Seasonal Effective Goals

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year?

Did you set goals for all of 2015?

How is it going so far?

I hope you have better answers to those questions than I do. My answers are: yes, I did make resolutions; yes, I set goals for the entire year; and no, that wasn’t the right approach.

There is a fact about myself that I seem doomed to re-learn every single January. I get taken in by the fresh-start feeling, New Year’s hoopla, and use that energy to make big commitments. The commitments themselves aren’t the problem; I generally have the discipline to follow through with things. The problem comes when I neglect to break those commitments down throughout the year, and more importantly, take the seasons into account in my planning.

What does the season have to do with it? you wonder. Well, it may not matter for some people, especially those who live in more temperate climates. But I’ve finally grown to accept the fact that winter, as I experience it in New York, is not the best time for me to be super-productive. I must still be carrying strong cave-woman genes, because when it’s cold and dark out, my body goes into energy-saving mode. That means I need more sleep, more good food, more time with my family, and fewer extra commitments (even the ones I make with myself).  On the other hand, I know I can amp things up in the spring and summer, when I have more energy. Recognizing this biological fact will, I think, make me more likely to meet my goals for the year, not less.

This past weekend, I sat down and divided up my year into seasons:

Winter: January 1- March 30

Spring: April 1- June 30

Summer: July 1- August 30 (a shorter but more productive time, because I’m on school break for the entire two months)

Fall: September 1-November 30

(I’m keeping December separate as a month to focus on the holidays and all the tasks that go along with them, including the annual writing of my Christmas short story.)

The next step was dividing up my goals and dreams by the season. Some overlapped, but for the most part, I was surprised to find that the projects I wanted to work on slotted well into two-or-three month periods. (I did not invent this idea, by the way- it’s a concept stolen from the business world, where performance is evaluated by the quarter. It was first brought to my attention as a tool for the self-employed by productivity guru Laura Vanderkam in this post.)

Beyond suiting my work to the season, the other benefit of seasonal goals is that they allow me the flexibility to adjust my timelines if I accomplish more or less (for example, if life circumstances change, or other projects suddenly arise).

Does anyone else organize their work by season? How does it work for you?

4 Responses to “Seasonal Effective Goals”

  1. Diana Klein says:

    This makes so much sense to me. I love your ideas for your rewrite–especially the thought of interviewing your characters.

  2. Leanne Sowul says:

    Thanks Diana! Doesn’t it sound kind of fun? I’m going to enlist some family and friends to interview me as the character, and make a recording.

  3. Kathy says:

    I’m visiting from Laura’s blog, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work!

    This totally makes sense to me. I live in Florida, though, so my most productive times of year are different from yours. I don’t get much done in the summer, and by the time Sept. comes I am exhausted. When the first cold front comes through (usually not until late Oct.) I start to feel energetic again and dive into my goals once more. I end up setting goals during the fall rather than at the new year. I’m still working on breaking them down and revisiting them from time to time to make sure I don’t “set and forget.”

    • lsowul says:

      Welcome, Kathy! I’m glad this resonated with you. It’s funny how we arbitrarily assign January 1st as some sort of “start date.” As a longtime teacher, September 1st feels more like a beginning to me, but now I’m choosing to ignore the year-mark entirely and setting goals whenever needed. The time is always now!

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