The end of 2023 and the start of 2024
I hope all of you had a good start into the new year. Considering that I was sick 🤧 and managed to lock myself out of my own flat (🤦🏼♀️) during the last week of 2023, the first week of 2024 was an absolute success as nothing special happened.
This year is off to a slower start than usual, which I do not mind. I went skiing for a couple of days and am mentally preparing for doing my new year’s resolutions (better late than never, right?).
My new year’s resolutions system
As some of you might know, I’ve come up with quite a system for new year’s resolutions over the last decade (if not longer). It consist of three key steps. Firstly, I identify the areas I want to work on. Last year I had eight categories, this year I reduce it to the following seven: health, relationships, finances, fun, personal development, professional life and home.
These categories help to keep track of the individual new year’s resolutions. Secondly, for each category I list what I want to work on or achieve during the upcoming year. I list both wishes and goals, because making something happen is not always fully within my area of control. Some of my resolutions are recurring items, such as reading at least 12 books a year, which is one of my standard personal development goals.
Thirdly, when everything is written down on a piece of paper, I look at each single item and think about what is required from my side for making it happen. Hereby I like to think of life having three kinds of currencies which I can use “to pay for it”: time, emotions and money (this is actually taken from an exercise about dreams from Timothy Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Work Week”). Reading 12 books a year certainly needs a regular time commitment. Depending on the kind of books I choose, it will require more or less motivation to continue reading. Lastly, I can either buy the book myself or borrow it from a library.
It will take a bit of time to come up with the list and go through each single item. However, I believe it’s totally worth it as it helps me to better assess what is required from my side.
What else to consider when coming up with new year’s resolutions and following up
There are two books which have profoundly influenced me about how I set and go about my new year’s resolutions.
The first one is “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr. Whatever is on my list has to matter and be of importance to me. Sounds like a no-brainer however there have been items on my list in the past which were not really important to me but to other people whose judgement mattered to me (at least at that point of time). If my resolutions are not important to me on a personal level, chances are really high I will not achieve them. Thus they either have to be weeded out or I’ll change my perspective about them and they actually start to matter directly to me. Additionally, by reading John Doerr’s book it becomes clear that ideally goals are measurable. If they are measurable we can keep track of them. That is exactly why I specify to read at least 12 books a year and not simply to “read more” – the latter is too ambiguous. However, not everything can be measured. A good friendship is not judged by a rating but by how I and my friend feel about it. Impossible to quantify but there are ways to circumvent this. For example, I want to catch up with my good friend X at least every other week over coffee, because that’s what we usually do. On one side I have to think about the individual friendship I cherish and on the other side about how it is nurtured if I want to stay in touch with my good friend.
So now we are talking about habits, which brings me to the second book. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear brought me to the realisation that during execution mode the focus is on processes (habits) and not goals. If I have the right habits in place, then it will be easy to read at least 12 books a year. A habit defines how, when, where & for how long an action takes place. Some people like to read on a train and others before going to bed. I like both but I had to think about this beforehand as otherwise I would not carry a book constantly in my backpack to have something to read on the train.
Lastly, all of this will only work if there are regular review sessions. These check-in points are really important to check my habits and reflect on what I can do better in the future or what I want to focus on during the next quarter. I like to use a Sunday afternoon either at the beginning or end of a month for this.
Do new year’s resolutions actually work?
Some people think they are complete BS (like my sister) and for others they are a source of energy and motivation. I don’t have such extreme feelings about them, but since I’ve developed my own system for them I do consider them to be beneficial. Did everything work out in the past? No, but I learned a lot and did make progress – and this is what matters to me. I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes (like putting too many on my list, not thinking about the underlying habits, not having any check-in points during the year, etc.) but the learnings have been priceless.
As with many things, it’s what you make out of it (seems to be the key, pun intended). I’ll make my list again next week and am excited to see what will work out and what will go terribly wrong in 2024 (always looking out for a good story to tell later on!). Maybe a bit late this year, but better done than perfect 😉.
Wishing you all the best for a happy 2024,