Monday, January 12, 2009

New Years Resolutions

This year will be different. I am going to oscillate through various diet and exercise programs until I am 20 pounds heavier. I am going to eat more salt, and wait longer to reply to voicemail. I know these don't sound like good goals, but I have so badly underachieved my previous resolutions that if I miss these by the same amount - I'll lose weight, lower my blood pressure, and be more responsive to my customers. As long as I'm consistent with my past behavior - I'll be thin, calm, and rich.

I don't know about you, but New Year's Resolutions are not one of the glory spots on my life's accomplishments list. I have tried every manner of resolution, including the resolving not to make any more resolutions. Alas, it just seems like a natural thing to do each year; to reflect upon our lot in life and to see where and how we can make this brand spanking new year better than the last. As I say this I am tortured by the knowledge that my resolutions tend to morph as the year progresses to a point that I cannot fail. It's not entirely deliberate, nor completely accidental that they tend to progress as follows:

Beginning of the year:
  • I resolve to lose 25 pounds before March 1
As the year progresses:
  • I will lose 20 pounds before March
  • I will lose significant weight by March
  • I will lose weight by Spring, or Summer, maybe Fall
Sometime around mid-summer:
  • I will eat correctly and exercise daily to lose weight
  • I will begin to eat and exercise daily
  • I will eat and exercise
  • I will eat
About the first of October:
  • I will take this last quarter of the year to deliberately over-indulge my eating psychosis and accept my exercise phobias to inundate my system with toxins so as to purge my body of any desires which would negatively impact my new healthy eating and daily exercise regime which starts January 1, next year.
Keeping resolutions is tough even though we know that we are merely resolving to do what we ought to be doing. I cannot count the number of times I committed to inserting comments into my application code, or (gasp) a script file, only to move on to the next task. I figure I'm going to meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and be reminded that there are, oh, about a billion and three configuration settings I promised the gods I'd put back once I found "The One" that kept my system from performing/booting/starting/stopping/displaying/printing/connecting.

We work in a tough business; Information Technology that is; always under pressure for faster time to market, better performance, more functionality, and fewer bugs. Somewhere in the back of our minds we know that if we slowed down, spent more time on design, documented more, tested more, and refactored more; our products would have fewer bugs, perform better, be easier to maintain, and require less after-production attention. We know it, we absolutely know it.

According to the web site, even though 52% of us are confident we'll reach our stated resolutions, only 12% actually do. The key is to make your goals both attainable, and measurable. Instead of saying, "I'll develop complete documentation for every project this year", start with "Every project will have a documentation folder." That task is easy to accomplish, and easy to measure. It also removes a subtle obstacle - lack of a place for documentation.

Some of us (er, men) seem to do better with numbers-based resolutions, while others (women), tend to do better when the resolutions are shared with friends and coworkers - again according to

So, find one thing you can commit to for this year - just one small step in the right direction. For me, I'm going to commit to the sundown rule - addressing or acknowledging every e- and voice-mail before the end of the day. Wish me luck. Right now though, I'm going to drive by the fitness center on my way out for a bag of chips.

What's your resolution?

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