Challenge accepted: resolutions for 2019

January 07, 2019

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You may remember my article from last year titled “My favourite part of new year”. I don’t want to spoil it but (you know I’m going to spoil it) here’s the punch line: I absolutely love setting new year resolutions and grading them. Last week I graded my 2018 goals.

If you remember how I set my goals for 2018 (and if not, you can get a complete refresher here), it’s a three step process.

  1. Write down your goals — the more public the better. Effai.me is a great place for that (let me know if you want to contribute).
  2. Write down specific steps you’ll take to reach each goal. Make sure they are measurable.
  3. Grade yourself on how you’re doing every two months. It’s the only way you’ll remember what you’ve wanted to do and keep yourself accountable.

I’m going to cover #1 and #2 for 2019 today.

Before we start, I would like to address something. there will certainly be some online gurus who claim setting resolutions doesn’t work. To this I say, good for them.

This year I’ve decided to group the resolutions somewhat differently. I have four high level habits I would like to cultivate. Each habit will have specific actions I would like to take. The habits are purposefully broad and ambiguous while the actions are narrow and measurable.

Health & Fitness

Health and fitness is my #1 priority this year as they should be. If you don’t have your health, … your insurance premiums will go up and it will hurt your financial independence. Also, there’s something nice about living a healthy and vital life to an old age, free of chronic diseases.

Here’s what I have:

Limit to one glass of wine per night at home.

Last year I attempted to completely cut myself off from boozing at home. It was challenging but achievable. Unfortunately, it was also a miserable experience as I watched my wife occasionally enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner while I was drowning in my own saliva.

There does seem to be a lot of evidence that drinking red wine in limited quantities is safe and even helpful. Therefore; I’ve decided to moderate this goal. I am still generally not going to drink as I find it affects my sleep. But if I do, one glass of wine with dark chocolate is acceptable.

Three drink limit during social gatherings.

Since we are on the topic of alcohol, I am upping my limit of drinks during social events. Last year I was at a two drink limit. Admittedly, I have rarely gone far beyond that (although it did happen). However, I have never gone below.

I am not the kind of guy to set unachievable goals as a method to “push myself”. I refer to that as “setting myself up for failure”. Therefore; I decided to come to terms with it and up my limit to three drinks. We can revisit this in 2020.

24 hour fast once a month.

I am oddly excited about this. I am always looking to tweak my diet for the better. Unfortunately, with each improvement, the marginal return is lower and lower. The low hanging fruit have mostly been picked.

I am convinced that fasting is one of those untapped potentials for me. I have been doing the 8 hours eating window for the last year to the point that it is automatic. However, I have only fasted for 24 hours once.

Eat my essentials foods.

Some of you may know that I maintain a list of “essential foods”. It’s a collection of what I consider healthy foods I would like to regularly incorporate into my diet. If you’re curious, you can view it here.

Although, I’ve maintained the list for over a year, I didn’t consume them on any regular schedule. I would just buy things randomly because they fit into a certain meal.

This year, I plan on buying them once every two weeks. Also, I would like to expand that list. Otherwise I risk getting sick of cod liver.

Attend the gym 104 times.

Thanks Anshul Pandey for coming up with this one (even though you failed 😜)

The human mind is fantastic at associating positive events to the “norm” and negative events to the “exception”. That’s why I plan on going to the gym 3 times a week but can’t name the last week I’ve been there that many times.

To avoid fooling myself, I am going to count the number of times I actually attend the gym in the entire year. If I hit my goal of 104 times, it will average out to twice a week. This ongoing count will keep me accountable for the entire year.

For those truly “exceptional” days, when I cannot attend the gym due to unforeseen circumstances, I provide myself an escape hatch: perform 150 pushups.

Stretch goal: 1 muscle up.

This is an exercise I would like to do. Unfortunately, I cannot find a chin up bar with enough head room.


No mindless browsing in the evening.

I mentioned this before but here it goes: I am very proud of how little time I spend on my phone — at least as measured by my iPhone’s screen time app. Unfortunately, the time isn’t always translated into productive behaviour. Most of it is spent on my laptop browsing news, the twittersphere and other similar distractions.

This year my plan is to significantly reduce the time I spend mindlessly browsing and replace it with more productive activities. The default is reading. However, my wife has a laundry list of projects she’d like to finish (yesterday) around the house. I expect that to take a good chunk of my time.

Other (stretch goal) activities I would like to fill in my time with are playing tennis and hiking.

Stay item neutral.

This is a modified remnant resolution from last year. The absolute amount of things in the house is not fully under my control (I share the house). However, my things, are fully within my sphere of influence. Therefore; instead of trying to minimize the amount of things we have, I will focus on reducing (or maintaining) what is mine.

Watch out, stuff. If you don’t spark joy you’re out.

Keep my phone away.

Whenever we are out, a habit a lot of my friends and I share is to place our phones upside down on the table next to us. The phone is within reach in case of an important call. At the same time, we avoid experiencing separation anxiety from our precious.

I remember seeing somewhere a study that showed just being in the same room as your phone would increase your cortisol (stress hormone). I don’t know if it’s true or significant but having my phone hidden away makes me feel better. Also, it allows me to concentrate on what the other person is saying. Therefore; whenever I am with people, my phone will be out of sight.


Read 18 books.

If you’ve read my last article, you’d know that I crushed last years reading goal. That’s why I decided to increase it up to 18 books. That’s a book and a half per month or one every three weeks. (Not so) secretly I want to crush that goal as well.

Be on time.

I plan to measure the success of this goal differently this year. Instead of looking at outcomes (arriving on time), I will look at intention (leaving on time). I don’t want to penalize myself if the situation is out of my control (traffic jam, road closure, got lost). If I did leave on time, and still ended up being late, I expect myself to make adjustments for next time.

Volunteer at the library at least once a month.

I have been doing a little bit of volunteering last year helping kids with their homework (awww, I know). This year, I’d like to keep doing this at a more regular schedule.

Complete a Coursera course.

Last but not least, I would like to finally finish one more course on Coursera. I’ve lost count of how many courses I’ve enrolled in just to watch a few videos, promise I’ll come back, and switch gears to do something entirely different (I hear it’s a common problem).

This year, I’d like to finish at least one. I have a few courses in mind. I haven’t decided if I want to go through with the entire certification processes or just view the class videos. However, last year, I haven’t done either.

What would really help is to set aside a dedicated time for learning. It will also allow me to measure my success. Admittedly, I am still fuzzy about the exact details.

That’s it for me. That’s a lot of resolutions. I’ve already started on some of them. Others are still in the planning stages. Most importantly, I’ll keep track of how I’m doing throughout the year. Not only does it make great blog content, it also keeps me accountable to myself.

Leon Tager

Written by Leon Tager who lives and works in Seattle writing about a better life. You should follow him on Twitter