I am currently getting a head start (it’s November) on my plan for the following calendar year.
I achieved less than 50% of my plan for this year, but overall has been very successful, and lots of good things happened, although I did have a shaky start.
I am thinking about how to structure the planning for my next year, and how all the components of a life plan come together to create something that makes a difference.
The major life areas that everyone will want to cover in a plan are as follows:
What’s important is that while we can carve these areas of life into neat little categories and boxes, life doesn’t work that way. There are all interrelated, and we have to realize that we have two fundamental limits: time and attention.
Because for the next year we have 365 days, that’s the maximum amount of time available. You cannot do 400 days’ worth of work in 365 days (assuming there are no optimizations available. And of the 365 days available, you will not be able to use your full attention every day. There are days when life gets in the way. You’ll be ill, you’ll need to spend your entire day fighting the government bureaucratic machine to get some paperwork, or you’ll spend it travelling across the world — whatever. You cannot be 100% productive every day, and this assumption must be baked into your plan.
The “fun” category above I feel, is helpful to reserve as a type of bucket list. For instance, where does “swimming with dolphins” or “parachuting” go into a life plan?
In fact, what are the components of a life plan? This is still all swimming in my head, but I think some of the critical things to consider are meaning values, goals, habits, routines, and rituals.
I think meaning is intrinsically something that we all want. Nobody (at least nobody I know!) would argue that they want a meaningless life. But what is the meaning of life? Probably what we make of it — it is easy to see things in a long enough timeline where nothing matters. Eventually, the universe will end, but that still means you need to do something tomorrow.
Values are, quite literally, the things you value. For instance, you may value tranquillity, which is going to feed into everything else that you do. Or, you may value being the best and being highly competitive, and this would take you down a different set of goals.
Goals are essential to set, but then they can be ignored. They are suitable for setting an initial direction and can act like a compass, and for then allowing us to understand what habits, routines, and rituals we need. The thing is that during the journey to reach our goals, we may well change as individuals, or the situation that we find ourselves in can change. Blindly staying on the path that we set ourselves is stupid. One needs to constantly reevaluate goals and understand what makes sense based on the progress that has been made.
Habits, routines, and rituals. I don’t quite understand the difference yet, but this is something that I want to write more about in the future. But, I can safely state that all of these fall into actions that we repeatedly do. Interestingly, any goal you set should have one or more habits attached to it. For instance, if you want to get fit, you’ll need habits related to regular gym training and eating clean food, etc. So, regular action is what the goal feels like, far more than the goal itself. Getting fit is just a state, but the routine is what it feels like to “be” that goal.
Then, there is some thinking on how to approach a plan. Do you make a significant change and do everything at once, which can be pretty shocking to the system but can work (or fail) precisely for that reason? Or do you schedule out changes over time? In January, I’ll accomplish X; in February, I’ll do Y, and so on. This latter approach may make it easier to be successful, but I know that I am always impatient with things, and I want to have everything now, thus it can be frustrating.
So I think we’ve covered, in a disorganized way, some of the fundamentals of life planning. Right now, I feel that I have a bunch of disorganized jigsaw puzzle pieces that I have not yet figured out how they come together to form a coherent picture of a life plan.
But it is a step in the right direction.