As 2023 comes to a close, it’s time for me to figure out my yearly theme for 2024.
Rather than doing resolutions (which seem destined for failure), over the past couple of years I have been doing yearly themes; not as much tangible goals that I’m attempting to measure myself against throughout the year, and more guideposts that I aim to stay between (or adjust appropriately) as the year goes on.
In 2022, I did Year of the Garden. Its aim was to encourage the habits and hobbies that I wanted to flourish in my life, while simultaneously pruning back or razing the things that were making me unhappy or taking up too much of my time. This was mostly prep for my daughter being born, as I knew that I needed to learn how to prioritize my time well.
2023 was more of the same - I went with Year of Sustenance. While I was initially annoyed realizing the similarities between my 2022 and 2023 themes, it sank in that the core goals were what I truly needed to focus on, as I don’t feel like I really “completed” my initial theme.
Themes can definitely be similar to resolutions; a great thing to start your year, and something that you just fall off of hard within a few weeks or months. Unfortunately, this is what’s happened to me. When they say “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” they could’ve written that about a growing toddler.
My main goal with Sustenance was focus on blocking out and planning my time, while simultaneously giving myself the freedom and flexibility to make changes as necessary. But I’d go one week where I forget to make that plan because I was stressed out from parenting things, and suddenly I was in a tailspin that I couldn’t seem to climb out of.
So here I was, on break for the holiday, trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. Some more garden theme stuff (Year of Cultivation)? Another year of trying to iron out my free time so there are no wrinkles? That just didn’t sound… fun. Enjoyable. Purposeful. It made me feel like I was in a rut.
As I’m contemplating all of this, I happened to be listening to the most recent Cortex episode where Myke and Grey were talking over their themes from last year and sharing what they’re doing for this year. I don’t remember exactly what phrase Grey said, but it triggered an absolute lightbulb moment for me.
2024 - Year of Understanding
Understanding. “A mental grasp; the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars; a mutual agreement not formally entered into but in some degree binding on each side.”
As 2023 wore on, I found myself doing a lot of analyzing of not just what I did or said or emoted, but how I did these things, and why I did them. Why do I gravitate to games that take up all my time? Why do I think that carrying a notebook with me will make me feel better? Why do I not want to touch my piano or make music anymore?
Many of the adjustments that I have been making in my life have been ones where I am just changing to change. Making adjustments without thinking through the “why” behind it. A literal manifestation of “fuck around and find out”. Sometimes the results are great, other times hilarious, but many times things just don’t stick and I find myself getting frustrated. That notebook I was so excited to carry with me and write in? It’s been sitting on my dresser for weeks.
I’m not exactly sure how this is going to look, especially as I dive into it more, but here’s what I’m thinking:
And here I thought I was gonna escape my last two themes. NOPE! I do want to continue this work, carving out opportunities for joy in my life, and prioritizing the things that matter the most. Because right now, that’s what’s most important to me, is making sure my family is taken care of, and that my physical, mental, and spiritual health are all maintained.
As of right now, this will look a lot like last year - making lists of the things I want to accomplish, blocking out the time to do them, and finding some sort of way to keep track of stuff in a way that allows me to see the success.
(I will say, I’m really happy that this general theme worked so well for me that it’s taken over my life. That means I did something really well a couple years ago.)
Schedules, Planning, & Recaps
I’ve discovered over time that I work really well in small blocks of time. Developers might think of this as “agile methodology”, where I carve out the work I want to do in 1-2 week blocks, commit to doing it, getting it done, and then repeating those steps over and over until the project is complete. It’s different when the project is “life”… but not really.
In my head, this looks like 3 separate things:
- Schedule out time for me to do concrete, repeatable things (gym time, woodworking time, and dedicated game time with friends). Get these on the calendar, make them repeating events, and stick to them. I’ve already gotten a jump start on a lot of these, and so far it’s worked out well.
- Plan out other activities. Things like the books I want to try and read this year, or the woodworking projects I want to do. That way, when I go to do those activities, I don’t get into the wheel-spinning rut of “well what do I do?”, and I can just dive in.
- Recap frequently. Instead of revisiting just quarterly, do small weekly recaps, and medium sized monthly recaps as well. Break things down to a level that gives me the freedom to reset accordingly as I go, while also letting me build up to bigger and bigger things.
Analysis & Deep Dives
This is the crux of my year, and how I’m mixing things up from the last two years. Using what I learn from each weekly recap, I’m going to try and do more digging into the how and why of the things I choose to do, say, and think. Did I not follow through with something I really wanted to? Ok, fine… but why? What was the thing that made me go “yeah, I want to do that”, and why was I unable to continue that train of thought to success?
I’ve set way too many arbitrary goals with no plan on how to get from A to B. Instead, I think it’s time I look at some of these pathways, and figure out what it would take to keep me on course. Whether it’s some sort of motivation, or smaller goals, or milestones to make sure I hit… whatever it is, this is what I need to figure out.
(Some of you will look at this and go “hey that’s like therapy”, which will then make you think “hey maybe you should go to therapy, Nic”. And you’d be right on both counts.)
I’m super excited about this theme, and I think figuring out a way to make my analysis somewhat public or outward-facing could be a really fun exercise. We’ll see how this goes.