I recently talked about resetting my task list to 0 in Things 3, but that’s not all I do to start a year without the baggage of what’s happened in the past. This year I’ve been aided in clearing things out by moving from Chilliwack BC to Prince George BC. All the things I did previously are now 700km away so I can’t do them anymore.
This doesn’t mean I can let that be my only resetting though. Here is what I do, at least attempt to do, every year over the holidays to get the next year going on the right foot.
Clear out Last Year’s Comittments
One of the big mistakes people make when they start a year is letting decisions they made the previous year dictate what they’ll be doing going forward. Do you still have the time and desire to volunteer? Do the activities of your children mean you need to find a new running group because you can’t make most of the group runs?
What about all those articles you thought you’d read later…are you going to set aside the time this week to read them? What makes you think you’ll read them in the future?
To clear out my reading lists I go item by item and ask myself 2 questions.
- Does this pertain to an ongoing research project I’m interested in? If so file it and come back to it when you’re working on the project.
- Am I going to read this in the next 3 days (or this weekend)? If not, delete it and don’t worry about it.
The same interaction happens to my YouTube queue, which grows to hours during the year. Am I going to watch these videos at all? In my case, the answer is that yes I’m going to watch more videos than I have in a while. I’ve moved from an area with +5C as the coldest temps we usually see to -35C last week. I purchased an indoor bike trainer and will be riding it a bunch over the next number of months, this means I’ll have lots more time to watch YouTube videos.
That doesn’t mean I’ll just leave my queue though, I’ll go through it and remove things that I’m no longer interested in. I’ll file videos that may pertain to research ideas so that I can find them later.
Check Your Tools
I don’t advocate switching tools lots, but as you cut out commitments do you have the same needs in your tools? This year I’ve been thinking about Things 3 specifically.
Most of the year I only resolved basic tasks, like taking out the garbage. Other things I planned for the future never got done. Do I even need Things 3 if I’m rarely accomplishing the tasks that have been listed in it?
Heck, I rarely even open it on any device unless I add something I think I may do in the future or if I need a quick grocery list.
That means this year I’ll stop using Things 3 and go to Apple’s default Reminders app. If I find I need more power, I can use GoodTask to layer more functions on top of Reminders.
It may be time for you to evaluate the needs of your research tools or your billing software as well. I won’t be changing these items this year, but I at least spent a few minutes deciding if they fit the needs I currently have for those tools.
Evaluate Your Intentions for the Year
Now we’re getting into the more “squishy” items when it comes to planning your year. What do you want to a year to look like? What happened in the last year that you’re not happy about, and how are you going to try and mitigate that influence on your life?
I use 4 exercises to evaluate these things. I have worked with people on these exercises many times and I’ve found it’s important to handwrite this work. Something about slowing down and writing it out away from a screen seems to prompt better thinking. Feel free to type it out after, but do your initial thinking on paper.
This is a long-form essay where you write down what you want your life to look like in 5 years. What will your pet’s name be? How much will you work? What will you be earning? Where will you be living or traveling?
Fold a piece of paper in half top to bottom and then side to side. This will give you 4 quadrants on the paper to work with. In these quadrants write down the 4 most important areas of your life. Mine are:
Then write bullet points about what you want the areas of your life to look like over the next few years.
Yes, this will have lots of overlap with the essay, but they both inform each other. Most people I’ve helped with this work go back and add to their essay if they started with that. If they started with quadrants, they’ll adjust them as they work on the essay.
Antigoals and Ideal Day
These last two exercises are also similar, or at least they’re two sides of the same coin.
For the Antigoals exercise, write down what your worst day would look like. Mine involves a bunch of meetings and interruptions to my focused work time. These interruptions can be due to children, or due to my own poor planning. Either way, the end result is a day I never want to have.
Out of this list, sketch out your ideal day. What time would you start? What would you do first thing? What type of interruptions happen, or don’t happen? When do you deal with email? How do you feel at the end of the day and what type of tasks do you accomplish?
Now, I will have children interrupt me at some point most days. My wife works after school coaching skating so I have at least 2 children around most nights to manage. This means I plan the right type of work when I have to manage children. Answering some emails, or entering tax receipts is something I can do then. I never intentionally put deep focused work time when kids will be around because as soon as I do they become the neediest interruption machines around.
Somehow if I’m shuffling papers and interruptions don’t matter, kids entertain themselves. If I want to focus they know about it and have so many questions and fight.
With all these exercises done you can build a yearly theme. I like this much more than goals because goals can get entirely derailed. I had lots of goals for 2020, and they all got shut down when kids didn’t go back to school and we all had to figure out how to deal with the way the world was now going to operate.
This year my theme is Refinement and it encompasses a few things.
First, I want to refine my YouTube videos. I want to improve my edits with better transitions and b-roll. I want to increase my quality. That means I’ll cut back to 2 videos a week instead of the 3 I was producing for the last quarter of 2021.
It also means I’ll be watching other popular YouTube channels and try to mimic the interesting things I see in their edits. Yes, it will be copying them to start, but only once you’ve copied a bunch do you start to see exactly what you can do and what fits with your style.
I don’t plan on changing my direct style because people love that about my channel, but I want to enhance it just a bit.
On YouTube, this also means I’ll put some more effort into title choice, content choice, and thumbnails. I want to have a better-performing YouTube channel in 2022.
In my personal life, this means I’ll refine my workouts so that I spend less time on them while still being fit for the bigger events/adventures I want to do in 2022. To that end I have the indoor training I’m learning about and I’ll likely do a workout plan with the trainer to optimize my fitness.
That’s really it. The big takeaway is to not let yourself get stuck doing the same old thing you have been doing just because it has momentum. Take some time to evaluate what you’re doing and be intentional about whether it’s the right thing for you to do continuing with.