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Screw, a Year-Long Resolution. Start Setting Micro-Goals in 2018

   Posted On: January 5, 2018  |    Posted In: Random  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

An Uber driver in Portland, Oregon told me to expect major life changes at 28 because it was my “Saturn Returns” year. Being a practical, bordering on cynical, East Coaster who therefore has minimal interactions with the hippie-dippy nonsense of the crystal-clutching West Coast, I had to ask the man what he meant.

He went on to explain that Saturn is returning to the same position as my birth year, which would mark my transition into a new life stage. I’m still a major skeptic, but it turns out the sage Uber driver had a point.

I marked my 28th year of life in May of 2017. A mere 19 days prior my first book hit shelves. In August, Peach, my partner of seven-years, and I got engaged. In October I was offered a two-book deal to continue on with the Broke Millennial series. November was my anniversary of surviving my first full year of self-employment and the associated highs-and-lows of earning a variable income (and battling the desire to sit in pajamas and watch the latest Netflix show all day while cuddling Mosby).

This is not going to turn into a humble brag about the wonderfulness of my life. Rather, it’s to point out that objectively on paper it seems as if all is well in the land of Broke Millennial. Here’s the thing — it’s not.

2017 was a year full of major life accomplishments, but it ended with me feeling on the verge of a full-fledged panic attack. I cried while texting my sister about how I was nervous for my 13-hour drive home from Charlotte to New York after Christmas because I worried a panic attack would hit while driving. She wisely advised me not to work myself up into one and instead focus on what I could control and listen to all my nerdy podcasts.

So, why was I feeling as if I were about to have a panic attack as the sun set on a remarkable year?

A potent mixture of imposter syndrome, a dash of personal failures, and enough down time without work distractions over Christmas to New Years allowed me to finally feel all the emotions I’d be shoving aside for months.

I’ll back up.

First, I’ll explain the imposter syndrome. Writing Broke Millennial* triggered a steady drum beat of “why you?”, “who do you think you are?” and “people are going to call you a fraud” that consumed my mind through so much of the process. I couldn’t sleep the night before the book release for fear that it would utterly flop. Rationally, knew I’d put in the work. I knew I’d interviewed the right people and did the right research and broke it down in a digestible way. But fear is powerful. That same fear has come roaring back as I begin the journey of writing my second book, which is about investing. An incredibly heavy, complicated topic.

Second, the personal failures. I truly became all consumed with building the Broke Millennial brand in 2017. If I wasn’t in actively engaged in book press or writing, then I was thinking about it all. I began to stress eat, a lot. I also started to meet people for drinks as I tried to keep up an active social life in my switch to being a self-employed-sitting-at-home-all-day person. This naturally lead to gaining weight, a lot. I put on 30 pounds over the course of about seven months. This is on top of the fact that I didn’t feel completely comfortable in my body to begin with. Once I realized it was a problem, I hired a trainer and while I am getting stronger — the weight stayed pretty stagnant as I continued to still stress eat and hit the happy hours. Not to mention, the idea of feeling uncomfortable with myself on my wedding day (which is this year) is ulcer-inducing for me. I don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on photos I’ll never want to hang in my home. I don’t want to feel awkward about hundreds of people looking at me. I want to feel beautiful and powerful and be completely focused on the happiness and love of the occasion.

I also realized finally admitted to myself I was numbing my brain to avoid ruminating on my worries about being self-employed or the book being a failure or being mad at myself for gaining weight or fretting that I wasn’t putting in enough quality time with Peach or my other loved ones to maintain healthy, strong relationships. In order to do this, I watched a lot of TV. It would constantly be on in the background as I did anything where I could split focus: e.g. cooking, cleaning, answering mindless emails and even showering. I listened to podcasts when I walked the dog or walked to the train station. I never allowed my brain the silence it needed to process my feelings and anxiety.

Finally, I screwed up with managing my money — but that is a separate post to come soon (you can read all about it here.).

Here I am giving you a lot of intimate information because it’s important to understand why I’m trying to tackle 2018 in a different way. Like most of us, I fail each year at my New Year’s resolutions. Then I realized I should apply one of my favorite money tactics to my resolutions.

Micro-goals.

I’m a big believer in setting a lofty goal and then working backwards to chunk that goal down into manageable pieces. For example, I knew I wanted to save $10,000 by the time I graduated college. For whatever reason, that’s the amount I decided it would take to accomplish my dream of moving to New York City after graduation. As a freshman in college I broke that down to saving $2,500 a year. Then I set a monthly goal of saving $208.33 a month. That’s still a lot of money when you’re in college, so I became a resident advisor and then worked during summers and saved a lot.

