What NOT to change resolutions only architect can come up in the new year

While I was going through an annual review of the past year, I came across this old post which was relevant and also timely; especially the last point about dealing with many “down” moments. What are your 2021 goals, to-do lists? or like me, NOT TO CHANGE lists? This was how my year 2020 all started.

“You are so organized”.

It was a comment made by one of the colleagues I work with after glancing over my todo list recently. I was taken back by her comment. Me? Organized? especially the handwritten notes with many high lighter colours with line crossing over each to-do list items! It did not look organized…looked messy.

I never thought it was an “organized” todo list I can proudly share with others. However, it is an effective one with my own system built over the years of testing different methods along the way

Seeing everything on one piece of paper frees my mind:  redirecting me back from gazillion distractions happening from all directions  in a day to what I should be focusing on at that moment.

It is the second month of the year 2020.

I’m still reading many articles about New Year’s resolutions: ways to improve anything and everything about our lives. This constant quest to become a “better and improved me” rather than the “same mediocre me” is our forever obsession especially at this time of the year.

However, I decided to try something new this year.

I wanted to think about what I have been doing right…. instead of things to improve on.

The recent conversation with my colleague made me question what I have been doing right and how I should continue with those good habits.

Don’t get me wrong…I still have plenty of things to work on this year, having sweets after dinner, sleeping with contact lenses on (sometimes), too much drinking coffee, not drinking enough water, the list goes on. Don’t get me started on eating chips after every dinner ” me which would be about another post.

With the recent compliment from a colleague, I want to dig deeper into what I have been doing right for the last few years  and how I can continue doing those. Maybe, I don’t need  as many resolutions  in the year 2020!

A newfound love of handwritten todo lists with a red pen


Over the years  I tried many ways to get organized… Started with my high school years of carrying the bright orange/ hello kitty themed agenda, and then moved on to my first digital organizer on my computer I bought during university years, and then now using the Apple reminders which is on this iPad I’m actually typing right now.

Two years ago, I was in the middle of project deadlines and overwhelmed with many things to do/remember however these lists were all over the place: computer, post-it notes, notebooks, etc. I was constantly looking for things…I noticed I was spending more time looking for things rather than working on things.

I knew I had to make some changes. BIG ONES.

I decided on the one blank white paper to organize my day; write down everything that I had to do in a DAY, and just complete those things. That is how “one page with 3 columns” design started.

The list is written on one piece of blank paper (8-1/2X11 size) with 3 different width columns: first column with the MITs (Most Important Task) items, 2nd column with not so important task items such as picking up milk and then the 3rd column with daily todo /scheduled lists such as exercise time, meetings, phone calls to make etc.

This “revolutionary(?) ” design was not only simple and effective but also very inexpensive.

I only needed three items for this new system of organizing the Day: Black pen, red pen, white paper.

Seeing everything on one page with clearly written handwritten notes made the illusion of “I was in control” of the day. Besides, seeing the red line crossing off the todo list creates the feeling of contentment digital todo listers would never experience!

My love of using a red pen to cross off black handwritten to-do list started during architecture education years ago. Initially, the red pen was for correcting the architectural drawings… However, the power of the red pen moved on to other things in my life such as crossing off items from those years.

The colour, red evokes certain negative feelings; mistakes, warnings, something to correct. however, in my world, the red represents positive emotion: achievement, completion, conclusion, all great feelings.

Just to put it in perspective, seeing redline over todo lists, especially on many of the items, it is a similar high I have when I have The spoonful of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream especially the first bite!

Coffee, 1st (3rd) thing in the morning


What is better than coffee ice cream, COFFEE! It is a difficult assessment but I would have to go with the first-morning coffee anyway!

I don’t know why… Maybe it is the taste, or the buzz I get from taking the first sip.

Whatever it is, it is one ( or more) element in a day I absolutely love and look forward to. I Especially love the morning coffee!

Last year around this time, I came up with the “brilliant” idea to combine my easy item with the difficult one: coffee(easy) + morning workout (difficult)! I came up with the idea after reading the book which states that:

to create a good habit,  not only you need to get rid of the bad one but also need to add something else on that spot to make it easier while working towards the habit forming

After hearing my first alarm in the bed, I start thinking about my morning coffeewhich helps me to get out of bed and start putting on gym clothes and work out at home. After the workout, I am ready to claim my reward: morning coffee.

Telling myself to think about coffee in the bed does not always work (warm and comfortable bed in February Toronto weather wins many days), however over the years I also learned that I do not have to constantly remind myself to get out of bed. It becomes easier as time goes…started to “slowly” look forward to morning workout with coffee.

Going out for a walk when I am down


This is probably the very best habit I’ve stumbled upon last year in October. So, it has been only a few months but it is such a valuable routine I formed and I do not want to ever lose.

It was one sunny October day, And I got a phone call from the client. The first thing he said was that he did not like the design. You see, I was designing a custom house for a couple who had many ideas with a tight budget. Of course, while I was screaming inside to point out that it is not easy to incorporate all the design ideas they have, I calmly asked. ”

Which part of the design you don’t like?

He started pointing out the bedroom is too small, the closet needs to have more shelves, The kitchen needs to have more cabinets etc. in other words, it was not the design issues but the size issue. I calmly explain to him that the house needs to become bigger, and also pointed out that the budget is going to be higher designing a bigger house.

Even with the explanation, he was not satisfied, He insisted that I should be able to design within the square footage with the same budget . I knew I was not going to win this argument, and promised him that  I would look at a few other design options and get back to him following week.

Not only I was out of ideas… I was also upset at myself for agreeing to come up with a design that creates the “feeling of a bigger house, but not actually a bigger house” dilemma which I run into quite often.

At that moment, I knew I was not going to be productive.

I also knew this particular incidence would ruin the rest of the day. Whenever I’m faced with negative things in a day, I noticed I have a tendency to ruin the rest of the day as well. I could not take that chance. I had deadlines for OTHER projects.

With these particular constraints, I absolutely had to be  productive for the rest of the day. Instead of dwelling in negative thoughts, I decide to go out. I wanted to stop thinking about the phone call. In fact, I wanted to Think about happy thoughts… That is how I found a new routine: walking while listening to music/ podcasts! For a mere 15 minutes of walking/listing to music, I started to feel different.

I was no longer thinking about the phone call,

I was free from negative thoughts. I was FREE!

That instant, I decided to add ONE MORE positive thing to this significant day. Seeing the neighbourhood running track nearby, I decided to run. Coming back home after running the track several times,  I had a huge my aha(not Operah’s) moment.

I was able to turn around a minor negative moment into a hugely positive one.

Ever since that huge memorable October day, I have a new routine of working out( aka walking with music) whenever I run into negative moments.


It is the second week of February.

I still like to believe that we are “early” in the year, therefore, we can still talk about resolutions, inspirations and improvements in our year 2020. 

What have been your resolutions for your 2020? Have you been following them? Better yet, accomplished them? Or like me, deciding to continue with the “old” resolutions that have been working. I would love to hear your stories, especially from the design community!


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