I’ve eaten a piece of chicken off the lid of a cookie tin with a plastic butter knife).

I finally figured out that what works best for me is to make my goals (and the steps of these goals) much smaller – which took a lot of tinkering to figure out. I point this out not to rag on myself, but for the sake of transparency that I didn’t suddenly understand how my motivation works overnight once I decided to take a closer look. In case this hasn’t already been explicitly stated, I’m a fun mix of perfectionist, procrastinator, stubborn, and super competitive all rolled into one – which meant that if I wasn’t almost guaranteed a success, I wouldn’t bother doing it, or I would wait until the panic set in and rush to complete it (which didn’t change until late in my degree, since I could still churn out a psych term paper in around 10 hours with minimal editing, and still get 80-85%, so I had no reason to change if the grades were still good enough). I’ve discovered that the flip of that works for me even better – setting a goal that is so simple it would be difficult to fail. In the debt-free community, this would be akin to shifting from an avalanche to snowball perspective, but I don’t necessarily want to build up like the snowball effect. I like having such a wide berth of wiggle room that I can choose to be go-go-go for a few weeks, and then take a break and ignore the goal entirely since I’m not only a bit ahead, I’m ridiculously ahead.

For the sake of making this less abstract, I’ll use the virtual race/walk that I signed up for that is 1332.5 km/828 mi. This is the distance of Highway 1 around Iceland, and that’s the challenge I signed up for about nine months ago. If I wanted to complete this in a year, I would have to complete 3.65 km/2.27 mi per day. The maximum number of days the challenges are allowed to be set as the completion time is 564 days, or just over a year and a half. The challenge accepts any activity to be converted into a distance according to their conversion chart, so even if I don’t have time for an actual walk that day, the housework that I do and the dance party I have in between tasks still gets counted as a recordable distance. You bet I set the deadline as the furthest out day, which only required 2.4 km/1.5 mi a day (which I get from walking around at work if I happen to remember to carry my phone with me, according to my pedometer). I’m not an overly fitness-oriented person, so having an app tell me every day that I’m amazing for being 360 km/220 mi ahead of my set pace is great for my ego and for motivating me to keep going. At this rate, I’m going to finish before the 1-year mark (74% of the distance done, versus 47% if I only did the daily minimum), but had I told myself I only had a year to complete it, I would have likely given up a while ago and asked for my money back. I’m also doing well by my body for doing the physical activity on a daily-ish routine, but even then, my motivation is like, 67% seeing how wide the percentage gap can be between my completion rate versus the pace, 30% seeing how strong I can get from using free weights, and 3% I like putting stickers on my calendar. Either way, it works for me, and that’s what matters.

What I hope you’re able to take away from this is that your approach to goal setting can be influenced by techniques and information that has been tested and successful for others, but it doesn’t need to be exactly what others are doing if your brain/motivation/situation isn’t the same. Heck, I don’t even expect that my method will work for everyone – but my point is, don’t be too unkind to yourself as you’re figuring things out, allow for flexibility as you navigate what works, and celebrate your progress and wins as loudly as you feel they should be (that’s 100% an invitation to tell me about your progress in my DMs on instagram).

Anyhoo, toodaloo on me being super chatty this week – more structured content will be back next week. Thanks for reading!

February Goals

February has been a slump-ish month for me in the past: the shiny wow-factor of the new year is gone, the sky and slush are the same dreary grey, and the next holiday feels as far away as the sun – and when I was still a student, it usually meant that midterms were ripe to pop up. However, I want to go into this month with the mindset that I’m going to choose to make it fun, rather than let the shortest month of the year drag on (especially after a January that felt like being trapped behind someone standing on the walking side of a long escalator). The overall vibe I’m going for will be “fun and flexible” since I can’t predict what the month ahead holds, but I can choose how I want to approach it.

Clothing:

I found that in January, I would reach for outfits that I’ve worn before – or combinations that I’ve tried in the past, but this time with a different colourway. I want to challenge myself creatively to switch it up a bit with what I’m wearing. I work in person, so I’m not going to throw together something that I’d feel uncomfortable wearing, like a tartan blazer, striped shirt, and a polka dot skirt (I don’t think even the Emily in Paris wardrobe team could make that work). More so what I want to focus on is to not just wear the same outfits on rotation each week, and try to flip more hangers throughout the month. I’m not setting a specific number of specific pieces to be worn, but I want to try to do about once a week either something that hasn’t been worn yet this year, or not yet together. We’ll see, this is for the fun of it, after all.

Books:

So life got busy and I’m still only half done the linguistics book, though I will soon need a new bedside table read. I’m taking a second go at reading the Monet book for the month, but I think I’ll keep that more for day-time reading – since part of what takes me so long is that I just run out of energy at the end of a my busiest days and fall right asleep. Also, as fascinating as any topic is, reading nonfiction before bed feels far more like cramming for a test than reading for fun, so I’m much less motivated to reach for it. If all goes well, I should be able to line up finishing reading Monet in time for my hold on “Do You Really Need It?” by Pierre-Yves McSween becomes available. I found this ebook while browsing through the personal finance section of Libby. The humorous tone and straight forward approach (from what I’ve read in the sample) will offer a look through categories I struggle with, as well as categories I may not have even considered. Which I think is important – seeing another perspective about how to approach spending/what’s worth bringing into my home will be something to reflect on as I go through it.

