By Peter Darcy
My New Year’s resolution is to make no more New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to stick with “new week’s” resolutions from here on out. Why is that?
Well, to begin with, God gave us the seven day week as our primary time marker. Yes, I know, God is also the Author of nature, the cosmos, and our calendar year of 364¼ days equaling one revolution of the earth around the sun, but He didn’t actually tell us to count time by years. He did make it clear, however, that we are to mark the passing of time in weeks. We hardly need to cite the Creation story in Genesis 1 as evidence that God Himself created the concept of a seven day week. Even when He established yearly feasts, these were usually organized according to the rhythm of a week or a determinate number of weeks. The provisions for several of these feasts are found in Deuteronomy 16.
Take the feast of Passover, for example: “Seven days you shall eat no unleavened bread….” (v. 3) Then try Pentecost (which is called the feast of weeks in Hebrew): “Begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.” (v. 9) And the feast of Tabernacles: “Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord … because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.” (v. 15) Blessings seem to come in weeks!
There’s also something practical about goal-setting in weeks.
First, we tend to think of our family lives and activities in categories of weeks, not years or even months, especially when it comes to raising kids. Kids have repetitive events and meetings on certain days of the week, and they go to school in weekly intervals. Kids do not generally live their lives beyond the view of the near horizon because the long view comes with maturity. Those of us who are bound to children and their needs thus have weekly schedules. We’ll deal with next week’s problems when next week comes. Right now, we have to make sure we have enough milk to get us through the week.
Also, as adults, our lives and schedules are week-bound in many ways. We begin a work week on Monday and look forward to the week’s end (“weekend”, for most people anyway). We usually plan and take vacations in increments of weeks and tend to evaluate how much we accomplished in a week because most things (like Rome) can’t be built in a day. For sophisticated planners and people who run large institutions, monthly planning is critical; for financial planners and those in retail, yearly goals and objectives are important, but most of humanity lives week to week. There’s a reason why “week-at-a-glance” is the most popular weekly planner.
Once you decide to plan seven days at a time, you will find that there is a very effective way to plan a week: in threes. Here’s what I mean. Take a simple 3×5 note card at the beginning of the week and write down the three main things you propose to accomplish that week. Choose three serious goals that are not matters of your common routine – for example, “go shopping” is not a goal, it’s a routine! The three goals have to be something about which you will experience a deep sense of accomplishment when you look back on them seven days hence. They don’t necessarily have to be arduous or earth-shattering goals, but they have to address substantial issues, meaningful activities, or things that you have put off for some time. Then set your mind to accomplishing those three things – and only those three things – in amidst all the routine things you must do that week.
On the back of that same card write any number of other, secondary, goals that you may wish to accomplish once the three main goals are completed. The reason they are on the back of the card is that they are not to be confused with this week’s three critical, essential, necessary, indispensable goals on the front. If you get your three main goals finished in four days or five, you have the rest of the week as a grace period to start whittling away at the others. And everyone likes grace periods. They remind us that time is grace and that everything God gives us is grace. That’s a good way to think and live.
On Sunday, the Lord’s Day, sit down for a brief period of time with your 3×5 card and evaluate your performance. Did you actually accomplish your three goals? If not, why? What do you need to change in your life in order to get just three significant things done every week? If so, did you do them well? Did you give glory to God in their accomplishment? Who has benefitted from your sacrifice? Your Sunday evaluation should be filled with such questions about quality and real benefit in order to break the curse of slavery to “urgent” matters. We all want to feel as though we are making an actual meaningful contribution to life and to the world rather than living as slaves. Based upon your evaluation, then, take a few moments to reflect upon three follow-up goals for the coming week and write them down on a new 3×5 card.
Seven days. Three goals. This plan is better than New Year’s resolutions, which we all forget about sooner than later. Yearly goals also suffer the loss of the healthy accountability of a weekly evaluation – the very thought of 365 days of goal accomplishment can be overwhelming. There is the added emotional benefit of this system too: every week is literally a “new week.”
Now, something occurs to me: seven and three are biblical “perfect numbers.” Well, if they’re good enough for God, they’re good enough for me.
A shorter version of this article appeared at Catholic365.com: http://www.catholic365.com/article/3369/new-weeks-resolutions.html.