goals: what works?

October 27, 2011

things i currently feel on top of
a few weeks ago, i woke up from first-tri inertia and decided that i was unhappy with my level of productivity. though i didn’t want to overwhelm myself, i created a plan to step things up on just a couple of fronts.

i set up goals for endo reading through the fall, and decided to attempt at least 20 minutes/day after work.

YES i’m up to the ambiguous genitalia chapter! that stuff is so interesting.
i finally started learning spanish with rosetta stone — just 15 minutes a day. [of note, i resolved to do this at the end of 2009 — along with a million other things. it didn’t happen until now!]

just 15 minutes of daily exposure — i needed to aim low
oddly, there has been a bit of a spillover effect. somehow, my productivity in those arenas has actually made me more likely to want to make dinner/work out/do what i’m ‘supposed’ to be doing rather than give up and splay out on the couch.

for example, i’ve been better about following my not-too-ambitious dinner prep plans:

although i’m still fairly flexible — ie, last night we had so many leftovers that cooking got pushed to tonight
and workouts are fitting more naturally into my day, though i do not currently plan them out ahead of time.

headed to the gym upon the conclusion of this post . . . and rosetta stone, of course
i also feel more productive and centered at work — at least most of the time. but i don’t really know WHY.

so i guess my questions are:

what made me suddenly feel able [even happy!] to fulfill these goals?
what accounts for the ‘spillover effect’?

i don’t really have answers to these questions, but i wouldn’t be surprised if some psychologist has studied them! i will say that making my initial goals very small and manageable made things much easier to get started with them. in addition, really looking at my schedule to make sure my ideas were realistic helped as well.

all i know is that this may be the first year in many that i don’t make 15023492 new years’ resolutions — or at least, i’ll avoid making them all simultaneously [perhaps one goal/month is a better idea!].

question for you: when have you been successful in carrying out your goals? are you a ‘change everything at once’ kind of person, or do you go with one-step-at-a-time à la leo b.?

areas i’d still like to work on
of course, there are still things i would like to work on. in no particular order . . .

✰ i would like to be nicer when i’m tired. [last night josh arrived home after 9 pm to the whiniest, most hormonal wife he could possibly imagine. sorry babe — you know i can do better!]

✰ i would still like to rush less!

✰ i would like to have a better cleaning system in place. i’m considering an attempt at some sort of flylady-style plan. we’ll see . . .

✰ i would like to read more OFF screen and less ON it.

✰ i woud like to be able to relax more — totally and completely relax, without a thought as to any sot of accomplishment

✰ i would like to stay better in touch with friends + family

✰ i would like to do more yoga and work on my flexibility.

obviously, i am NOT going to try to do all of these things at once — i think i need a few more solid weeks of meeting my previous goals before adding anything else in.

question #2 for you: what are some things — small or big — that you would like to change or add in to your lives?



workout: rest day — i needed one, as my legs felt leaden. for me, 2 days of running in a row is probably one too many during pregnancy.

dinner: los leftovers [love them].

spanish: check! now i’m excited about the prospect of finishing unit one soon.

endo: finished with polyglandular + on track for the month, as you can see above.


  • Reply Sandra March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Sarah…I love the way you set goals. I do that too so it feels like meeting a fellow traveler on the road to …….. I would really like to rush less and I am getting better. I am off to yoga in 25 minutes. That gives me 10 more blogging minutes! I love how you post your schedules. You inspired me and that’s what my blog is ‘mostly’ about. So one day soon I’ll do the same and credit back to you. Thx. Enjoy your day…and every moment of being pregnant! Sandra

  • Reply Sarah March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    wow, i’m impressed that you’ve been doing so well with your spanish + endo studying.

    i am definitely a "let’s change everything all at once and make big ambitious goals" kind of person. and it has not worked out well for me. i think i need to make smaller, more manageable goals too…

    i would love to have more meaningful down time. i feel like we often tend to sit next to each other on the couch and watch television (or he plays a video game while i read blogs) and i’d rather have us relax together while actually DOING something…

