Thursday, 5 January 2017

Yearly planning - Don't just add things

Do I even need to make a yearly plan?

I'm not generally a guy who does yearly planning, I prefer to just wing it because I know some broad aims I'm heading toward and it usually works out fine. 2016 was a bit of a bumpy ride though and December really got me thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life. I've also met a lot of phenomenal people and almost all of them have really strong (self-defined) structures that they use to run their lives. Most likely it's a case of using the structure to reduce ego-depletion (or decision-fatigue, if you prefer) but they definitely trade in a little bit of freedom for a massive increase in productivity. So this year I thought I'd finally try my hand at making a proper plan for myself.

Initially I assumed it'd be only a couple of hours worth of thinking but it soon turned into several afternoons of reading, making notes and contemplating. I do have a small thought I'd like to share about how to get the most of your yearly planning (should you decide to do it) but first I'll just mention the system I happened to use:
  • Before making a specific plan, I used this article to help create a high-level Blueprint first: Create A Life Plan | ArtOfManliness (~10 min read)
  • Once I had a better sense of the various roles and goals I wanted to focus on, I used the 'Agile Results' system to have three "stories" to focus on per day, per week, per month and per year. (~2 min read)
    • Keeping it to three stories is important because I used to have these loonngg lists of "goals" that I'd want to do in an entire year. 
    • All that did was set me up for frustration because over the course of the year most of the time is just spent in overwhelm.
    • Tony Robbins has this quote I found helpful (and I'm paraphrasing) - Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, and vastly underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade.

Ease off the brakes or push down the gas?


There's this thought experiment that's been bothering me for a long time and it goes something like this: Say you're in a car, cruising on the highway and you're keeping both the brake and gas-pedal pressed at the halfway point. The question is, if you want to go faster, do you ease off the brakes or do you press down harder on the gas?

I was once very much all about pressing down that gas pedal - for me that means starting new things and pushing onward through obstacles and just generally being obstinate about things. But that gets exhausting very quickly and so since late 2013 or so I've been more about easing off the brakes - for me that means making my day more frictionless, setting up systems for things, trying to automate things, and so on.

The problem is that easing off the brakes is a past-focused activity and so you're constantly in clean-up mode, fixing past mistakes and going over things (for me atleast). While it's definitely important, it's often not practical to be entirely focused on that. Meanwhile, going hard on the gas pedal is very future-focused and it can be fun and exciting but it's also not very introspective and I'm worried I might take a look around in 5 years and wonder how the hell I got into the middle nowhere!

Don't keep piling on


So the big insight I had this year was that with my 3 stories (per day, week, etc), I don't need to be only focused on the past or only focused on the future and on new projects. Instead, two of the stories are future focused and one of them is focused on eliminating something in my life.

So for example on a daily basis it might look like:
  • finish yearly planning               (+)
  • start working on portfolio        (+)
  • reduce the wardrobe by 50%.  ( - )
On a quarterly basis I might be looking to eliminate something bigger. Maybe be less lazy, or stop skipping meals or something.

Best of luck for 2017

Anyway, after several afternoons of thinking about this I finally have a yearly plan for the first time in years probably. I'm excited but also kinda anxious. It feels like standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking up; I've no idea if I'm going to reach the top of not. (*゚ー゚)ゞ

I hope 2017 is filled with much fulfillment for you and your loved ones. Hope this helps. :D