Set, adhere, break, re-set, give up!

It’s that time of year again where the memory is force-fed good intentions to improve oneself both personally and towards those that are near and dear. To be honest, I’ve never really gone in for the setting (or even sticking to, if set) New Year resolutions. However, as the sands of time seem somewhat pared down in my upper bulb than my lower one, and I have plenty I still want to achieve, now seems as good a time as any to start.

A career in banking furnished me with many things. Most of it throwaway trend-of-the-moment ill conceived management clap-trap. The annual performance review undertaken in order to tick boxes in human resources and force performance to a bell-curved chart, ensuring that good managers can never have good teams as you must always have one team member under-performing. It also, allegedly, ensured fair play for bonus payment and promotions. Viva la meritocracy! I think not. A manager measured achievements during the review period against the goals set at the beginning of the period. So if any achievements that delivered success, were not part of these goals, they did not count. If any achievements delivered failure, then these were of course marked against you, even if you scored highly on every other goal. Got to keep the bell-curve floating. These goals were mostly stagnant, forgotten, and invariably aspirational, even if the human resources folk would insist that they were a moronic mnemonic acronym. Their moronic acronym of choice being SMART. After all these years, I still only remember the first one, but here they are in all their glory:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound

Most goals were never measurable: the qualities in people which make them either good or bad performers within an office environment can be exceptionally subjective. One manager’s top performer is another manager’s evil employee looking to unseat them. I could go on…and on…and on….but will desist. I bring up SMART to aid the setting of your own New Year’s resolutions for this year. If you are a smart about it, then you may achieve the change you seek. So rather than say: ‘I’m going to stop drinking alcohol this year’, why not try this instead: ‘By June 30th, I will only have one glass of wine with my evening meal.’ It gives you time to gradually reduce intake rather than go cold-turkey. It also gives you a chance to reach the resolution sooner and then re-evaluate for the second part of the year with updated or new related resolutions.

As you are the one setting the resolutions, sticking to the resolutions and ultimately measuring how well you did against those resolutions, you are going to be your own worst enemy or BFF. So, in the management guru spirit of tweaking an already tweaked to the edge of effectiveness management tenet, I would like to propose that for New Year resolutions we add a letter to the SMART mnemonic. So can I have a ‘P’ please Bob? I can then PSMART. ‘P’ represents published. Being the first letter of the mnemonic, as everyone knows, you can’t beat a silent ‘P’. It also becomes a sensible piece of bathroom advice. You can either ‘P’ in private (i.e. just tell your nearest and dearest) or ‘P’ in public (i.e. put them up on the internet for all to potentially see).

I choose to ‘P’ in public so here they are, not very SMART though:

  • Write every day, either electronically or by hand, however few or many words that may be.

  • Publish at least two pieces of writing every week. One long (>1000 words) piece and one short piece.

  • Migrate this blog to personal hosted site, such site being coded by myself during January 2021.

  • Read fewer and better novels.

Regarding that final resolution, I read a book and a half a week last year. I read two books a week the previous year. Not sure of the quality of what I read in 2019, but based upon a shout out for good reads of 2020, I rated the books I had read during this year. Just over half of the books were average or below average. Opinion differs on whether you should complete reading a book if it is not ‘doing it’ for you. I’m on the side of the debate that insists you plough on. The author has made the effort and so should the reader. More than one book has turned, after struggling through turgid opening pages, to a gem of a story after all the suffering. So continue to the end I will and thus the strikeout of ‘and better’ in the final resolution, hoping to find some more hidden gems. What I will do is slow down my reading and think a little more about what I am reading: take notes and write them up after the book is complete. Armed with that, I expect to adjust my filters, ensuring more enjoyable reads during the coming year.