We are two entire months into 2018 and let’s be real- how many people are actively trying to achieve the resolutions they wrote for new years? For the past four or five years, I also used to sit down during the last days of December to review resolutions from the previous year before writing a bunch of resolutions for the next year. Doing this for a couple of consecutive years led me to observe one very important thing: I wasn’t getting anything done with these resolutions. They were only on my mind during Decembers and Januarys- the rest of the year, I totally forgot about them or just downright didn’t care anymore. When December did roll around again, I ended up feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything and while it did motivate me to write more “doable” goals, it wasn’t enough to last me the entire year at all and in fact, could even be considered counterproductive.
As a result, I stopped writing resolutions all together. I didn’t really see a point to making goals when they weren’t being completed, no matter how ‘doable’ I made them. However, having no concrete goals is not good at all, especially for a student. I have a lot of things to do and lots of long terms goals (like completing my MBBS and also giving the USMLE) that it sounds near impossible to get any of these giant tasks done without giving myself smaller tasks, deadlines, goals. I decided to break down “new year resolutions” into “new month resolutions” instead and let me tell you why it’s a brilliant idea.
First of all, one month is 1/12 the time of a year. Sure, you have less time to get some tasks done, but the tasks themselves should also be divided accordingly. For example, most (if not all) of my tasks are study oriented. Instead of a vague “study for USMLE” resolution to last me the entire year, I have “study cardiovascular system” for the month instead. It’s smaller, easier to do and can definitely be completed in one month.
Secondly, you get to sit down and audit yourself every month. “Audit” is a pretty fancy word for going through the past month and comparing your goals with your output and trying to find out where you can improve yourself. Doing this 12 times a year definitely sounds like a regular cycle of improvement- if you do evaluate yourself very honestly. It’s only a harmless exercise for you alone to judge yourself, so here is where your harshest self-criticism is needed. Figure out what you could have done to complete the goals you couldn’t complete, try to find where you can utilize more time.
Thirdly, it’s okay if your month didn’t go as well as you planned. The next month will be here before you know it and you can start all over without feeling like you’ve lost too much time. Having monthly goals is like taking tiny steps at your own pace and leisure instead of trying to take giant yearly leaps. There are a lot fewer disappointments and a lot more hope involved, especially since monthly goals revive your desire to improve and get work done every single month.
Last, but not least, you can keep changing your goals according to what you need. If one of your goals in completed or isn’t working out for you anymore, you can take it out of next month’s goals and replace it with something you do need to get done. It’s a monthly cycle of self-evaluation and improvement. It really can’t get any better than this.
You guys might remember some of my past posts where I talk about the bullet journal I have. It’s not like the aesthetic bullet journals you might see on Tumblr or Instagram- it’s a lot more simplistic and bare. There is no emphasis on colors or making the pages look pretty. I just need to get my work done and to make small documentation on how my days and weeks are going. The documentations are mostly about events and where I’m spending my money and all the little tasks and to-do-lists of the day and things I want to do during the weekend. I decided to start adding the Monthly Goals onto the weekly spread pages where the month started.
This is what most of my bullet journal pages look like. The spread is divided into a total of eight spaces. Seven of these spaces are for the seven days of the week and the last space is for extra tasks that can be done anytime during the week. The column on the right side of the page is usually blank but sometimes I fill it up with short notes so that I can have a quick revision of important facts that need to be on the tip of my tongue every now and then.
Here’s the first monthly goal sheet. I started making these monthly goals back in December 2017. As you can see here, all the goals are related to USMLE studying, most of them are not completed and a few were even added afterward (and ironically still not completed).
One thing I noticed was how my performance was getting better through the months due to two main factors: not only was I pulling the bar down when it came to expectations since I had realized how much I was capable of during the month, but I had also started getting more motivated to do things. I found myself flipping back to the monthly goals page and trying to figure out what else I could, what else was left, how I could fill in another bubble, all of that. Let me tell you, the feeling of filling up a bubble is something so incredibly satisfying. It’s my favorite part of getting the work done because it’s a documentation of an achievement and it’s a reason to be proud of yourself.
I scanned these pages in the middle of February, hence why there’s almost nothing completed. Even now, there’s nothing completed, just the last two goals have been fulfilled. This made me realize that some of the goals I am writing are long-term goals or goals that can’t be squished into just one month. Writing down “Sketchy Micro” is a vague goal and it doesn’t really pressure me to do anything since I’m always thinking “oh I will when I have time, it’s not a super important goal, I should get the systems done first”. Which is why I’ve turned some of these goals into long-term goals.
For example, I have decided that instead of putting Sketchy Micro as a goal for March, my new long-term goal is to watch at least five Sketchy Micro videos a week. So maybe I can watch one video a day, either during commute time or in between classes (definitely not when I come home, my brain is absolutely dead by the time I make it back home and I have interest in nothing except going to sleep). The same for Anki cards. I would like to do them every day but it’s a little difficult since I have such a giant backload of cards. I’m slowly working on covering all of them (I’m not learning any ‘new’ cards, I’m just trying to get through all the review cards) but it’s going to take a while.
My goals for March consist of three short-term goals and two long-term goals. My short-term goals are to study all of the musculoskeletal, pathology and pharmacology sections in first aid. I chose these sections from first aid since I have a surgery rotation next and I feel like bringing musculoskeletal back up to the front of my mind will really help me a lot, especially when it comes to orthopedic rotations.
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