As the new year dawned, I sat down and wrote out a list of goals for 2018 in the categories of:

  • Self-improvement
  • Wealth
  • Health
  • Professional
  • Relationship

There are 29 goals total on my list. Yeah, it’s a lot of goals. But they run a wide spectrum. For example, one professional goal is to write for three major print publications in 2018. Another is to hit 20,000 Twitter followers. I also want to post on Instagram at least three times per week. Other goals are more lofty, like hitting a goal weight of 130 pounds (which would mean losing 50 pounds this year) and to read a minimum of 20 minutes per day. I was a voracious reader all the way through high school and most of college (as evidenced by too many family vacation photos of me with a book in my hand). But for some reason I fell out of habit and turned instead to TV to distract me. The 20 minutes a day rule is a way for me to return to something that always made me happy.

Obviously, trying to focus on 29 goals from the jump is asinine and just going to set me up for failure. Instead, I’ve created micro-goals that serve my larger resolutions. Those goals are written on a post-it, which I’ve put on a mirror so I see it each day after I wake up and before bed.

In January, my goals are:

  • Complete a dry January (with the exception of a mimosa the day I go wedding dress shopping).
  • Exercise daily (at minimum I have a kettle bell circuit I do each day)
  • Read 20 minutes a day
  • Plan out my next day the night before (it significantly boosts productivity if you have a set list of goals and agenda items already scheduled when you wake up).
  • Use the headspace app each morning (experimenting with meditation is one of my larger self-improvement goals for 2018)

That’s it. Those are the micro-goals I’ve set for myself that feel manageable enough to accomplish each day. Hopefully some of them (e.g. kettle bell workout and planning out my next day) become habitual so I don’t need a post-it note reminding me in February as I take on new micro-goals. I’ve also found these micro-goals are leading to other, healthier trends. For instance, I usually grab my phone to turn off my alarm in the morning and then immediately check Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and my email. Now, I’m challenging myself not to check email or social media until after my meditation, breakfast and walking Mosby. Albeit this rosy glow of feeling even more accomplished than intended is a premature as we’re a whopping 5 days into the new year. I’ve also started new micro-goals for my finances, starting with diligently track my daily spending as I work on my 2018 financial goals, but more to come on that in the next couple of days.

Now I’m off to go watch some TV read!

*yup, that’s an affiliate link and I’ll get something like 40 cents if you buy my book using it!

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

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18 responses to “Screw, a Year-Long Resolution. Start Setting Micro-Goals in 2018

  1. Reading your article and looking at my own micro-goal paper sticked on the wall. It’s a piece of art despite I have literally no talent! But only the bullet points seemed so sad so I added drawed icons to each one of them and some stickers 😀 Having micro goals is more managable (for me) and feeling confortable in my own skin and life is the highest priority. Good luck!

  2. Wow, I feel you and hear you on the stress of building your brand and giving it everything. It is frustrating to gain weight as well, and it only gets harder as you get older! Take care of your mind and your body and things will get better. That’s what I decided to do for 2018.

    We put ourselves through so much self induced pressure but it simply not healthy. I feel that a big reason why I don’t want to promote myself is because of all the demands and expectations people have of me. I’m already overwhelmed as it is. I can’t handle more.

    Good luck in 2018 and good luck with the wedding! Very exciting!

    Sam

  3. I’m really sorry you’re going through a rough spot. I’m not even going to mention self-care because I know that’s exactly the opposite of what a busy person wants to hear.

    For what it’s worth, you’ve had an amazingly successful year, and it’s only natural to want to keep moving forward. Your feelings about the wedding are also completely valid and normal. I love the idea of micro resolutions! I have no doubt you will crush your goals and look / feel amazing at your wedding.

    Oh, and I can totally relate to your stress eating challenges! It’s taken me years to try and undo all my bad habits of soothing bad feelings with food. I’m pretty much right where you are weight-wise, but I do think I’ve finally developed a healthier perspective on dieting and exercise—less beating up my body, eating stuff I hate, and more of what actually feels good.

  4. This is just sound advice that transcends beyond personal finance. Looking up or down at the steep and treacherous mountains in our daily lives will do nothing but freeze you up. Live in your tiny, but manageable, space and focus on the next one or two moves. Then keep pushing forward.

    Erin, thank you for sharing this post. I will be sharing this with many others.

    Happy New Year!

  5. I for one really appreciate the honesty and openness. Makes it all so relatable. About to purchase your book as my very first on Kindle (but late to the e book game!)
    Congratulations on your book and upcoming wedding 👰 xoxo

  6. You’ve been super honest in this post and that’s so great. I hope your micro-goals help you feel less anxious and less stressed.

    As someone who put on 16 pounds over last year and now needs to drop at least 34 pounds this year, I feel the weight related struggle. I’m also trying to do an exercise routine everyday and add in badminton, football, basketball and kickboxing sessions at least twice a week. Good luck with it all. I shall track your progress for motivation.

