I’m not very good at keeping good intentions. My usual approach is to think broadly about what I would like to do sometime in the next year. Then I put it off until later. Although I do do some things, I often feel like I’m missing out on a lot of things.
That can also be different. Tim Ferriss, the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is known for his time management and productivity hacks. On a recent episode of his podcast, he discussed his alternative to setting New Year’s resolutions. He calls it a “look back at the past year”. The process consists of five steps with which you are actually proactively making plans. Ferriss said he started it ten years ago, after the death of a close friend’s daughter.
I took the test. Looking back on the basis of 5 steps
Grab your calendar from the past year and go through it. Make a list of things that you have experienced as the most positive and the most negative each month. Ferris says this should take between half an hour and an hour. I spent the first part of the year in a lockdown. As a result, I didn’t keep track of what I was doing outside of work. Still, I managed to get a rough idea of my average week. I also realized which things I couldn’t get to because of corona.
Ferriss then applies the 80/20 rule. He identifies the top 20 percent of things that made him happiest or most satisfied. This will be different for each person.
Other than spending time with friends and going on vacation, the positives for me were the times when I felt like I was achieving something or challenging myself. I changed jobs and finally started wearing contact lenses. At the beginning of the year I chaired a number of live, albeit virtual, events. Apply the same 80/20 rule to the negative stuff. For me, these were the times when I said yes to something just to do it, when I was actually against it. Or times when I got stressed because I was disorganized or felt like I was missing out on things. Plan as much as possible of the positive things for the coming year. This ensures that they are not only in your agenda, but that you also have time reserved for them. “In my experience, it’s not real until it’s planned,” Ferriss said in the podcast. I have already planned some vacations with friends. I also signed up for a half marathon in April and started organizing some events for later in the year. Then make a to-do list with the top negative points and hang it somewhere visible.For me, this is primarily a reminder that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. It should also prevent me from getting the feeling that I have to be constantly working.
“It’s not enough to just remove the negative,” Ferriss said in the podcast. “That creates a void that will be filled with all kinds of noise. Other people will set your schedule for you.” The author recommends being proactive and putting things on your calendar.
The system works, but it’s not perfect
So far it works. For example, I’ve wanted to register for a half marathon for months, but I kept putting it off. Now it’s on my calendar.
But whether this will work for a whole year… I can imagine it’s easy to get lost if you’re not disciplined. There are also a number of things that I would like to schedule now, but which are simply not possible yet. I think the system will be more effective over a shorter period of time, like four or six months. Still, it’s a start and works better than my usual approach.
In a year’s time it will show how well I have done. Writing in a diary is one thing, but sticking to those plans is quite another.