Choose your tools carefully, but not so carefully that you get uptight or spend more time at the stationery store than at your writing table. – Natalie Goldberg
Happy New Year.
The great thing about the first day of a new year is that you have a chance to change things at the same time that millions of others are planning to as well.
Clearly, not everyone is going to succeed, but that isn’t the point.
The point is that you ought to at least try.
We were watching a film the other day where a character quoted Dr Seuss, “You have a brain in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
And one of the things that is either enjoyable or panic-inducing is choosing your tools.
I can spend far too much time obsessing about whether I should be doing things electronically or on paper. Whether it’s best to use a software program or code something myself. Whether a reporter’s notebook is better than a Filofax.
That’s just the way I’m wired and, quite probably, many others as well.
That’s why so many rules and resolutions and goals don’t work.
They may have worked for someone else, worked really well, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for you.
What you need to do is figure out what will work for you and that may be getting organised or getting stuck into the first thing you see.
Trying to get it perfect often means not getting started at all.
Which brings us back to tools.
What is going to work for you this year?
One approach that works for me is to think of having lots of small tools rather than a singe big one.
Sort of like having a toolbox filled with hammers and screwdrivers instead of carrying around a single Swiss Army knife.
If you think of this like writing a computer program – you’re creating a program to follow this year.
The chances are very slim that you know exactly what program to write if you haven’t already got one in place.
So it makes sense to start with what’s important right now rather than what might be important in five years.
The more lines of code you write the more likely it is that the program will fail to run or have bugs when you do run it.
Small programs are best. And small programs that work together are even better.
So, for example, if I decided that I was going to run every day for the next year I’d probably fail in a week or less.
But, if I tried to get my 10,000 steps every day there’s a good chance I could do that and get in the odd run.
How could you combine that with better diet, more rest and better time with your family?
What could you do to make your job more interesting and work on stuff that felt like it was helping someone?
When it comes down to it we live our lives following programs – often ones that have been written for us and downloaded into our brains by parents and society.
The first step, then, to getting control of your life is to start writing your own program.
And today is a good day to get started with that.