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How to Succeed with New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time again. By now, millions of us have discarded New Year’s resolutions like those tuna fish casserole leftovers from a week ago Thursday. In fact, only about nine percent of people who set New Year goals ever come close to completing them. By the end of week one in January, about one-fourth of resolvers bail on their resolution plans. By the end of the first month, another quarter fall by the wayside. If you’re keeping track, that’s a 50 percent attrition rate by January 31. That’s almost as bad as the failure rate among med school wanna-be’s once they hit the collegiate organic chemistry weed-out class.

Why the Sad Face?

Researchers have examined the colossal surge of optimism and good intentions that ring in every new year to figure out why more people fail at completing New Year’s resolutions than wash out of the indoctrination Navy SEAL BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL) course. Figures vary a bit, and the Navy doesn’t go out of its way to publish the exact numbers, but approximately 80% of supremely in-shape humans don’t make it through the 24-week training program, much less the entire six-month grueling process just to become a “rookie” SEAL, at which point the real learning starts.

As for the resolution failure rates, about one-third of resolvers wash out because they say their goals were too unrealistic from the start. Another third fails to keep track of their progress, and you know what they say about proper goals needing to be measurable. A quarter of those with great intentions just plain forget to follow through, and another small segment makes too many resolutions to manage.

A (Hopefully Successful) New Year’s Resolution in Action

I have an ego-shattering confession. I earn my living writing pithy stuff, and … I can’t type. To clarify, my fingers fly over the keyboard, but an observer would likely ask if I’m related by blood to Edward Scissorhands. I’ve never counted, but I’d guess 60 percent of strikes are made with my index fingers and the leftovers are handled by the middle fingers. Are you supposed to use ring and pinky fingers while typing? Over the years, I’ve become passably adept, if spastic, with my home-grown Mavis Beacon horror flick method, and I usually don’t have to look at the keys. But I know it’s a bastardization of basic humanity.

What offends my soul is my long-suffering tolerance to the concept of productivity. My brain wants to output far faster than my fumbled fingers can handle, so let’s just say my daily endeavors could be improved immensely with proper typing skills.

Typing Speed and Accuracy

I’ve never done this until just this moment, but I found an online typing speed test and gave it a whirl. My words-per-minute typing speed worked out to 58 with close to a ten percent error rate—and that’s after autocorrect fixed most of my typing mistakes on that fly. Without that, I’d have a 20 percent (or more) mistake figure. Ouch.

While the speed isn’t completely embarrassing (40 wpm is the average for a true, ten-finger, touch typist), fast would require getting into the 80 or 90-wpm range and reducing the error rate. Even those fixed by autocorrect are distracting to the composition process.

It’s time for a New Year’s Resolution.

SMART Goal Setting

To avoid the washout resolver crowd, I need to be SMART about this. Rather than just saying, “My New Year’s Resolution is to get better at typing,” I need to break it down using the SMART goal-setting and achievement method.

Specific: I want to learn how to properly touch type with all ten fingers so I can be more efficient in my work. It will be hard to overcome decades of bad habits.

Measurable: I want my speed to average 80 wpm and my error rate to be less than five percent.

Achievable: I know I can do this because my job allows (forces) me to practice for many hours a day. The world’s fastest typists exceed 200 words per minute, so if I can’t reach just 80, with all my practice, I’m lame.

Relevant: Typing literally feeds my family. The more efficient I am at putting my thoughts on paper, the more likely I am to continue having a roof over my head and food on the table.

Time Bound: My deadline is December 31, 2024. Of course, any improvement along the way will be a bonus.

The 10-Minute Marathon

I figure breaking this down into daily tasks will facilitate the process rather than just hoping my “goal” will work itself out by the end of the year. I see a two-part challenge.

First, I’ve got to learn exactly how to use all ten fingers the correct way so I can break my hunt-and-peck habit and devote all my daily writing to practicing correctly. I acquired a simple app that offers daily practice drills to train your fingers and brain to touch type the right way. I figure if I repeat each lesson two days in a row, I should be able to cover the entire keyboard (slowly) by the end of February. This step is the key. My focus needs to be on completing a 10-minute learning session for about 50 days in a row. I can do that.

Second, once I have enough muscle memory to know where the keys are for each finger, I can officially transition all my actual writing to the proper method. I’ll be as slow as a congressman reaching for the dinner check and have plenty of errors, so the next part of the plan will involve forcing myself to accept the productivity loss while I build speed with the new and proper method.

The plan will both get me transitioned and give me 10 months of daily “practice” (while I’m working) to build speed. A quick online test monthly will track my progress.

I’ll let you know next January how it worked out. Got resolutions of your own? Let us know how you plan to attack them.

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