Every New Years, millions of people make promises to themselves that they can never keep. They visualize themselves in the future, being all that they can be, ambitiously better than what they are now. “This year is the year!” they tell themselves.
Of course, that almost never happens. Ambitiously, they’re on that treadmill everyday, and each day, that enthusiasm becomes less and less until they give up, hopes shattered, and fall back into their old ways. It becomes a blow to their confidence. “I guess I really do suck…”
That’s the way I am too. Over the past year, I’ve learned many things, and now apply it to today. New Years resolutions seldom work. The problem is right in front of you – making resolutions. Don’t bother.
Does that mean you shouldn’t improve yourself? Make yourself better? Of course you should! But how you do it is important.
When you set a resolution, it might as well be wishful thinking. “I’m gonna be a kinder, more understanding person.” or “I’m going to lose all this weight!”. It’s vague, unmeasurable, and has no time frame. It’s trying to navigate in a storm, not knowing where your destination is, and that destination is always moving.
Myself, I’ve come up with some things to help me make these “resolutions” actually work.
1. Gain knowledge. Saying that you’re going to become a kick-ass artist is not realistic, especially if you aren’t an artist to begin with. But to be realistic, you have to first understand what it is you’re trying to achieve.
To do that, you have to do your research – find out what it takes to be an artist – what sort of courses you may have to take, how long those courses will run for, or if you’re learning on your own, find out what materials you would need to learn from.
2. Set a goal. Now that you know what you are trying to do, you need to set a goal. Setting a goal is easy. Setting a realistic goal is hard. But if you already have the knowledge, then setting a realistic goal becomes a lot easier. If say it takes 5 years to be a kick-ass artist, then you know realistically, that by the end of your first year, you’ll be a “decent artist”.
3. Make a schedule. Saying that you’re going to be a “decent artist” by the end of the year is still too hard to see realistically. Since you’ve already gained the knowledge of what you can expect and need to do, it will be a lot easier to create a working schedule of mini-milestones to achieve. By the end of your first month, you’ll know how to sketch, by the end of the second month, you’ll know how to shade, by the end of the fifth month, you’ll know basic anatomy, etc. etc. All of these elements are what help you achieve your overall goal.
4. Pace yourself. It’s one thing to follow a schedule. It’s a completely different thing to bash yourself over and over again if you don’t meet your schedule. It’s all part of learning. The schedule is your guideline – your initial forecast of your performance. It’s by no means a time limit, or your boss. In the first few months, you’ll learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of. You may find you’re going slower than you expected, but that’s no reason to “catch up”. You re-adjust your schedule to your newly discovered pace. And maybe sometimes you’ll find yourself performing better than you expected. This is dangerous too – as you could end up slacking.
5. Don’t break the chain! Have a consistent pattern that you can easily stick to and dedicate time to achieving your goal, and don’t ever miss it. If you plan to draw every day, draw every day. Buy a large calendar and put it on your wall. Put a mark on it for every day that you did your task. (a horizontal line from one edge to the other is usually best). Every time you break that chain, you’ll notice a gap in your calendar, and you’ll hate it. You’ll do everything that you can to make sure that gap doesn’t happen, and at the end of each month, you’ll be proud of yourself for not breaking that chain.
6. No Resolutions. Resolutions are a hoax. If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know. Setting realistic goals and executing a plan is what you should be doing. In addition, you don’t have to specifically wait until New Years to do this. You can do this anytime throughout the year. In fact, it’s recommended. A lot happens in a year, and if you wait until the New Years to plan for it, it may be too late.
So what are my plans this year? I haven’t thought it through enough yet. Generally, I want to improve my art skills – that’s a constant. I want to figure out a more workable gaming schedule, and rethink my figure buying criteria – all of which I can gauge using my tracking spreadsheets, and yes, I do want to get fit.
What I haven’t figured out yet is – what I will be doing to improve my art, how I will tackle my game schedule, and how I will rethink my criteria, and also what realistic activities can I do to get fit without me dropping it all in a month.
