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BalanceMinimalismProductivityTools and Systems

The Now page and saying No

October 14, 2016 — by Matt

When you aren’t working toward something specific, it’s really hard to figure out what to do with your days, nights, and free time. Things float into your purview – some random event invite, a new Netflix show, some other lukewarm opportunity – and you just say yes; not because you’re really interested, or because it excites you, but because “why not”. You’re not in control of your own attention and energy.

I’m guilty of this. You probably are too.

That’s why I like this Derek Sivers’ “hell yeah or no” concept.

I also like the concept of a “now” page. It outlines the most important things you’re spending your time on. That way, when some opportunity comes up that doesn’t make you say “hell yeah!”, you can point to your “now” page and say “no thanks! I’m working on these things right now.”

I’ll have my now page soon, explaining why I’m saying no to all you beautiful people, and why I’ve been gone from this site for so long.

ExplorationHealth

Evaluation Vacation

April 15, 2016 — by Matt

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Evaluation is key to progress.

Think about it. Companies have quarterly reviews to make sure they’re on the right track and make adjustments to stay competitive. Professional sports teams have post-game meetings and review game tape to see what they can do better. Software teams retrospect on their last release or sprint to figure out how they can improve their output or velocity for the next one.

As driven, motivated, creative individuals, we should be applying some of the rigor, focus, and measurement these groups do to our own lives to make sure we’re maximizing our own important resources – time, energy, and attention.

When we have limited time and attention, we need to be careful how we spend it. I’m a huge fan of minimalism – the concept that removing the unnecessary and superfluous from your life allows you to give more of yourself and your energy to what is important. But just like making progress and failing, using minimalism effectively requires evaluation – of yourself, your possessions, and most importantly, your attention.

Lately I’ve been moving forward on many of my goals, making good progress – but some, such as writing, have been creating some friction, and I’m not sure why. I’ve also been creating stress for myself in areas I don’t think I need to be. I love to write, so why is it causing me so much anxiety lately?

This is why I’m taking a hiatus from writing this blog. Call it an “evaluation vacation”.

I’ve been writing and posting on this blog for around 9 months now, and it’s time for me to evaluate what I really want from this blog and from my writing habit in general. I love writing, and posting here is one way I express that. However, there may be other ways. Or, I may be able to share ideas more effectively here by changing things up. Right now I’m not sure if the way I’m approaching writing here is the most beneficial to my own goals, and the most helpful to all of you.

So I’m taking a step back to adjust. Without doing that, I’m doomed to continue on a path that I may or may not know is the right one. So I hold experimentation and evaluation in very high regard.

No matter what I find, I’ll return here to report what I pondered, evaluated, and ultimately, decided. I expect this exercise to be eye opening and, most importantly, helpful in continuing to focus my goals.

And if you’re need to re-focus (or even if you don’t think you do), I recommend taking some time to evaluate as well. At the very least, you’ll discover that you’re still on the right track and can soldier on. Or you might find that by changing your approach results in much more enjoyment and a whole lot more progress in your goals. Or, you might find that you can jettison something from your life to make you more productive, focused, and happy.

Let me know what you find!

BalanceExperimentationExplorationRisk

Sometimes, Just Do Stuff Because It’s Cool

March 29, 2016 — by Matt

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Sometimes, I overthink.

Overthinking is not cool
Self portrait.

In fact, it’s one of the reason I’ve looked into meditation and started practicing mindfulness. Honestly, it’s probably one of the reasons I that I like a drink or two on occasion. These things turn the volume down on the over-analytical voice in my head.

Because a lot of time that analysis gets in the way of what could be a valuable, memorable, or life-altering experience. It gets in the way of discovering some truly cool shit.

You’ve probably heard the “do one thing a day that scares you” advice. Whether its actually done daily or just something you keep top-of-mind, it’s a valuable tidbit of guidance. I fully support it. But I’ve got another one for you:

Sometimes, just do stuff because it’s cool.

cool flow chart

We did it as kids. We explored because it piqued our curiosity – even before we understood the concept of “cool” or became slaves to it later as teens. Something seemed interesting, so we explored.

And sometimes, that’s enough of a reason to do it.

Now I’m not saying to ignore all inputs, factors, danger, or potential consequences of your actions. I don’t want you waking up in the hospital or staring down the katana blade of the ninja pirate loan shark to whom you now owe 3 months salary and your first born. We’ve been through however many years on this planet partially to learn lessons that protect us from disaster. So, you know, also don’t be dumb.

But let’s face it, most of the decisions we overanalyze aren’t going to take us to those places. Something seems like it could be cool? Won’t bankrupt you, you’re already not doing anything, doesn’t get in the way of any of your bigger goals? You’re with good people, or might meet some, or even… have no fucking clue what’s going to happen? Cool.

Because we deserve to give our overthinking brain the finger and throw caution to the wind. Not all the time. Not even most of the time. But SOMETIMES, damnit.

