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Learning Resolutions: 5 Steps to Better Time Management

I often debate with myself if making resolutions are or should be part of my plan or is it more about tradition to randomly come up with a few things that I’m going to change or do differently.

If it were part of my plan, I would have started ‘planning’ three months ago in order for these new changes to take effect on Jan 1. As an elearning designer/developer and independent contractor, it’s only smart business to plan in advance and to have a strategy going into a new year.

What fun is that really? Why break tradition? The fun in making New Year’s Resolutions is the random nature in how we only start to think about them the last week or so of the previous year. In all seriousness, these resolutions are supposed to help us get better at something or stop us from doing something that’s not been helpful. I know I can use all the help I can get.

For me it’s time management. Time is my vice. When I have too much of it I get overwhelmed by all that I want or need to do with this rare window of opportunity. When I have too little of it, I get overwhelmed with all that has to be done in that short window of time. What I need is balance. To aid in achieving this elusive balance are five resolutions I’ve decided on:

1. Notes/Log/Record: My old (current) method is a cross between a very crowded calendar, emails to myself, and a notebook/pad. Yet, I find myself duplicating notes over to a new day so I don’t lose them or recording notes in multiple places to then wonder if I completed a task. I’ve tried and failed at just about every digital note taking app or system and I’ve learned something – I’m an analog note taker. To my wonderment and joy, I’ve recently discovered a method that I really like. Bullet Journal is an analog note-taking system created by web designer, Ryder Carroll. If you’re an analog person like me, check it out. I even saved a Star Wars Moleskine to kick of the new year.

2. Build it to float: I’m always tinkering with new ideas, learning new software, and building mini prototypes. Yet, I’m not building out full examples of my ideas. Once I get the base idea out and I see that it “can” work, I let go with the satisfaction knowing that it works and may revisit if the need arises. The need rarely comes back. Essentially, I’m only building what I think would be a good looking boat, but never test it to see if it floats. It’s not about building more ideas as it is building the time and treating them as full projects to see if they can float.

3. Narrow Your Focus: I’m a creatively blessed person with a wandering imagination. While I’m blessed with artistic talents, often it feels like a creative curse. There is so much I’m interested in and want to pursue, yet there is literally not enough time in a day to learn everything. One day not long ago following a series of days with minimal sleep, I was exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed when a very wise person told me, “You need to narrow your focus. You can’t do everything. Find what you like best and what motivates you and focus your efforts there.” Duh. Narrowing my focus requires me to fulfill #1 by logging and organizing tasks so that focus is… well, narrowed.

4. Say No to the Clutter: There are two kinds of clutter – the kind on your desk and the kind in your head. Saying no to desk clutter means to minimize and everything has a place. My mom used to have this rule of “touch it once” which means once you touch something put it where it belongs (laundry in basket, dishes in sink, finished magazines in bin, etc.). Simple things like after backing up my iPad, put the cable away. While de-cluttering may not have a direct impact on time management, my guess is someone has done some research that a less cluttered workspace fosters better focus and attitude. Here’s a great post on the Unclutterer site, which is a great resource on the subject of organization.

5. Learn Something. Anything: In this fast-paced Training & Development industry there are always new trends, practices, and technologies to keep up with, which can be overwhelming to stay relevant and competitive. I’m always learning something new whether it’s coding, testing out new software, visual design techniques or whatever I get in the mood for. All that is for my career. What about learning something new on the personal side? Sadly, I’ve not decided yet, but it’s a toss-up between wood carving, perfected gardening, and/or designer cake decorating. I’ve always wanted to make a NuggetHead cake.

Eat healthy, get regular exercise, sleep better, laugh more, play hard, and several more are what I consider goes on the default resolution list. The start of a new year can have its challenges, but the idea of a resolution is to start (or stop) something new with a renewed sense of purpose. Go. Learn something new!

Kevin Thorn is the Chief Nuggethead of NuggetHead Studioz where he creates and consults on learning, illustration, and training.