I have been setting yearly themes since 2018. My theme for 2018 was “Relevant and Resilient” which helped me design a lifestyle that was resilient to external factors (such as the political climate in the US). The theme motivated me to build my professional brand — I started blogging, building my YouTube channel, and buying my own apartment in my hometown. The theme resulted in the most intense and productive year of my working life.
It did flare up my workaholic tendencies though. As a corrective measure, I set my theme for 2019 as “Prioritize Play”. An yearly theme is an excellent decision-making tools. “Prioritizing Play” meant that I chose fun activities over activities that felt like work. For example, given a choice between making a YouTube video (which is more work than play, believe me) and playing Dungeons and Dragons on the weekend, my theme dictated that I play Dungeons and Dragons. 2019 saw me develop new interests (D&D, art tours, city tours, etc.), take epic trips across India and the US, and even try out a new career path (aka prototyping a DevRel career). It was a year of intense experimentation and fun!
In retrospect, 2018 and 2019 were productive and fun, yet very intense. In 2020, I want to chill. To rest and reset. So my theme for 2020 is “Establish Balance”.
The next step is to set goals that align with the yearly theme. My 2020 goals are:
Appreciate and celebrate
My first goal is to identify and appreciate elements of balance already present in my life (things like the 4-day workweek at Cockroach Labs, flexible work hours, unlimited paid time off, good health, friends and family who love me and care for me).
I developed several new interests in 2019. In 2020, I would like to cultivate my interest in D&D, art, travel, and fiction writing:
- I want to complete the current Dungeons and Dragons campaign and possibly start another one.
- I want to complete two Paint with Numbers projects.
- I want to take an epic Europe trip with my parents.
- Apart from my tech writing tasks, I want to explore writing fiction as a hobby.
I want to focus on health and wellness this year. But instead of setting punishing goals like lose x amount of weight or workout 5 days a week, I want to honor my body and set realistic, tiered goals:
- To start with, I want to be able to comfortably complete 12 suryanamaskar (sun salutations) and meditate for 10 minutes for 21 days in January. The goal here is to get in the habit of dedicating time to my yoga practice consistently.
- In February, I want to follow the meal plan-prep-plate method to ensure I eat well.
- In March, I want to complete the 21 days of couch to confident yoga program.
Based on the results of the first quarter’s experiments, I will set health and wellness goals for the next quarter.
Changing the success metrics
The follow-up to the idea of setting a yearly theme and goals is to change the metrics by which I judge how “successful” my week. For my 2018 theme of “Resiliency”, my success metrics were the traditional productivity metrics — how many PRs did I open, how many blog posts I wrote, and so on. For 2019’s theme of “Prioritizing Play”, my success metric was how many fun activities did I participate in that week. For 2020, with the yearly theme of “Establishing Balance”, I want to measure the success of the week in terms of the self-care/well-being activities I do in the week. Did I eat well? Did I sleep well? Did I complete my wellness challenge?
What this means is that even if I have a fantastic week at work but I don’t do the well-being/self-care activities, I would not consider the week to be a “success”. From my past experience, I know that aligning the success metrics to the yearly theme helps me make the mindset shift that is crucial to achieving my overall goal for the year.
The Year of “Nope“
The final tool in my arsenal of achieving my goal of establishing well-being and balance in my life is saying no by default. I suffer from the “shiny, new idea” syndrome — I get excited by new project ideas and proposals and only later do I realize that I don’t have the time and energy to see them through. So I end up working on several demanding projects simultaneously because I have committed to them, but I am miserable the whole time.
I am not the only one who suffers from this syndrome. It’s a common affliction in my social group, as evidenced by this conversation on Twitter. One of the tips I received in that conversation was to make my default answer to new project requests be “Let me think about it”, thereby giving me a few days to see if I am still excited about the idea or if my enthusiasm for the project has waned. If I am still excited about the idea, I should definitely take it up. If not, I can say no and save myself and others a lot of anxiety and mental stress. This will help me be intentional, selective, and mindful in my projects, thus helping me achieve a sense of balance and well-being.
So that’s my yearly theme and goals for 2020! I would love to know what your theme and goals are. Comment down below and let me know!