When I was 12, I plotted out my entire life on a ream of perforated printer paper. It was a long, skinny timeline of events and milestones: go to college, teach, publish a book. Maybe even get married and have children. I brought the ream of paper to my mother and pointed to each milestone — I needed a witness — then I rolled up my entire life and shoved it into a desk cubby.
Let’s try something. Imagine you’ve just crash-landed somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, deep in the American Southwest. Though the aircraft is now a smoldering wreck, you miraculously survived uninjured, and now find yourself all alone as the sole survivor. Temperatures are topping 110 degrees, and you’re stranded.
Thankfully, you’ve managed to find a few supplies in the wreckage. But while some of the things are vital to your survival, others are useless. To stay alive until rescuers arrive, you must decide which among these items are most important:
Setting goals can feel like a little… much these days. How demoralizing is it when you set your mind to something—saving an extra few hundred bucks this month, or finally using that online yoga subscription, or making one new vegetarian dinner each week—and then proceed to immediately fail at it? Very, is the answer. And none of us needs to go looking for extra ways to feel bad these days.
So is there any way to keep moving forward without setting yourself up for frustration?
Darius Foroux’s advice: Take a cue from Stoicism and focus on what’s within your control…
Usually this is the point in the year when everyone finally admits that their New Year’s Resolutions were terrible mistakes. Run three times a week? Quit Instagram cold turkey? What was January-1st-you even thinking?
But in Covid times, New Year’s Resolutions seem like a relic from another era. Most people aren’t exactly crushing goals, or even vaguely thriving. Most of us are barely keeping it together, each individual stress exacerbated by the stress of feeling like we’re failing at everything, all the time. …
👩💻 Today’s tip: Ask yourself, what would my replacement do?
The question comes from Dave Girouard, the CEO of the tech startup Upstart. He tells First Round Review that as a mental exercise, he thinks about what would happen if his board got together and fired him. “And they went out and found the very best CEO in the world, one who would just make me look like a fool. And if they bring her in and she starts at Upstart — what would she do differently than what I’m doing?”
How would someone with a clean slate and eyes…
Most of us enter January on the life equivalent of a Red Bull high: amped, but in an intense, jittery way that inevitably leads to crash.
In almost everything else, some kind of slow, measured warm-up is considered good form — you rehearse before a speech, train before a marathon, tinker with an email before hitting send. You don’t start a year cold if you want to do it right. Which is why Mollie Chen, the founder of Birchbox, recently suggested a small calendar tweak in her newsletter: Think of January as the staging area for the year, a time…
We make all kinds of lists: To-do lists. Grocery lists. Bucket lists. Anti-bucket lists. Making lists helps us corral information and get our heads around big tasks. Some research has shown that it can keep us from ruminating about what we haven’t done.
But lists are still a tragically underused tool. They’re great for productivity and big goals, sure, but when you get creative with them, that’s where the magic really happens. A good list can streamline your days and improve your weeks in radical, unexpected ways. …
✅ Today’s tip: Keep a list of skills you want to master.
Everything is easier to handle when you put it in a list. Start a Google sheet to track the new skills you want to learn, or learning opportunities that interest you. It will help you stay organized, and then later on will serve as a useful record of what you’ve done and progress you’ve made.
📚 More from Forge on life-enhancing spreadsheets:
Ranking My Relationships Made Me a Better Friend
Read more >>
Track Your Failures Obsessively
Read more >>
Dump All Your Exes Into a Spreadsheet
Read more >>
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The glamorous achievement of a big and major goal is won in small and unglamorous increments. One way to make sure those baby steps not only happen but feel meaningful along the way is to plan for them. As Mike Sturm writes in Forge, if you “create a realistic time block for the task” and build your day around it, you’ll end your day with “at least one win.”
The most important part of this process comes right at the top: Estimate how long it will take you to get done. Realistically.
✅ Today’s tip: To turn your big goal into a regular practice, calculate your hours per year.
Here’s a helpful perspective shift: Instead of “I better finally run that marathon I keep talking about,” or whatever your marathon is, think about the number of hours you’ll spend working toward that goal. The time-management guru Laura Vanderkam estimates that—assuming eight hours of work and eight hours of sleep each day—each of us has somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 free hours per year, depending on caregiving and other responsibilities.
That’s right — even if you’re really busy, you probably have at least…