My approach to 2021
I have long had a fascination with todo lists, note taking apps, writing platforms, personal and professional goal frameworks, and more recently in personal knowledge management frameworks. I’ve tried many over the years. I often would choose to spend my time researching and playing with various list and note taking apps versus actually doing anything on one of those lists. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been researching a topic, but then get sidetracked by some framework or app or medium article (much more click-baity than this one!) describing some compelling system to save time and get more shit done. The positive, sustained impact these apps and frameworks have had in my life is not apparent, my ability to stick it out to the point of benefit is dismal. Really, powerfully, dismal.
Well — not this year!
Below is an account of how I’ve handled resolutions and goals in years past, and how I intend to manage myself in 2021. Part of my optimism for success this year is I’m doing one thing fundamentally different; I’m putting some of it out there (aka here) to hold myself accountable. I’d love comments, suggestions, acknowledgement, and I’d love to help or give back if you think I can contribute to yours in any way (with the expectation I’m an experienced failure on the subject).
This post is also the crescendo of me going as meta as I’m allowed to go all year. Getting it out of my system so I can actually GSD!
I feel the world is just exploding with things to learn, people to engage with, places to make a difference. I’m personally overwhelmed with what to do, where I could possibly have positive impact, and what will make me happy for the long term. I need a framework to ensure the wee bit of free time I have is spent as effectively as possible.
If you prefer an unstructured, go where the wind takes you everyday, without firm goals or intentions, then this post probably isn’t for you…
My Personal Feeling, Intention, Behaviour and Knowledge Management Update for 2021
This all started with intention setting and Danielle Laporte’s Core Desired Feeling framework, both things were introduced to me by my intention-focused partner at the time, 8 or so years ago. It was around the time I realized my resolutions were a farce, and my life wasn’t as guided as I would like it to be. I started with “be happy”, and things unfolded from there.
The Core Desired Feeling framework has been super helpful in guiding everyday decisions. To me it means not focusing on goals, but to focus on how you want to feel. Ideally 3–5 single words that describe feelings you aspire to. Memorize them. Repeat them. Assume them. And then as you approach every day, every choice, use them as a backdrop for your decisions. Take stock after the decisions if you were successful or not, adjust if needed, repeat. Pretty simple, very powerful.
Since then, I’ve done as many do, copy and paste from last year, reflect at years begin, and evolve the strategy. This year, I’ve flushed out the strategy because of some new tooling i’m using which i’ll describe below in the Process section below.
It has also grown. It is not simple. It is not bite sized. I looked into The Theme System and it is rad but not comprehensive enough for me. I’ve done with it as I’ve done with the other systems, taken the elements I like and baked them into my own system.
Here is the taxonomy for my system, the elements and definitions that are important to understand. In general these are sorted from most important elements, to those of lesser importance.
Growth Core Desired Feeling: Feelings that I aspire to feel more of and hence are placed at the top, but will need work and growth to become second nature in my process and intentions.
Example: SUPPORTIVE. Feeling like a supportive human being is my top GCDF this year. I’m a new dad and have a growing family, and I have extended family and friends I care very much about. Feeling like a supportive partner and supportive human being for these humans is of utmost importance to me. Selfishly and reciprocally, there is no way I’ll achieve anything else if I also don’t have this support, so I need to feel this on the regular. So when I decide to do a thing for me, or do a thing to bolster my family, chances are the latter will give me more of a supportive feeling.
Foundational Core Desired Feeling: Feelings I’ve focused on in previous years (usually in the growth category), and have now moved to be foundational. I would like to continue feeling these throughout the coming year, but they don’t require a lot of my conscious effort to incorporate in my day to day. I will be on the lookout however, and shift if necessary to ensure they continue to bolster my growth.
Example: CURIOUS. Be engaged in an activity or don’t do it, and actively be curious about the world around me, and follow those curiosities. I’ve used this in the past, and it was a fantastic way for me to remind myself to explore areas of interest as a primary motivator. Right now, this coming year, this is not an area I need to grow in, I can rely on a more natural curiosity.
Future Core Desired Feeling: Feelings I know I’d like to feel more frequently, but aren’t on my main list this year knowing that I can only focus on so many things. Acknowledging things I will not be focusing on is just as important as those I will be, and this is a mechanism designed to lead to additional focus. (if you’re familiar with Agile, consider this the Core Desired Feeling backlog).
