The Learning Curve – Resolved

On Christmas Eve a box arrived for me from Athabasca University. It contained, as expected, the books and materials for the next two courses. The arrival of such boxes tends to evoke mixed emotions: joy that I’ve now got a whole new batch of English or French books to read, and anxiety that I have yet to finish the current courses. Resolutions are obviously in order to replace the previous resolutions on how I intend to complete all these courses by the contract end dates.

I read an interesting take on resolutions by Tim Cestnick in the Globe and Mail on the weekend. Mr. Cestnick is an accountant who writes a column with ideas on how to avoid paying income tax, none of which ever appear to work for my particular situation, but nonetheless he does generally start the column with an interesting tidbit. This week the tidbit related to New Year’s resolutions.

Apparently, for 2006 Mr. Cestnick resolved to lose 10 per cent of his body fat?an admirable, if unattainable, plan. For 2007, he pledged to lose five per cent of his body fat. Again, admirable and could have been attainable had he not neglected to take the steps to actually achieve it. So, for 2008 Mr. Cestnick has promised himself that he will drive by at least one gym on his daily commute in his car. Presumably, he will then inhale the fitness as he passes.

On the surface, New Year’s resolutions appear to be the antithesis of procrastination. Except that most (if not all) of my resolutions end up encouraging procrastination, not replacing it. Hence my approval of Mr. Cestnick’s approach. If only it would work for my own resolutions as they relate to my courses. Perhaps I could just drive by Athabasca and inhale knowledge? I think not. (It’s too far, for one thing.)

On eventually unpacking the aforementioned box, I immediately set about creating folders on my computer for assignments, reading the student manuals (80 per cent of which contain the same information as the last courses), throwing away all the forms (they’re all available for download and I have no space to store them in my cubbyhole shed of an office) and carefully reading and agreeing with the suggested study schedule.

I dutifully transfer said suggested study schedule to my AUSU planner and my Outlook task list, and feel raring to go and in control. There’s just one slight problem: there are three other courses lurking on the task list and in the planner.

I’m feeling pretty smug about COMP 200; all the assignments are done and the exam booked. ENG 353 doesn’t look too bad until I realize that there’s a research paper due on who knows what in addition to two, four-page essays and a plan for the research paper?by the end of January. I’ve been lulled into complacency with this course because there’s no exam requirement to spur me on.

I console myself with the knowledge that I have until the end of March to finish FREN 201. Then I remember It’s January. And I’ve submitted one assignment so far. And the new courses start in February. So much for my 2007 resolution to finish eight courses by the end of the year (four are done, three in progress, and one is barely out of the box).

In the spirit of finding help?not procrastination, you understand?I Googled ?education and New Year’s resolutions? and got 5,070,000 hits. Yes, you read it right: five million and seventy thousand. One site, specifically for college students in the U.S., suggested that I resolve to party more, think about a different major, and make new friends. The best parties start way after my bedtime, the only major I worry about these days is a major weather system that knocks the power out, and I live on an island with a limited selection of ?new friends.? (Dogs don’t count or I’d be fine.)

According to the Edmonton Journal, people have been making New Year’s resolutions for about four thousand years. In 2000 BC the Babylonians apparently began celebrating New Year by making pledges for the following year. The most popular resolution? To return borrowed farm equipment. Probably the equivalent of today’s ?find that library book and take it back.?

Resolved: this New Year I’m making just one resolution?I’m going to open the box, set up the folders, throw away the forms, carefully read and agree with the suggested study plan, and transfer said plan to my AUSU planner (which hopefully will have arrived by then) and my Outlook task list.

Then I’m going to have a glass of Shiraz and toast Mr. Cestnick. Here’s to achievable resolutions. I may even open the box as soon as it arrives next time. But no promises.