Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Year of Productivity

I realized some time ago that New Year’s resolutions work as well for me as they do for most people. I embrace them enthusiastically on January first and then drop them with reckless abandon sometime around January fourth.

If I was as goal oriented every day as I used to be January 1 through 4, I would have cured everyone’s cancer by now AND fulfilled my lifelong dream of teaching a water aerobics class to a group of 50 plus.

Maybe some of you are more dedicated to your goals than I am. Or maybe you all live your lives so effortlessly and perfectly that change isn’t really needed and so resolutions are pointless.

Well I’m not like you. I’m deeply flawed. Layers and layers upon flaws. Flaws coming out of my ears. Flaws coming out of my nose. And I pick at them and wipe them under seats in public venues. And then I chew off all of my fingernails and spit them across the room. And I don't even cover my mouth when I yawn.

I don't remember what we were talking about.

Oh yes. So, sometime around 2011, I sort of just stopped trying to set New Year’s resolutions because I was tired of creating things to be disappointed about. Disappointment happens often enough already that I don’t need to encourage it.

And then 2012 happened. And it kicked my butt. Well, the last few months of it did, which just so happened to be my first few months of living in Palau.

Palau was a much more traumatic experience than I ever imaged “paradise” would be. And by December 31, 2012, I moped and complained about this so passionately that my life became the new Telenovela. I even learned Spanish to make sure the drama was on point.

And so, sometime around the beginning of 2013, I was sitting in my office one day, thinking about how much I had changed in the last few months. Historically someone who doesn’t complain excessively, I had turned into a professional complainer. And I could actually see how annoying I had become.

Those friends I had who did not abandon me during this time should each be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and their names should be inscribed onto the Washington Monument. They should be recognized at country music concerts. They should get to buy movie tickets at discounted rates. They should each get two votes in gubernatorial elections.

The point is, these people are a special breed of human because looking back, I don’t think I could have remained friends with me, all things considered.

I decided that day in Palau, sitting in my office, that I needed to make a drastic change to my attitude. And I told myself then that 2013 was going to be The Year of Attitude for me. I was going to find a way to force myself to be positive. To choose to see the good instead of dwell on whatever seemed sad or stressful to me.

I didn’t set any particular goals or promise myself that I would engage in any specific practice. I just decided to adopt a general mentality.

And, strangely, this worked.

Throughout the year, every time I felt myself become tempted to mope or complain, I could hear a voice ringing in my head that said, “NO, ELI! THIS IS THE YEAR OF ATTITUDE! THIS IS NOT THE WAY A PERSON ACTS DURING THE YEAR OF ATTITUDE!” And it would zap me out of it. With nearly a 100% success rate.

And no, this wasn't schizophrenia. I'm not schizophrenic. And neither am I.

(Ba dum ching) 

By the end of 2013, I was completely different than I had been at the beginning of it. And I was so pleased with this.

I’m really not kidding you when I say that in a not insignificant way, I had actually changed my life. I had improved in a way that I so badly needed to improve. And not because I had set a goal from which I could easily derail through one simple failure. But because of a general mentality I ardently sought to maintain and one that I forced to permeate every experience, every encounter, and every thought.

I think this worked because a weak moment didn’t feel like a failure the same way abandoning a goal might feel. For example, a goal to exercise every day for a year is easy to give up after missing a day on January 12th. But if I instead decide that this year is a year in which I’m going to be more active, not exercising on January 12th doesn’t feel so demoralizing to the general goal. Rather, on January 13th, I’m more motivated to exercise because I didn’t do so the day before, and missing two days in a row is surely unacceptable during The Year of Exercise!

I’m not sure if any of this is making sense to any of you. But for whatever reason, what I’ve described above resonates with whatever my personality is. So I go with it.

And that’s why at the end of The Year of Attitude, during which I saw so much success, I decided to pick another general area I wanted to improve in and set a theme for 2014. I deemed that year “The Year of Honesty.”

I didn’t see myself as particularly dishonest, but I thought I could be better at authenticity, and being vulnerable with my loved ones, and avoiding white lies, and not shutting people out, as I had done throughout my life.

