“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Adopting a new year resolution, which many will do in the coming weeks, is no different than planning for any another project…ok maybe the former tends to have a built-in guilt component. In any case, a little planning goes a long way, so let’s talk about planning.
Planning is a promise you make with yourself about work you will be doing in the future, irrespective how far in time that future is. Any task you put down is a contract with yourself for your attention, time, energy, …
Task manager applications are great. They help you get things out of your head and easily accessible. One of the major issues with task manager applications is higher level planning, particularly on the fly decision about committing or not a new project. This is because you need in one look an overview of everything going one right now, including deadlines. This is something not easy to do only with a Task Manager and your electronic calendar apps. Also for what I am thinking about, a planning software is not that useful either. I tried OmniPlan for that purpose alone, maintenance is higher than I would like and I am still not convinced this is the best way of doing it.
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. – Pablo Picasso
Now that 2013 is underway, did you took some time to look at your achievements in 2012? Your most important realization? Your biggest miss (objective / goal / opportunity)? What fraction of things you wanted to put in motion for 2012 did you get to start or complete? For those who did not took off, what was the main reason and should you keep this on your plate for 2013?
Setting specific, well-define goals or objectives, defining the road to get there and be able to look back and question yourself (as above) once in a while is, in my opinion, a critical habit to be developed as early as possible in your research career. This is not to be confused with the general practice of new year resolutions, which tends to be vaporous, unquantifiable or unrealistic wishes. However, the start of the new year might very well be the best time to do this kind of exercise after a few days of slowing down or even plain vacation 😉