Example: GENEROUS. Be grateful, and give back. Who doesn’t want to be generous and help others? I know I have work to do here, and of course I want to do more of this, but this is not the year. Committing to making this a GCDF in the next 5 years, by 2025.
General Intention:: A way in which I want to approach the year. Not a specific goal, and more specific than a feeling, it’s something to keep in mind throughout the year that i aspire to. Guiding principles. This also includes things like vision statements about where i want to be at years end.
Example: This year is not about evolving the process. I’m going to pick a process, and tools, and try to stick with them as much as possible. No endless looking in to new systems, list making capabilities, etc.
Specific Intention:: basically, ok fine I’ll admit, this is essentially a goal, a new years resolution. It's far down on the list based on all the other things though, the GCDFs are far more important.
Example: Be proud of my personal knowledge and behaviour management systems, and improve upon them (ie build that app that lets me easily input, and easily see digested data on how i’m doing!)
Process:: this includes tools and mechanisms i will incorporate to hold myself accountable. This is my guilty pleasure, and I’ll include the entire section further below.
Footnotes:: other explainers, or items that don’t fit anywhere else, could even be things to carry forward year after year.
Ok, so let's get to the process, how am I going to succeed here?
There are two processes I followed here, how this process is kicked off, and how it sustains throughout the year.
For the kickoff process, I wrote a document in iA Writer, my journaling and writing tool of choice, its where I brainstormed the above, and came up with the final set of all the items under each heading. This is the guideline I follow for whats in this document:
- Growth Core Desired Feelings: 1–5, sorted. A single word, with a brief explainer
- Foundational Core Desired Feelings: as many as you like, unsorted. A single word, with a brief explainer
- Future Core Desired Feelings: as many as you like, loosely sorted. A single word, with a brief explainer
- General Intentions: 3–5, a paragraph for each
- Specific Intentions: 1–5, a paragraph
- Process: Essentially this! This is getting inception level META
I took a few hours on New Years Day, started with a blank slate and started writing, grouping concepts to form the taxonomy, and started moving things around until there was convergence.
I then reviewed years’ past intention and feeling notes (which I previously kept in the Apple Notes app), and incorporated what I found that was still of interest.
Did a final review and merger/move, reduced, and voila, a final set of all the items above.
And then / now? Follow the ongoing process, here it is, mostly verbatim:
- Tracking of projects, ideas, learning, goals, and some todos, with Roam Research (aka Roam)
- Include a copy of my framework (ie all the above with all the gory details) within a single Roam page, all CDFs and intentions linkable
- For each specific intention and goal that comes up throughout the year, have a seperate page for each, and break them down into smaller micro deliverables (this set of videos is a great primer for Roam users on what I’ve based my process on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmjrEyJa6Co)
- Also use Roam for many work notes (with redactions as necessary)
- Use Google Keep and Apple Notes for general and family todo lists
- Milestone out weeks, month ends, quarter / season ends, and years end. Add placeholder events in Roam to catch all these things, and have a template for each.
- The milestone template is of the form; go through all goals, close out any no longer of interest, re-sort as needed, look for dangling TODOs. The bigger the milestone, the more time to spend, as this is likely where much of the divide and conquering of goals will occur.
- Track all my time-based, of-interest habits and behaviours (ie fiction reading, research into digital public spaces, writing, strength training, etc) as they come up as Roam notes, and mastered in a Google spreadsheet. After 1 month, mock up visuals of what i’m looking for at the end of the year. Roll this up and update at week or months end.
- Draw a picture of this whole thing, have a working visual of this process (see below).
- Allow the whole process to be agile. As part of the reflection points, if something isn’t working, change it. The whole thing might need to be adjusted considerably as curve balls come in, let it happen, be resilient.
- Share the process. Putting it out there serves several 2 purposes; firstly accountability, but also I’d love to connect with others interested in this type of thing, and improve my process as a side effect (hence this post!)
Is me writing this just a self-fulfilling, only-caring-about-the-process and not actually doing things example? Maybe!
But I’ll go back to my main hypothesis — by putting this out there, it should add a few grains of accountability to the process, and those should serve to echo in my brain when I’m deciding to play another game of Good Sodoku, or my week end review.
I mentioned a lot above. If you have any feedback please leave it in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter! Wow thanks for reading!!
Oh ya — and the picture!