Let’s take one of my “resolutions” as an example case study.
What is a more workable game schedule? For me, it would be something along the lines of “smaller backlog with no pressure to complete the backlog, with some room to make purchases. Maintain average 30hrs per month. Better quality of gaming.”
So, one of the first things I need to do is gather information. This is my tracking for the year 2010 gaming. (to learn how I do this, see last year’s post)
The chart on the left shows my backlog hours, and the chart on the right shows my monthly gaming trend over the one year timeframe.
In the left chart, the blue line shows the number of estimated hours I have in my game library to whittle down. The pink line shows the number of hours I’ve actually logged. You’ll notice that it doesn’t start from zero, because all this is carried over from last year.
I started with 876.5hrs left in January – if I didn’t buy any more games, that would require 73 hours per month of gaming to turn that to zero. From last year’s chart, I figure I average about 30hrs per month tops, so realistically, I would only be able to bring that down to 516hrs by the end of the year. Looking at the December mark – 725hrs, I obviously didn’t achieve that.
From April to June, I bought A LOT of games, that’s why the blue line started going up. And as you can tell from the pink line, I was not increasing my gaming hours all that much. It looked pretty constant throughout the year.
In February/March, the lines cross. This is a good sign – it means I’m putting in more hours than buying games. Should those lines cross again, that would be serious trouble. You can see it almost does in June.
In July, the blue line drops sharply – this was when I decided to cut out a bunch of games and either vow to never play them again, or sell them. From that point on, the backlog starts to flat line a bit. This shows that I was buying games as fast as I was completing them – something that I deliberately kept in check. I adopted a FIFO rule (First In First Out. An accounting/inventory management term).
I discovered that the FIFO rule allowed me to enjoy my games more, instead of throwing them into the pile with a priority somewhere. It also made me buy less games, because if I wanted to play a game in my backlog more than the game I bought, then I shouldn’t be buying it at all. At that point, only the games I really wanted to play were being bought, and were being played right away.
You’ll notice that my gaming trend was quite a roller-coaster. Since July onward, my hrs/mo spiked. But you’ll notice the backlog curve was flat lined. That’s a lot of games bought, and a lot of gaming! In November/December, it went back down. That’s because I was in Singapore. You’ll notice that during these two months, my blog posting was also sporadic in quality.
With this info, I can figure out my monthly average, and based on the events of last year, is that monthly average realistic. Should I be gaming less? Or should I allow myself more? What sort of things can I do to maintain it so I don’t have a roller coaster? (if that’s what I want) What sort of expectations should I have about my gaming patterns based on my current lifestyle and priorities? What sort of lifestyle changes will I be planning for in this coming year, and how will it affect my gaming patterns?
With these charts and stats, I can answer all of these questions and create a plan for myself, set expectations, and achieve goals.
In addition to that, these gaming patterns can also be used to analyze my other thought patterns. For example, I know that if I get stressed out, I “escape” by playing video games. I know that if I get REALLY busy, games become lower priority. With this, I can think back about what these event triggers were, and what I can do to stabilize them or minimize them.
The spike in October? Countless nights playing Valkyria Chronicles 2 in bed.