So let’s just find some cool shit to do.

BalanceBucket ListMinimalism

The Fuck It List

March 22, 2016 — by Matt

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Disclaimer: This article contains a well-known curse word loved, used, and abused the world over. If strong language offends you, you can skip this one. However I'm going to continue using the proper nomenclature, because (a) it's used in only the most positive, life-affirming, and splendiferous way, and (b) I just added "not cursing in my writing" to my Fuck It list. Enjoy.

We’re all familiar with the concept of the Bucket List: a list of activities, experiences, and goals you’d like to accomplish before you bid this life adieu. Sometimes though, it’s just as important to decide what’s NOT important to you as it is to decide what is important. This is where the concept of the Fuck It list comes into play.

What is the Fuck It list?

The Fuck It list is the Bucket List’s evil twin; a list of items that you really just don’t give a rat’s ass about accomplishing. The Fuck It list is a pretty powerful tool to help you focus your energy and decision-making on what is truly important to you and fully cut ties with what isn’t. The more we can do to tune out the bullshit, the better. (Three curses in the first paragraph? I hope you’re still with me…)

As you grow on your journey to unboring, you’ll try a bunch of new experiences and undoubtedly your focus on what is most important to you will change. This might result in adding a few related items to your bucket list, but more often than not your Fuck It list will be the real beneficiary of your experience. When you’ve explored enough to gain a real understanding of what values, experiences, and relationships are most important to you moving forward, your focus on your real goals makes it infinitely easier to cast off any experiences that you just know won’t be important to you.

And one of the advantages of dipping your toes in many different new things is that a lot of those things will not be for you, and you’ll know it almost immediately with very minimal investment in time and energy. Tried your hand at web design and knew immediately it wasn’t for you? Boot it to the Fuck It list, and feel the weight of one more consideration leave your shoulders.

Building your Fuck It list

fuck it list - ecard

Building your Fuck It list is best done as an offshoot of defining your own values and areas of interest. Just like in diet or exercise, defining your fitness or health goals (e.g. boosting your maximal squat, or gaining muscle, or hitting a target weight) will help you eliminate the types of training or nutrition that doesn’t help you reach your goals. Once you’ve written off these methods, it’s much easier to filter through the advice of friends, colleagues, or the internet to concentrate on what will help YOU, and ignore the advice that helps someone with different goals. Just like there is no exercise program that is perfect for everyone, there is no one-size-fits all bucket list.

Sometimes Fuck It list fodder is best taken from the bucket list highlights of others. Your friends and family might have a few lofty goals and worthy endeavors that, although to them represent crowning achievements, don’t really rev your engine. These are sometimes the best fuck it list items, because other people, the media, and society will do a great job of talking them up. If you’ve already written them off, you can ignore all the noise and focus your energy and exploration into new areas, or into activities you know are up your alley.

This is how I’ve started to formulate my fuck it list. I’m still just beginning, so it’s pretty light. But I can breathe easy knowing that I don’t have to waste an ounce of energy thinking about the following items. I’ll also try to include how I settled each of these examples.

1. Running a marathon. This one was easy. My short-term fitness goals include building strength and a bit of muscle, looking like I’ve at least had brushes with athleticism, and being well-equipped to be socially active doing things I love like playing basketball, kickball, or clowning around at the beach. So although I have the utmost respect for those who train for marathons and other tests of endurance, it’s not going to get me into the kind of shape I’d like to be in. It’s not something I feel I need to prove to myself or anyone else, and by safely ignoring it I can focus on my real goals without the distraction of switching up my training.

2. Becoming a millionaire. This one came out of some self-evaluation and realizing where my values lie. I’ve always been of the mindset that experiences and relationships are worth way more than money in the bank, and although I think that financial stability and freedom is important, I believe this stability is worthwhile because of the happiness and health it helps provide for you and those around you. It’s not a goal you reach at a certain net worth or with a certain number of zeroes before the decimal point on your bank statement. If I ended up with a million dollars, I’ll be the last one to complain – but I’m not living my life explicitly to get there. This also brings up another great point about the Fuck It list – these don’t have to be items you’ll never do, just items you don’t have to explicitly strive toward.

3. Drive coast-to-coast alone. This is an example of an item I sniped from someone else’s bucket list; specifically, the excellent “75 Things Every Man Should Do” list from esquire.com. Although I found the entire list enjoyable and even earmarked a few items that might make it on my own bucket list, I found a few that were perfect Fuck It list fodder, including #7, “Drive by yourself from coast to coast.” This sounds really awesome, and I commend anyone who does it, but it’s just not something that revs my engine (no pun intended). Doing it with a few close friends? Now we might be talking.

Please note I’m not passing judgement on any of the above items, they just aren’t my cup-o-tea. One of these items on your bucket list? Great! That’s what makes us unique, and that’s what makes this my Fuck It list and not yours.