Using what I’ve Got:

I’m starting the month with a new tube of toothpaste and bar of soap (side note: had you told me even two years ago that I would think the previous sentence was content worthy of sharing on the internet, I would have cackled and continued scrolling through the Old Navy sale page). I will start a second lip balm before finishing the small tin, but that’s because I’ve found it incredibly annoying to fetch it from my work things each time I want to use it while I’m home, and possibly forget it for work the next day. For yarn, I’m going to be making a few things for family when I visit in March, but beyond that, nothing else is on my radar yet. Finally, for planner stickers, I’m entertaining myself so far with seeing just how many stickers I can use on a monthly spread page, and still make it look like a cohesive theme. I’m not at all taking this seriously, and it’s more of a “funny because I’m doing it ironically” thing – as opposed to last-year me painstakingly lifting stickers off the page because I set it down at an 80-degree angle instead of 90.

I’m focusing on smaller, more bite-sized goals for the month with the plan to turn that into regular habits, rather than carrying too much throughout the month – which my guilt goblin thrives on (the name I’ve given to the second loudest critical voice rattling around in my brain).

Coming Up Next Week:

Saturday will be the next set of printables, which focus on productivity; Monday will have part two of my relationship to shopping, and Thursday will go into more detail about small changes and sustainable goals. Thanks for reading!

My No Buy Plan for 2022

What is a No Buy?

The purpose of a No Buy or Low Buy is to reduce how much you are purchasing new things. You set parameters for yourself of what you are limiting (whether entirely or capping), and for how long. You make the rules for yourself according to what your needs are (i.e., it would be incredibly difficult to purchase nothing an entire year if you included essential categories like food and rent), as well as what exceptions you have for your rules – or what you are indeed allowed to spend money on that may not be considered to be essential by others.

My Categories

I chose my categories based on where I spend the most money: clothing, accessories, shoes, crafting supplies, tea, and body care products. Books are also on the list, but are being treated a bit differently. For clothing, I have more than enough seasonal wear, and I know what colours and styles I like to wear most – and I know that I don’t need more. Accessories – earrings, other jewellery, bags, scrunchies – are just as plentiful as clothing. Shoes are a bit different in that I have a lot, for different events/purposes, but many of those events are not currently taking place, so they are not in use. Crafting supplies is likely the broadest category with stationary, writing tools, stickers, yarn, washi tape, scrapbooking paper, and about par for clothing in sheer volume of materials. For tea, I like(d) to buy in bulk with DavidsTea having moved to being almost an entirely online store, so I have around 1.5 kilos of tea, and I certainly don’t need more. For body care products, I amassed so much of everything from shopping sales, buying in bulk, or thinking that I would need more than I reasonably use. A single person doesn’t need five tubes of toothpaste, but that’s what I got from Costco six months ago. For books, I have a healthy To Be Read stack that I want to complete without rushing myself. Books are a bit different, then, as I’ll still be going to the local library, but I won’t be buying new books.

What will be tough about the goal

Avoiding sources of temptation will likely be my biggest struggle over the course of the year. Certain stores, like Michaels, DavidsTea, and Simon’s are full of stuff that I like (and that can stay out of my shopping cart), and avoiding them as a whole is my best bet. In 2021, I went to Michael’s twice, once with spending nothing (but I’d already been shopping at thrift stores that day), and the second time with buying more than I intended once I found something that would make a cute gift. I don’t need to say much about tea (see the 1.5 kilos remark above), and Simon’s is a catch all for cute clothing and home goods, and probably my number 1 targeted ad on instagram. I find that thrifting without a physical list has also led to buying more than I intended, and the rush from shopping for new items is the same as it is for thrifted items, with the additional layer of it being an unexpected find. To help prevent these temptations, I’ve already unsubscribed from all emails from these stores (and others) and I don’t follow them on social media anymore.

My philosophy

When it comes to what I’m going to do when faced with decisions of whether or not to purchase something, I want to have a much more intentional and slowed-down approach than I used to. I want to know what I have and what I need (which likely won’t be anything, at least for a few months) and be able to consider what it is that I’m taking into my home. If I don’t want to be in a space where I’m shopping, whether online or in person, I will need to be intentional about how I’m spending my time and what I do in a day. I want the time otherwise lost from online or in-person shopping to be spent on activities that are more meaningful to me, and I want my living space to not be bursting at the seams with stuff. I will be going into this year’s challenge with the mindset that the decisions I make are my own, and that there is no luck involved in the process; if I am tempted by an item, and choose to make a purchase, that is my decision. However, I also recognize that I do make mistakes, stuff happens, and what matters more is what I learn from my decisions and what I choose to do next.

What’s coming up this week:

I’ll be doing a paper-based inventory of my clothing (so I can keep track of number of wears per item), flipping my hangers over, and picking out the two books I’m aiming to read for the month beyond the remaining library book I have on loan.