How to get the most out of the next year

by alexvermeer3 min read22nd Dec 20113 comments


Personal Blog

We are not automatically strategic. Since we want to get stuff done, it only makes sense to try harder—and what better time than the start of a new year?

In short: the New Year is a great time to do some life review and planning. How are things going? How was the past year? Do a thorough personal review to find out. What are you going to do next year? Make a plan. How can you increase your chances of success? Take all of your plans, projects, and goals and optimize them based on what you have learned on Less Wrong.

In the spirit of communal winning, here are the details on how I do my yearly review. Maybe you will find this process as useful as I have? I’m not quite sure if this is LW quality, so let me know with the karma.

For starters, I break down my life into fourteen areas, not necessarily of equal importance or in any specific order:

Worldview & Purpose – Do you have something to protect? Your worldview is your complete set of beliefs about everything—the past, present, and future; what is valuable, virtuous, and just. Do you have clarity as to your existence, purpose, and place in the universe? What is your philosophy of life? What do you want to get out of life?

Contribution & Impact – How are you giving value to the world? Are you making a difference? How much impact does your existence have environmentally, socially, and cognitively? Are you practicing optimal philanthropy?

Location & Possessions – Are you tied to one location? Are you mobile? This includes your current living situation, where you are in the world; your home, possessions, electronics, toys, and material sufficiency.

Money & Finances – Do you have savings, investments, assets, and debt? Do you have a budget and do you follow it? Are your finances organized and managed? Do you know where you spend your money?

Career & Work – Your work, job, career, or business; your source of income. Is what you do your calling? Are you engaged? Have you optimized your job? Are you networked within your industry?

Health & Fitness – What do you eat? Do you exercise regularly? How often do you get sick? What is your overall energy level and resistance to illness? What are your major health issues and susceptibilities?

Knowledge & Education – What do you know? Are you developing your mind and learning new things? Do you have any talents or skills? Are you being educated?

Communication – Are you spreading ideas? Do you spend time discussing, influencing, persuading, arguing, philosophizing, debating, interacting, writing, or speaking?

Intimate Relationship – The intimate relationship(s) you have or want to have; your partner; the quality of your relationship.

Social Life – This covers your home life, relationships with family members, friends, and social experiences. Are you networking? Are you meeting new people? Are you a member of any clubs and organizations?

Emotions – Your general feeling about life. Are you optimistic or pessimistic, positive or negative? Are you aware of your emotions as they are happening?

Character & Integrity – Your intelligence, integrity, honesty, courage, compassion, honor, self-discipline, etc.

Productivity & Organization – Your memorized solutions, daily routine, and schedule. How good is your productivity? Do you act effectively? Are you organized?

Fun & Adventure – Are you experiencing what you want to experience? Are you enjoying life? Are you doing things for fun? Do you have any hobbies or regular recreation? Do you have any creative pursuits?

Review and Planning

I do four things with the above breakdown, generally over the course of at least a few days, and in all cases using mind maps.

1. Review the current state of my life.

Everything. Every little detail about each area of my life. Spend time in reflection. Gather up what life data I can find. Be honest!

2. Review my ideal future.

How do I want things to look? What do I want to be doing? Long-term and medium-term goals, plans and projects. What would the ideal me look like?

3. Extract the important things I want to work on over the next year.

This is usually in the form of 3-5 ‘major’ goals. I try to spread them out across various levels: some are life optimizing, others are specific projects.

Example 1: Read all LW posts – I’ve been cherry-picking posts/sequences for a long time. A comprehensive read-through is in order.

Example 2: Lead climb a 5.12c route – Climbing is amazing: it’s social or solo depending on your mood; you make constant, noticeable, incremental progress; it’s extremely fun; it uses all of your body and core; it’s mentally challenging; and it’s exercise to boot!

Example 3: Review and optimize my philanthropy – Review what I'm giving. Cancel those useless donations. Sort out my money situation. Determine how much I can give away and the most optimal way to do it.

4. Optimize for success!

I used to use an unorganized mish-mash of techniques that I’ve picked up over the years, but now that we have a clear outline of what makes us happy and why we procrastinate, among other things, this step got a whole lot easier.

Using what we know, I try to optimize all of my goals to increase their chances of success. For example: break things down into smaller parts when possible; make it clear how my projects tie in with my bigger life goals; make sure my goals are specific and measurable, and so on.

I also use a compact year calendar to hold all my big deadlines, project timelines, and special events. This helps me keep a big-picture view of the year. Aside from that, everything is electronic, in calendars, mind maps, documents, etc.

That pretty much sums it up. Anyone else going to do some reviewing and/or planning for next year? How do you plan on doing it?

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