Category Archives: Personal

How to set New Year Resolutions That Work

Once again, that time has come to start tracking resolutions for the year ahead…. or at least the next month!  I, like the majority of people, have a tendency to set them and then follow them for a few weeks before slowly “re-prioritising” them.  Usually because I don’t track them within my to-do list!

Another thing that I have had a tendency to do, is not set S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  S.M.A.R.T. doesn’t mean clever, or sharply dressed (although a few of the “S.M.A.R.T.” objectives I’ve seen in the past have had a certain façade around them!  What it actually stands for is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Specific

The specific part, really summarises the whole objective.  “Get in shape” is not specific – how do you know when you are in shape?  A more specific goal would be “Get into a pair of size 34 trousers”.  In order to make a goal specific, it helps to ask yourself the 5Ws:

  1. Who – is involved?
  2. What – needs to be accomplished?
  3. Why – does it need to be accomplished?
  4. Where – does it need to take place?
  5. When – does it need to be accomplished by?  How often? Etc.

Measurable

If you have no measure against your goal, then you have no way of knowing whether you have achieved it, or how you are performing against it!  Taking the previous example, by giving yourself a target trouser size, you have your target!  If you wanted to be uber-geeky, you could track your weekly waist size against a graph, to track your performance!

Attainable & Realistic

This is another deal breaker!  If you set yourself an unobtainable goal, not only will you not achieve it, but you’ll dishearten yourself and probably fall short of what you could have achieved if you had set yourself a slightly less ambitious goal!  The old adage of “Aim for the stars” doesn’t always ring true!  However, it is important to set yourself targets that stretch you.  For instance, I know that I won’t be able to build this blog up to get 10,000 unique visitors / month within a year, no matter how hard I try.  However, I think 1,000 could be within my grasp.  It would be a stretch, and I would be happy with half of that.

Timely

Putting a timescale on your goals is just as important as a unit to measure them against.  Sure, I may want to improve the SEO on the website so that I get 1,000 unique visitors a month, but unless I set myself a deadline, then I’ll just keep putting it on the back burner.  By giving myself a timeframe to work in, I can plan appropriately.

Its only through setting goals with all of the above attributes that you can build your goal list to become something that is achievable and that you want to achieve.

With that in mind, here are my goals for 2013:

  1. Write a minimum of 600 words a week for leisure.  This would either be for this blog, guest blogging, books or short stories.  I’ve wanted to improve my writing and communication for some time now.  Not just for the obvious communication skill development, but in order to research and share some of the things that interest me.
  2. Publish on average, one photo a week to the internet.  Either onto my own website, into competitions or to stock photo sites.  Photography and digital art is one of my passions, but I only tend to do stuff ad hoc.  This year I’d like to build a bit of a framework and workflow into my photography and by setting this goal, it’ll drive me into bigger and better things.
  3. Complete a 50+ mile cycle ride within 2013.  The furthest I have ridden so far in one go has been 25 miles.  I have plans to complete one of the big cycle rides in our area next year with a friend, and hopefully make some money for charity in the process.  I’ll need to build up my training beforehand though, otherwise I’ll have a very sore bum!

So, these are some of my personal goals for this year.  There are a few others, which I am keeping to myself for the time being, but will hopefully become apparent throughout the year!

What are everyone else’s goals?

Cyclist in a tunnel silhouetted against the sea

New cycling goal

As I previously mentioned, I’ve recently started cycling.  After a bit of down time due to a virus, I realised how much I missed not being able to cycle.  That has spurred me on to new goals!

My intent is to ride in next year’s Manchester to Blackpool bike ride!  That’s a whopping 60 miles cycling in one sitting!  Bearing in mind that the furthest I have done in one ride so far has been 15 miles, I’m going to have to do some work!  I need to have a plan!!  First of all I have to build up my stamina, and the only thing for that is to build up my cycling miles.  Looking at my previous workouts, I’ve only managed about 30 miles a month….. that needs to increase.  So first target is 30 miles in a week.

Chart showing Matt Acton's cycling distance and average speed for each month

This is very much achievable through commuting.  However, if I don’t manage to cycle in to work then the distance can be made up in the evenings and weekends.  Once I’ve sustained 30 miles a week, I intend to up it by 10 miles until I reach 60 miles in a week.  From that point on I need to focus on extending my ride length.

The other thing I’m noticing is my average speed is quite low.  Some of that could be attributed to fitness and some of the terrain I ride on (gravelly paths and poor quality roads), but some could be down to my bike setup.  Currently I’ve got semi-slick 700C x 42 tyres on my hybrid bike.  Picking up some slimmer tyres would certainly help reduce my rolling road resistance and I’m not convinced that my seating position is at its optimal, so I’ll look into that.  But for now, its time to get my miles up!  I’ll keep my blog updated with how I am progressing!

 

 

Bike in puddle by side of the road

Cycling

I’ve recently taken up cycling.  Nothing serious, just as a way of getting a bit of exercise in an enjoyable way.  As Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council have developed the Guild Wheel, this has given me a lovely, picturesque route into work, without having to worry about crazy drivers, having been stuck in a traffic jam for the past 30 minutes, needlessly cutting me up!

Anyway, as I live some 15 miles away from work, I decided to pace myself by starting off driving part way, parking up and cycling in from there.  I’ve built up the distance and finally, last week, I braved the full journey in!  I over-ran my target time by a grand total of 7 minutes (1 hr 37 min I didn’t feel was too bad a post to stick in the ground, and I can only improve from there), but I blame this on being careful on the wet, muddy conditions – especially on some of the steep slopes I have to negotiate.

To celebrate this achievement, I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learnt getting to this point:

  • Cycling any distance is an equal split of a well maintained bike, fitness, state of mind and good gear management.  You need all four!
  • If you’re out for more than 30 minutes, put sun block on!
  • Don’t go around with your mouth open – flies taste funny!
  • State of mind (again!) I’ve really realised how much this matters when you think you are starting to flag!  You might feel like you have no more energy left, but by talking yourself up (yes, I do cycle round talking to myself at times!) then you often manage to find that extra burst of energy!
  • One of my colleagues at work warned me that by taking up cycling, you are taking on 2 hobbies: cycling and bike maintenance!  Unless you want to spend loads of money in the bike store, you need to learn how to maintain your bike properly yourself!
  • When cycling any distance, build up your stamina first and then focus on improving your time.

For a good guide to a lot of topics on cycling, including maintenance and cycling techniques, check out Bike Radar.  I also highly reccomend Cyclecraft: the complete guide to safe and enjoyable cycling for adults and children, for learning to ride safely in plenty of different situations.

My next goal is to cycle more miles per week as well as improve my speed over the 15 mile journey.  I’ve recorded my journeys, along with performance stats and at some point in the future I intend to share my performance stats to show how I have (hopefully!) improved.