  • Reply Solitary Diner March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I completely understand the spillover effect. I’ve been focusing lately on cooking more, in part thanks to inspiration from your blog (I figure if someone else in Medicine can cook regularly that there’s no reason why I can’t), and it definitely is spilling over into being more motivated in other areas of my life. I’m suddenly putting more effort into studying and keeping my apartment clean and all of the other little things that I need to do in my life. I think the effect probably comes from the brain’s reward centre – I get a very positive feeling from eating food that I’ve cooked or opening up my fridge and seeing tasty leftovers, so I look for other things that I can do to get the same feeling. It’s like an addiction, but with a positive outcome.

    As for how I change, I’ve traditionally been a "change everything at once" kind of person, and it’s always failed miserably. I can’t go from being an inactive person who eats too much takeout to someone who works out five days a week and cooks dinner every night. I’m trying now to focus on one goal at a time so that I can hopefully, over time, make big changes for the better.

    As for things I would still like to change…getting some exercise is probably the biggest thing. I’ve made quite a few attempts over the past year, and I’ve always been thwarted by my frustration at how difficult it is to start and by my ever-changing schedule that makes routine impossible. Guess I’ll just have to keep working on it.

  • Reply lac March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    The "effect" you are searching for is called discipline discipline breeds order order breeds peace and centeredness peace and centeredness breads true liberty, the esseence of freedom.

    I am happy for you

  • Reply Tina March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I want to improve in all the areas you mentioned! At least I do notice that when I get in a productive groove it lasts pretty well as long as I keep balance in those other ways too. Otherwise I ahve those breakdowns like I did recently.

  • Reply shelby March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Hooray for making it to ambiguous genitalia!

    I am with you on wanting to spend a little more time away from screens. Shutting down the laptop for a couple of days last weekend was glorious. If I need to hit "mark all as read" once in a while, it’ll be ok.

  • Reply Chelsea March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I disagree with lac that it’s all about discipline and self-control. I think we all have natural cycles where we are more and less energetic and productive, and that, yes, we have to get certain things done to meet our obligations, but it makes more sense to work with our natural cycles than fight them.

  • Reply Rachel March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    You are seriously my productivity and organization idol… Just thought you should know!

    Right now I seem to be successful in carrying out my goals because I’m so busy and my energy feels heightened. Plus I’ve just always done my best work under loads of stress.

    As far as change goes, I like to change everything at once. I’m an all or nothing type…

  • Reply anon March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I also disagree that it is all about discipline. There are many factors that lead to productivity. One factor that you are discussing is well, being productive. Activity begets activity and this is a principle called behavioral activation. There are many positive benefits of beginning behavior, both behavioral and emotional that can facilitate the progress. Microgoals are also a plus! Congratulations on this!

    I have one small comment and I hope it won’t be too off putting. Your comment about the ambiguous genitalia (i.e., yes, it’s so interesting) sounded a bit flip. I totally get that as a pediatrician there is inherent scientific interest on the science side. I just try to remember that with those genitalia is a child and a parent who probably have very different feelings, as in how would you feel if that finding was on your ultrasound (don’t even know if that can be seen with an ultrasound)?…..I’m sure I"m taking your comment out of context and it is hard to interpret over the internet I just wanted to share one person’s reaction.

  • Reply Monica March 10, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I love everything about this post! Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit more on top of my professional goals. We ran some very successful focus groups at my workplace, and I’m really proud of the way they went! I’m not however feeling so great about my goal to construct a more functional and stylish wardrobe for myself. I’m trying to purchase clothing that will fit my needs as both an undergraduate student and a staff member of two departments at my university. My last shopping trip did not go as well as I’d hoped, so its still on my list of goals. I also think its time I stopped procrastinating and got some of my major papers going well before they’re due. As a lover of Cal Newport’s blog, I’ve identified that alot of my procrastination is rooted in my lack of interest in my major. Unfortunately, it’s a little late in the game to be starting fresh, so I need to come up with some type of strategy to minimize this procrastination and stay on top of my dreaded English lit. course work!

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