  7. Thank you for the realness in this post. I am also eliminating alcohol in January and seeing how long I can keep up the streak. I got in a bad habit in the Fall of having a “relax” beer after work most days and also eating out because I was working so hard and I “needed the treat” to continue to function highly. Like you said, it’s only day 6 but I’m challenging myself to find other ways to fuel my energy and de-stress besides food & alcohol.

  8. A post like this is a refreshing change from the usual lists of mountains everyone has conquered. I completely understand the weird place of being successful in a career, but at the same time having your lifestyle catch up with you – that was me while fighting through my airline pilot career. Fortunately, one of the lessons I think we’ve both learned is that if you’re ambitious enough to succeed in one area of your life, you can channel the same ambition to anything, including a better lifestyle. I think you’ll especially find that meditating tends to clear away those thoughts and shows that everything is less complicated than it appears. Best wishes on tackling those 2018 goals!

  9. This really resonated! I’m in a similar place of trying to get past and forgive myself for what I consider various failings of the past two years and get back on the micro-goal wagon. Thanks for writing this!

  10. Thank you for sharing your struggles. I feel like often all we see are the wins. I’m also battling with exercise and health, again. We’ll get there! A trainer is one of the best things. You might consider a food tracker, which really reminds you to eat more healthily. They can show you calories in and calories out. When I was pageant training, it was a fast forward toward goals. I meal prepped with two to three heads of iceberg lettuce and a couple chicken breasts I would bake on Sunday and divide out into the tupperwares. You can throw in other veggies as well like cucumbers and tomatoes and carrots. You can eat as much of that as you want guilt free whenever you want. So flipping easy and thoughtless and the pounds fell off while I still got my protein and felt full. You can also throw on healthy salsa. Also, water water water! But I’d like to share, the girls that thin, wow did they hustle. It was gym five times a week. Also, for the actual pageant, we had pills to expel water from the body and make muscles pop, a “forced dehydration” requiring us to drink two gallons of water a day. Sounds awful, but daaaaaaayummmm it made me look sleek. So remember it’s all an illusion. <3 make sure you are comfortable in your own skin! That's the most important.

  11. Yass girl yass! I feel you on so many levels of this post. Everything from the 30lb weight gain in 2017 to the TV constantly on in the background (making it take twice as long to get tasks done). I am borrowing your idea of reading 20 minutes a day – at the age of 29 I am finally reading Harry Potter and there is no reason it should take me 2 months to get through book 3. Especially after listening to you on Listen Money Matters podcast I am more conscious than ever about using dinner and drinks as an easy, no real planning necessary way to spend time with friends that costs more than what I want it to. Making another micro-goal for January (which might become a recurring goal) to replace at least one costly outing with a free/cheap outing with friends. Dinner and drinks multiple times a week isn’t great for my savings or midsection. I want to do a monthly health goal (to make a total of 3 goals, which in my slightly OCD brain seems to balance out nicely). I struggle with making exercise/weight goals that don’t make me anxious and then drive me to fuel my frustrations/anxiety with chocolate. I give you mad props with 20 minutes a day. As I type that it seems so doable but I think I am going to start with 30 minutes, 3 times a week and then build from there. This post is exactly what I needed to remind myself that micro-goals are acceptable and will help me feel a sense of accomplishment (there is no feeling better than crossing something off a to-do list) while working towards my big goals. Thanks Erin!

  12. I’m just happy to see you writing again! I’ve missed your posts! You do have so much to be proud of, don’t listen to the anxiety. You are amazing and an inspiration!

  13. I do this!

    I think it’s important to set goals, and I don’t really set resolutions for a year because I feel like it’s too long and I get bored/discouraged easily if I don’t feel like I’m making progress (even if I am!) Thanks for sharing!

  14. You are spot on with the micro goals. Honestly, everyones yearly goals seem to always be the same. Like you said, general statements on improving the same things over and over again.

    I just dont even bother setting goals on paper anymore but trust me when I say I am giving 110% on improving everything all the time. Well maybe not so much my health lately! Its too cold to work out lately!! LOL

    Anyways, i do like the idea of micro goals though. Good stuff!

  15. Strange when you get out into the world and realize that the people writing books, holding office, starting businesses, and standing on the cover of Forbes is just us, isn’t it. Look up “Ten Lessons from Navy Seal Training” by Bill McRaven, especially “Be your best at your darkest moments.”

  16. Even though I’m not writing books or building a brand, I have found myself struggling with imposter syndrome, weight gain, and anxiety for the last year or so. These are relatively new issues for me. And Ive also found myself filling any quiet time with podcasts or mindless videos in order to avoid processing emotions. When I do start thinking I often overthink. I’m really working on finding balance, but it’s not easy.
    Thank you for sharing this vulnerable post.

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