Save Green: New Habits

Green ChecklistSince I wrote the post last week on tracking New Year’s goals, I have been thinking about the difference between goals and habits. This year I’m focusing on habits. I have the usual big pile of goals as well, but I want to see how it will work making changes consciously driven by new habits.

21-Day Chain for a New Habit

There is no scientific evidence that I can find for the idea that it takes 21 days to form a new habit (if you know of any, please comment), but I see the wisdom in not breaking the chain when making a change. And, I like the number.

A three-week time period seems doable. So, I’m going with 21 days to check in on my new habits.

Will you make a new habit with me over the next 21 days?

One of the resolutions or goals that a lot of people choose is to save money. I am always looking for new ways to save green in both senses—money and environment.

I would like to hear more natural parents’ ideas for saving green. How are you saving green this year?

Do you want to create a new Save Green Habit with me?

Decide what the habit will be, and do it every day for 21 days. In order to give you a day to think of a new habit you want to make part of your life, I’m making tomorrow (January 5th) Day #1.

Remember this is a habit, a new behavior that you can track daily. It isn’t a one-time action (call the power company to switch to wind power) or a goal (reduce energy usage by 20%) or a plan (grow spinach and carrots in my garden). A habit is a new behavioral groove in the record of your life.

I will check in on Save Green Habits every couple of days until Day #21 (January 25th) and let you know how my habit is going. I have a few suggestions to make about new green habits as well.

My Family’s New Habits

On New Year’s day, my family gathered to talk about highlights of the past decade and the past year. Then, we asked what we want to be able to say about highlights of the coming decade and year. This was the beginning of our goals. At that point, we looked at which of these goals looked like new habits. My husband and I looked for greener habits, while our children were more focused on activities they enjoy.

  • My husband will shut down his computer every night. His desktop computer uses about 120 watts per hour, which ends up being about 1.44 kilowatt hours (kWh) for every 12-hour period it sits not in use. We pay for a windpower option, which is a little more expensive than the coal-power option. The savings will be about $10.25 and 525 kilowatt hours per year.
  • My daughter will spend at least 30 minutes each day knitting projects from a new knitting book she got for the holidays. She decided this all on her own because she wants to knit for her friends.
  • My son will spend at least 15 minutes each day on Mandarin Chinese language lessons, Chinese culture books, or practicing Kung Fu. He chose the activities, and I worked with him to create enough variety that he can fit his mood of the day.
  • I will run stairs every day, actual first-floor to second-floor stairs. I tell my children to resist marketing, that they don’t need stuff to have fun, so I’m trying to walk that talk—or run that talk in this case. An average treadmill uses .75 kilowatt-hours for 30 minutes. Assuming I would have used it half an hour a day every day of the year (which of course I would have), the savings will be about $5.34 and 274 kilowatt hours per year.

Habits ChecklistTo track our habits, we have created a calendar that includes checkboxes for each of us. I don’t think we’ll need a printed calendar in the future, but this is a new process for us, so I wanted to make it really clear and easy for us all to succeed. Once these habits are well established, we plan to check in and see what else, if anything, we would like to add to our lives. Once the novelty of the process wears off, I think we’ll be able to track on our regular calendar or with magnets on our refrigerator.

Tomorrow is Day #1 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

Image © Ruth Black |

Tracking Your New Year’s Goals

Sticky Note goalsAre you ready to write your resolutions? The New Year provides a good time for us to take stock, as so many of us do. Despite psychologists’ claims that New Year’s resolutions are doomed, I think we can beat the trend. Rather than putting myself in the 78% that blow off or otherwise fail to achieve their goals, I am sure I can learn from the lessons of the 22%.

I don’t really make resolutions in the sense that I usually think of them, resolving to rid myself of bad habits (since I, of course, have no bad habits). I tend to look at what I’ve done in the past year and what I want to do in the coming year. I check in on progress and set new goals.

Rather than suggest green resolutions you might want to make in the coming year (since that is such a personal choice and even the U.S. govt says most people make the same resolutions), I want to suggest that planning, tracking, and reminding yourself electronically is a way to save. For me, at least, this means saving on post-it notes. As much as I love a big pile of colorful post-it notes, I really don’t like tossing a stack of barely used paper away, even into the recycling bin.

I’m always looking for the better electronic project planner, calendar, life balancer, and sticky note pad. I use Life Balance from Llamagraphics as my calendar, but I try out new ways to track projects and goals. It doesn’t quite steer clear of obsession for me. For the past several years, I’ve tried a variety of ways to track goals. This is part of my New Year’s ritual: what new tool will I try this year?

So, whatever your goals may be, how will you track them? I have divided the following tools into Web – Social, Web – Individual, Phone / Multi-platform Apps, and Simple Tools.

Web – Social Sites

Social sites encourage you to be inspired by and accountable to others. Since these often aren’t people whose opinions matter to you (family and friends), you still have to make the effort yourself to reach out to make these sites a useful community for you.

  • 43 Things
    Social network but connections are superficial. East to set and forget (my sad experience). There is a Facebook application to pull your goals into your Facebook profile.
  • SuperViva
    Similar to 43 Things, though much smaller. Create a life list, work toward the goals. Nice privacy settings.
  • GoalMigo
    Also similar to 43 Things though more tracking and reminders. Join groups for support.
  • elifeList
    Another goal community. Includes challenges to friends.
  • LifeTango
    Yet another goal community.

I want to leave some of these above and below off the list, but I can never tell which one will speak to others even if it doesn’t speak to me.

