In Defense of Private Projects

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It’s January, which means we’re still in the throes of people announcing and performing their resolutions. In a few weeks many of those resolutions will likely slip into guilty obscurity. By March people will mercifully stop asking you about that resolution. And by June you’ll be blissfully free of any memory of the resolution in the first place.

But in the past few years I’ve noticed my friends doing a thing with their resolutions. One friend started a newsletter to track her progress. Another made a website. Another created a Tumblr. A fourth made a Twitter account to keep tabs on her status. They turned their resolutions into projects. Projects with accountability and brands and logos.

It’s great that you want to read a book a week, or only read books written by women, or run a marathon. I hope you succeed, and grow, and learn something from it. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t actually have to turn every thing you might want to try into a public project. You don’t need a newsletter to keep your fans up on which book written by an black woman you’re reading. You don’t need a website or a hashtag. You can just do the thing.

And I’m here to encourage you to do the thing, privately.

I understand the impetus behind turning your resolution into a project. Projects are all the rage. Everybody has one. If you don’t have a side-hustle what are you even doing with your time? The more projects, the more interesting and curious and delightful you are, or so Twitter seems to tell me.

Plus, announcing you’re doing a thing publicly is appealing because it comes with a rush of encouragement. It feels good, and people will send you happy Tweets and Facebook comments. And it probably feels like making your resolution a project is a surefire way to keep yourself accountable and maybe get a job or book deal out of it.

That might be true. But it might also not be. One study found that people who announce their resolutions are less likely to achieve them. No studies have looked into what creating a newsletter for your resolution does, but I think it’s safe to say a newsletter counts as announcing.

But projectifying your resolution also puts a layer of stress and public performance on something that is ultimately, in theory, supposed to bring you joy and make you feel better. You didn’t decide to read all those books because you thought it would be good SEO or get you a lot more followers. You did it because you thought that it would enrich your life in some way.

Your professional worth, your intelligence and your personal brand don’t have to be tied into every single thing you might possibly in theory be interested in doing. By turning your resolution into a public project you’re adding a layer of management and pressure to something that really doesn’t need it. And if you wind up realizing that weight lifting isn’t for you, or find that it’s really hard to read that many books, or that knitting a scarf a month is actually a lot of work and not that rewarding, you’re not also torpedoing a project you branded and put your public persona behind.

So here’s my challenge to you: do your thing, but just do it for you. If it helps to keep a list somewhere and check things off, great. But you don’t have to build everything into a professional statement, a branding moment, or a high stress public project.

And here’s a way to get the best of both worlds: make a public statement about the resolution when it’s completed. How impressive is it when someone comes out of nowhere to say “hey, I read 52 books last year, and here’s what I learned.” Extraordinarily impressive, if you ask me. I promise I will like that status when you post it.

Image: Thomas Hawk

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3 thoughts on “In Defense of Private Projects

  1. No, No, Rose, you don’t understand. If I don’t make an announcement and a project out of it how is anyone going to NOTICE ME ! NOTICE ME ! ?

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