Now, what games did I complete in 2010? Of all these games I completed, the ones that I absolutely loved are highlighted. (you can click on each game)
- [amazon_link id=”B001HB7K6I” target=”_blank” ]Muramasa [/amazon_link](27.5hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B00269DX5W” target=”_blank” ]Assassin’s Creed II[/amazon_link] (26hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B001YHX4B0″ target=”_blank” ]Bayonetta[/amazon_link](15.5hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B001TOQ8UW” target=”_blank” ]Zelda Spirit Tracks[/amazon_link] (20hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B002CZ3SLO” target=”_blank” ]Silent Hill Shattered Memories[/amazon_link] (10hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B000F5IH2I” target=”_blank” ]Final Fantasy XII[/amazon_link] (73hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B000TP2UWC” target=”_blank” ]Touch Detective 2[/amazon_link] (8.5hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B002BS4834″ target=”_blank” ]Ace Attorney Miles Edgeworth[/amazon_link] (10hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B002BRYHY0″ target=”_blank” ]Resonance of Fate[/amazon_link] (73.5hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B000W7X8WI” target=”_blank” ]Professor Layton and the Curious Village[/amazon_link] (12hrs)
- Fragile Dreams (16.5hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B00354NAMS” target=”_blank” ]Alan Wake[/amazon_link] (12hrs)
- Flower (2hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B002CZ38KA” target=”_blank” ]Heavy Rain[/amazon_link] (12hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B002DC8GW2″ target=”_blank” ]Sakura Wars V[/amazon_link] (26hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B003Q9RG9K” target=”_blank” ]Valkyria Chronicles 2[/amazon_link] (67hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B001QTW2HS” target=”_blank” ]Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor[/amazon_link] (25hrs)
- [amazon_link id=”B003VR5PPY” target=”_blank” ]999 : Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors[/amazon_link] (15hrs)
I would especially recommend 999 if you’re into mystery visual novels with an incredible twist.
Now, with this info, I can gauge what kinds of games I will be buying in the coming year that match the same kinds of games I liked, and what games I will most likely avoid or set at a lower priority.
In addition, I’ve also kept track of prices of games by going to the store sometimes. I’ve found games going at discount prices that I bought day-1 at full price and are still in my backlog, collecting dust. I’ve also noticed that some games that I wanted to get but didn’t due to price, I no longer want.
Now, if you’re thinking about making a resolution similar to mine, but don’t have all that info, that’s okay. It can be generated. While not as accurate as mine, it doesn’t need to be:
Just pull out all the games that you completed this year, and write down the estimated number of hours it took for you to complete each game (or if the game has an in-game timer, use that info). Simply average the total hours into 12 months and you’ll have your gaming average.
Spread your games in a horizontal line on the floor in the order they were completed, and now with each game, push them vertically if you recall spending a lot of concentrated blocks of time on it. The larger the block you think, the higher up you push it. You’ll end up with a graph-like placement. This is your gaming pattern.
Now, put a sticky note on each game that you truly enjoyed. This is is your future purchase guideline. (chances are, the concentrated blocks also happen to be your favorite games).
So from all my information, I’m able to set some realistic achievements here:
- Continue using FIFO rule.
- Concentrate on improving my backlog hours rather than getting new games.
- Start a wishlist of games that meet the highlighted criteria. Do not buy these games until they are on huge discount, or I am in between games, or will become hard to obtain later.
- Maintain average of 30hrs/mo. I’ve found this to be realistic for my lifestyle.
- Improve gaming quality by cutting out backlog games that don’t meet the enjoyment level of the highlighted games.
- Cut the backlog down to 230hrs, with the rest being shelved.
- Take currently cut games, sell/trade-in some of them. Box the rest somewhere in storage – out of sight, out of mind.
- If a game feels sucky, drop it and cut losses. Immediately trade-in or drop in storage.
Goal: Achieve 0hrs backlog by Dec 31 2011. 30hrs/mo of quality enjoyment gaming.
Do all goals have to have all these charts and everything?
The important thing is being aware of your goals, and being aware of past history to pave the way to proper planning.
Say for example “I want to be happier this year.” you could look at the past and figure out when you were happiest, and try to maximize the opportunity for those situations to occur. Or if something makes you sad, minimize those situations. Sometimes it can be the people that make you happy or sad. Keep the people that make you happy close to you, and get rid of the people that make you sad. This could require things like changing your lifestyle, or your job, or getting a divorce!
Whatever the case may be, by simply being aware of yourself and your surroundings, you’ll be able to set more realistic goals.
Follow those 6 steps (you’ll notice that all 6 steps involve being aware), and you’re on your way to fulfilling yourNew Year’s Resolutions.
So what’s your new years resolution? Post a comment here, and I’ll randomly giveaway some sweet swag to the best ones!