Similarly to the Year of Attitude, throughout 2014, whenever I was tempted to be anything but authentic, I heard that voice asking me, “is this how someone acts during THE YEAR OF HONESTY, ELI?!”

And by the end of that year, I felt more authentic than I had ever been in my entire life.

I noticed, too, that just because it was no longer The Year of Attitude, this did not mean that I resumed my old poor attitude. A year of focusing on one mentality creates habits that die hard, and so, although I focused 2014 on being more honest, the positive attitude I had developed in 2013 carried through in important ways.

In 2015 I began The Year of Standing Up for Myself. It was aimed to combat my lifelong struggle to assert myself in professional settings and to eliminate toxic and draining relationships that I had enabled by being too much of a “yes man.” By the end of 2015, I found myself much more professionally respected, focusing much more on relationships that were meaningful, and rid of some that had been destructive in my life.

And still, I found I was more positive and honest than I had been in past years.

And so, this year, 2016, I thought long and hard before determining that I would make this The Year of Productivity. A year where not a minute is wasted on something that has no value. A year when I would finally do the things I’ve always wanted to do but that I’ve excused away from beginning.

This is much to the chagrin of Matt, who has nearly strangled me 2,000 times since January because I have screamed into his face that this is “THE YEAR OF PRODUCTIVITY” pretty much every time he decides to rest for a minute.

It has been an exhausting year, to say the least. But it has been the most productive year I’ve known in my 32 years of living.

When I find myself mindlessly thumbing through TV channels, I inevitably hear that familiar voice SCREAM at me, “THIS IS THE YEAR OF PRODUCTIVITY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”

This year I threw myself into Strangerville, a project I have put off for a very long time. I’ve written more than I have in past years. I’ve been more focused at the office, setting distractions aside, distractions that used to derail me from productivity, sometimes for hours in any given day. And because of all of this, and more, I feel more fulfilled in my work and my hobbies than I ever have before.

I’m not telling you all of this just so you’ll know HOW AMAZING I AM (oh my gosh stop it you guys I hate all this attention my hair just looks this way naturally iwokeuplikedis).

I wanted to share this with you because what I’ve described above has honestly transformed my life, and if you think this sort of thing might be valuable to you, I would love to have you join me in it. In the last several months of each year I start thinking long and hard about what theme I’ll use the next year (and my friends actively attempt to steer me away from themes that they know are going to extremely annoying for them. We all owe my friend Val an eternal debt of gratitude for stopping me from making 2016 The Year of Veganism and Crossfit). 

And so, I’ll encourage you, too, to start thinking about what your theme will be. Give it significant thought, and then let’s all embrace our themes come January One. I’ll write to you then and unveil my own well-thought-out 2017 theme and invite you to tell me yours. And by the end of 2017, we’ll all have cured cancer and taught water aerobics.

OMG. I think I just became a motivational speaker. I’m basically Oprah. 

PC: Stranger Mike Batie
~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I have to say Eli, I've missed you this week.

    1. How could you have missed me… when I was standing outside your window the entire time! (Thunder and lightning!)

  2. I really love this idea :) it's more about becoming something than accomplishing a certain something. I'm in, Eli!

  3. You would be an amazing motivational speaker! I think I will start my own year of productivity, as that has been a struggle for me lately. However, I think next year should be The Year Of the should have to meet all of us loyal followers so we can tell you first hand how much of a good influence and motivation you have been for us. You need to recognize how many friends who would have stood by you in 2012. I can't possibly be the only person who feels this way.
    Or a more serious answer, 2017 could be the year of positivity.

    1. Bingo Melissa...! Eli this post has really resonated with me, and this past year I've been unhappy with some aspects of myself and I've realised I need to make some personal changes. This is just what I needed, and Melissa has echoed exactly what I was thinking. Thank you

  4. This is similar to what Scott Adams blogs about sometimes; here's an example: Persuasion works by creating a system in which change happens, not in strong-arming yourself through goals that are too easy to abandon when a single instance of failure happens (as your example indicates). Good stuff here.

