New Year

by Sunita

I wanted to write down my New Year’s goals somewhere public, so that I could go back to them down the road and feel bad about all the things I didn’t get done.

Wait, that sounds defeatist. Let’s try again.

I wanted to write down my New Year’s goals somewhere public, so that I could refer to them through the year and encourage myself when I’m starting to fall off the wagon.

Much better!

In no particular order:

Internet less. Everyone says this, of course, and we all mean it sincerely, with good reason. Online reading and surfing and social media are not the same as reading a book or magazine. They’re more like binge-watching TV, where your senses are bombarded without your cognitive capacities being used in a way that refreshes them. But following through on this goal is the hard part. So I’ve started writing down in my daily planner the times I spend too much time on the Internet. That’s what I call it: Too Much Internet. I write the words in red pen and I block out the hours I’ve spent. I’m hoping that logging my behavior will help me see it more clearly and make changes.

Read attentively. I started to type “read more,” but that doesn’t quite capture what I mean. I’ve written up my 2016 goals and challenges over at Booklikes, where I keep track of my reading. In 2015 I read more SFF and more general/lit fic than I had for a few years, and I really enjoyed that. Right now I’m reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is accessible but which isn’t a book I can read in a weekend. I read it, set it aside, and then come back to it. I’m still reading romance and mysteries, but I want to read more books that are outside my comfort zone.

Lurk more, tweet less. I’ve faced the reality that I’m never going to give up Twitter, or at least not until it is much further past usable and enjoyable than it is now. I don’t know why; I don’t care about what I miss because I’m not on Facebook, but Twitter is different. I’ve stopped trying to understand and now I just accept it. That said, I’m more impatient with stuff in my feed than I used to be. It feels like it’s moving inexorably toward a mashup of Facebook and Instagram, two platforms of absolutely no interest to me. I do find, though, that if I don’t respond to the more performative and less interactive tweets, the subsequent exchanges (I can’t call them discussions) move on without me and eventually leave my feed (and if they don’t, the mute button is my friend).

Write most days. I stopped blogging in part because I felt as if it was taking away from my total writing time, but I’m starting to think writing is like affection; the more you have, the more capacity you have to generate it and the more you can produce. I don’t feel as good when I’m not writing and my brain doesn’t work as well. And I Internet more. So writing more is important to my mental health. I’m tracking it informally, but I expect I have Pomodoros in my future.

Knit more. From my stash. I used to knit a lot, and of course I bought a lot of yarn. Then I basically stopped, abandoning several projects in various states of incompletion. I think my knitting was replaced by internet time and social media, and it’s time to reverse the proportions. I won’t say I’m on a complete yarn-buying fast, because I love buying local yarn when I travel. But I have several lovely kits from La Droguerie and Habu that are dying to be knitted up, in addition to the aformentioned WIPs. I like knitting and it’s good for my brain, so it’s time to make time for it again.

Keep track of my time. A few years ago, when I had an administration position in my department and served on a bunch of committees and taught classes and advised, I kept a schedule so that I wouldn’t have to think about what I had to do next. It’s a useful process even when my time isn’t so precommitted, and I need to start doing it again, however scary it will be to find out how much time I waste. There are a bunch of different time-logging systems out there, I just have to pick one!

Spend time outdoors. Like a lot of people, I am more prone to depression in the winter months because of the cold and the lack of sunlight. A few years ago we gave up our on-campus parking and started taking public transit to work. For the last couple of years we’ve also walked home together (less than two miles). Both of these changes have helped me a lot in the winter, even when it’s cold and/or snowy. It’s not quite enough, though, and I tell myself every semester that I will walk around campus more during the day and find reasons to get out of my office.  So here I am again, telling myself to walk around campus more, etc. Right now it’s cold and I’m exercising indoors, but that’s another way to get sunlight. I have all the cold-weather gear so I really don’t have a good excuse.

That seems like more than enough for a start. How about you? What are you hoping/planning to do this year?