  • Best Year Yet
    Interesting model for personal change. You pay $99.95 to $299.95 for a coaching program—less for self-coaching with their tools and more for live coach through monthly review webinars with other participants. It’s a step short of a life coach and considerably less expensive.
  • Comotivate
    Buddies or teams join together at Comotivate to reach goals together.
  • Amiglowz
    A goal support site by and for women. All about the goals.
  • Mecanbe
    Cool online goal site that is still in beta. Free open platform.
  • Goal for It
    A social site that emphasizes making goals habits. One thing I didn’t see elsewhere: bright, bubbly chore charts to help develop “good habits” in kids.

Web – Individual

On these sites, you are on your own—often with great tools and resources, but you will have to make the effort. No one is going to beat you into change. No one but yourself, that is.

  • Joe’s Goals
    The simple and seemingly most common tool. Set the goal and give it a green check or a red X. I used it and loved the look but didn’t get the motivation I wanted. I need more interaction—with myself even if not with others.
  • My Life Changes
    Nice approach that starts with vision and values before setting the goals. Subscription includes choices, reminders, reports.
  • Disciplanner
    If your goals are about time spent or building habits, this tracker might work for you.
  • Goal Enforcer
    This is a visual organizer that breaks down goals into smaller bubbles, all connected to a center bubble. Not quite mind mappish.
  • Google Calendar
    For the clever and organized among you, using a simple tool like Google Calendar in a new way can result in the ultimate goal or task tracker.

Multi-platform / Phone Apps

  • Remember the Milk
    Very simple list. If you can organize your own goals and break them down without prompting, you could make this work. On the big plus side, there is an app for phones, blackberries, gmail, firefox, Google calendar, Twitter, and so on. AND, there are third-party extensions. This one is big enough that you can rely on improvements over time.
  • Lifetick
    Get email reminders. Include life page to show how goals reflect your core values. Based on SMART goals. Can have multiple tasks per goal. Browser based with iPhone / Android app for tracking. This looks really fun, but I know for sure I have more than 4 goals, which costs money, and I’m way cheap.
  • Goal Tracker
    Enter goals and measurements. The measurements are the important part when you really want to make the goals work. Then, update measurements.
  • Limeade Well-being
    From the makers of Goal Tracker. Take a well-being assessment and set goals online, then track everything from your iPhone.
  • FCMobileLife Goals
    If you are following the Franklin Covey system, this is the app for you.
  • Touch Goal
    Tap to track your habits, single to add to score and double to remove from score. If your goal involves a new habit you are trying to develop or a habit you are trying to break, this could help you without taking too much time.
  • Awesome Note
    Cool sticky note graphics. You have to already have a good plan, since this app won’t organize your goals for you.

Simpler Tools (including Revert to Paper)

Getting Things Done
David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) is such a simple and useful system that people use it. It’s everywhere in name and practice. Honestly, I think it works best on paper, but this is a huge and helpful list of GTD tools for Mac & PC.

I do it. I like to carry paper with me. What writer wouldn’t. Yes, I know that defeats the purpose of avoiding the wasted paper, but it’s not much paper and it takes no electricity. If you go with paper, how about a basic moleskine notebook or a D*I*Y Planner? Moleskine is the greatest plain notebook by reputation. It’s what I use. D*I*Y is a community of people creating and sharing tools. There is a great daily refocus page for the D*I*Y. If you are developing habits, there is a Franklin Virtue chart.

Or Imitate Paper Electronically

Since I begin and end with the idea of sticky notes, I’ll also tell you about I love this site because it’s the closest I’ve found (so far) that gives me the real sticky note feel I want. I’ve used this site to take and arrange notes during presentations. It’s real time, so I was able to share the notes with a friend as I went. It’s a little clunky to do the kind of affinity diagramming that I find helps me focus. Still, it looks like sticky notes, and that’s all right with me.

Here’s a Secret

None of these applications will do it for you. As disappointing as I find this, these are just tools for us to use. Cool tools, true, but we apply the muscle and willpower.

6 Tips to Help You Keep Your Resolutions and Reach Your Goals

Just to make sure that you really accomplish what you want to accomplish in the coming year, I have a few suggestions.

  1. Make sure you are ready. No wishes. Just plans.
  2. Focus on one thing. Make a list if you need to, but file it. Just accomplish one big thing, make it a habit or get it done. Then pull out your list and do the next big thing.
  3. Set the milestones. What are the big pieces of this plan? And, how will you reward yourself when you reach those milestones?
  4. Break it down into steps, then into smaller tasks. Then, figure out what the next action is. That is: make an action plan. Don’t let yourself get blocked by just not figuring out what comes next.
  5. Make it a habit. The 21-days-to-a-new-habit approach has become conventional self-help wisdom because it works. Whatever you want to do, do it every day for at least 15 minutes a day. Yes, every day. Don’t break the chain.
  6. Share your plan. This step is essential. Tell others what you are doing and how you intend to accomplish your goal. Whether you are looking for a buddy to do it with you, a cheerleader, or just a rotten friend to poke you when you go wrong, it really helps to know that you AND someone else will keep you accountable.

    Social sites can create some level of accountability and support, but if you want a wicked group of people after you about what you are doing, post about your goal on Twitter or Facebook. You could even create your own hashtag—maybe you will share it with others who have the same idea, a built-in support group. You are the best reality show for your friends, I assure you.

One more resource: The Happiness Project
This is a book just out this month. I mention it because the author, Gretchen Rubin, has an archive of several years of really good articles on deciding what will make you happy, setting goals, and getting what you want from life. Great approach. If you need a guide, this is a place to start. The Happiness Project Toolbox is a membership site to put the approach into action.

OK. Go out and set your resolutions. Accomplish your goals. Then come back and tell me how you track it all. That’s the part I find endlessly fascinating.

This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Green Resolutions, hosted in January by Non-Toxic Kids.

Image © Marek Uliasz |