  5. This is totally how goals work best for me too! I get so overwhelmed by those SMART goals that people say you should make, those specific, measurable ones. And when I fail, I get really down on myself. So I love this! I'm glad you found a system that works for you! Themes are the dream!

  6. I think "the year of ____" is a great idea. I declared 2014 the year of doing things (even Alone, even when nervous or scared, regardless of how silly I looked) and by the end of it I had driven cross country to surprise visit a friend, taken up power lifting, gone to several concerts and events alone, quit my job and changed industries completely, started dating and was on the verge of meeting my guy Mike, who I will be marrying in a few short weeks. The year of doing things has been more effective than any number of forgotten resolutions towards building the life I want. Needless to say, I highly recommend it.

  7. I really needed this today. 2012 was The Big Suck for me, and this year it feels like it came back with a vengeance. I'm struggling, big time, with life in general. I know small things can make a big difference but most days it's hard to muster the positive attitude needed to make it work. Time to try harder.

  8. This has been the year of trying to overcome fears. Because of this, I am leading an adventure later this year and I climbed a mountain earlier this year, taught an exercise class even though I was always afraid I wouldn't have the stamina to do it. My biggest fear is proving the hardest to overcome, and that is wasps and hornets. I still can't manage eating outside with them! Still, I have taken some positive steps.

  9. This year has been the year of "No fear" for me. To not be afraid to try, to fail, to try again. To meet new people, do new things (within reason).

  10. This is a really neat idea. It's often enough to focus on improving our character by principles and not lists of checkboxes :) Looking forward to what your 2017 year will be!

  11. I recently startet The Year of More No. I'm terrible at saying no, so I often end up overwhelmed, exhausted and drained from doing stuff that others should have done. And I'm terrible at asking for what I want or need or would like in fear of gettinga "No". So this summer, I started trying to get more no's (as in asking for things where I thoguht a NO was more probable than a yes), and trying to say no more. The first is much easier than the latter, and it turns out that people are rarely saing no.

  12. The sweetest thing about become a Woman of A Certain Age is that I don't need to be reminded to be honest, productive, motivated, assertive, or to just say no.

    I am, because I don't give two snits what others think anymore...not that that was ever an issue for me, but if it had been it wouldn't be now. And, I'm not alone. I know many (most) of my peers are like me. It comes from just being for blankety-blank years, and all the losses, triumphs, heartaches, celebrations and tears that naturally occur to those privileged to reach the Certain Age.

    If I could go back in time I'd tell a younger me to relax, but since I can't, I'll tell all of you.

    Relax. Be you. It will all work out.

  13. I think this year has been the year of adulting for me, which has definitely has it's pros and cons. I've started to learn more about retirement plans and making smarter budgets (ugh!), but I've also traveled internationally for the first time on the second longest flight (way fun!).

  14. After reading this yesterday, I found myself doing more with my time instead of idling playing on my phone or watching crap on TV. Thank you for this.

  15. I tried this for this year already! I chose my theme to be awake. That includes waking up and actually getting moving and started with my day earlier and with being more awake to life and experiences and changes that I need to make. It has been much better than New Years resolutions! Thanks for reminding me it's about time to think about what next years theme will be.

  16. I know you were just trying to insert some humor, but Schizophrenia isn't Multiple Personality Disorder. In fact Multiple Personality Disorder isn't even Multiple Personality Disorder because it was renamed to Dissociative Identity Disorder a few years ago (I'm not sure if this qualifies as ironic). The most common symptoms of Schizophrenia are Delusions (paranoia, grandeur), Hallucinations (hearing voices), and isolation. Multiple personalities has nothing to do with it. So a more appropriate joke would be "I'm not schizophrenic. The voices told me so." Right. Carry on.

    1. UNLESS the voices were the ones saying "and neither am I." OR my other personalities are accurately telling me I don't have schizophrenia.

  17. I've decided that this will be the year that I become interesting again! After 17 years of being a mom, I have realized that I need to be interesting in a good way again. I'm interesting in the "Wow, what a train wreck of a hot mess over there" way... haha! I want to find a sport, an art, a charity project, and a j.o.b. Watch out world... I'm back! LOL!

  18. Love this perspective! I think I will try it this year.