Undoubtedly I’ll add to this list as I get older. In fact, I might even remove some things. If one of these items really becomes important to me, it could get knocked off the Fuck It list – but I know it will just happen if it happens, no need to plan for it. I’m much better off investing my energy into the goals I have today.

Start your “Fuck It” list today!

Do you have a fuck it list yet? If not, take 3 or 4 minutes to jot down a few activities, accomplishments, or achievements that you just don’t give a flying fuck about. Put it somewhere safe (I keep mine in [Evernote]). Every time you try something and decide it won’t make you happier or enhance your life, add it to the list.

Start by looking at your bucket list (or if you don’t have one yet, think about some of your specific short- or long-term goals) and think about a few items that, while cool and worthwhile for some, would derail you from reaching those goals. Jot those items down first.

Next, take a look at one or more of the copious “Things every man/woman should do” or “things to do before you die” lists. In fact, go take a look at our [bucket list] items on this site; you might see a few right off the bat that make you think “well, that’s something I don’t care if I ever do.” Add those to your list and then forget about them and move on to something more important. The beauty of the Fuck It list is that if your outlook ever changes, it’s really easy to remove something; but until it does, you don’t have to bother wasting one ounce of energy thinking about it.

Start by writing down 3 or 4 things to get your list started. It shouldn’t take more than 5 or 10 minutes, and once you have the list started and somewhere readily available, you’ll be much more likely to add to it when you think of something new.

Started your list already? Let’s hear some of the goals you won’t be wasting any time or energy on in the comments section below!

BalanceProductivityTools and Systems

Consistency

March 15, 2016 — by Matt

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Get ready for a bombshell…

There is no one secret to success.

Shocker, I know.

And even though we all intuitively know this, it still feels good to believe that there’s only one small change between our current situation and a slingshot to blissful achievement.

I’ve come to learn that it doesn’t work like that. There are, however, a few not-so-secret tenants you’ll often hear. You know the usual suspects – perseverance, focus, networking, execution, luck, a really eye-catching business card, strategic eyebrow waggling – and each (most) of them can certainly help contribute to success.

One of the most important is consistency. And for me (and I suspect many others), it’s importance is often overlooked.

Why is consistency important?

Consistency is incredibly important for making progress. The likelihood of one meeting, one business proposal, one article submission, or one afternoon of working on your passion translating to some big success is very slim. The likelihood of repeated, concerted effort producing small, consistent progress that adds up, however, is very high.

Consistency is also like practice – by building a consistent habit, we’re likely to learn more and improve faster. James Clear, one of my favorite writers on the topic of building habits, penned this article which includes a few great examples of how consistent effort increases your chances of reaching your targets.

Finally, doing something consistently can define you. If you want to be a writer, sit down and write… a lot. If you fancy yourself a musician, you had better be making music consistently. And it doesn’t just apply to productive habits. You might not want to admit it, but if you smoke every day, guess what – you’re a smoker. Batman said it in a really gravely voice – “It’s what you do that defines you” – but he wasn’t the first to realize that consistent habit makes you who you are. The ancient Greeks had it figured out ages ago.

We-Repeatedly-Do-Excellence
Consistency in fonts, apparently, not as important.

Our problem with consistency

Yes, staying consistent in our habits is super important and beneficial. But that shit is also HARD. Like, really hard.

First, starting a new habit is always difficult. Doing one thing once is really easy – doing it repeatedly isn’t.

Consistency also requires an acceptance of both failure and of non-perfect work. Doing something over and over is likely to produce varying results – if you write a new blog post every week, for example, you’re likely to have some duds. That’s OK – and in fact will make you better at your craft through repetition, learning, and adjustment. But we’re so petrified of failure that we forgo consistent output in favor of “perfectionism” – a codeword that often means being too scared to finish something, share it, and move onto the next thing.

perfectionism meme

Finally, consistency take patience. We all want instant results. It’s the reason why people go so hard on their new year’s resolutions and then give them up in frustration a few weeks later. Meaningful change happens in small doses over time. Most people either simply don’t have the patience, or they set their expectations for instant results so high that the frustration of not meeting them makes them give up.

fuck this

There is no such thing as “overnight success”

The fact is that we love overnight success stories, but in almost every case it’s a myth. This article includes some great examples, but one of my favorite examples concerns the cast of the FX show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.

charlie day

If you follow the show, you’ve probably heard the story that the main cast of the show decided to write their own pilot, filmed it for $200, and then successfully pitched it to FX. It sounds so easy, anyone could do it – and in a bubble, it seems like an overnight success off of a single idea.

But all the members of the cast had been grinding for YEARS – working on their writing and acting, going to audition after audition, facing rejection and failure. It was their consistency, coupled with opportunity and a belief in themselves, that set the stage for their eventual success.


This is a long video, but just watch the last 45 seconds for some real gold. Charlie Day speaks to Rob McElhenney’s near-constant failure – failure that, without perseverance and consistency, might have caused him to quit before getting his big opportunity.

And that’s the other salient point – consistency is often difficult because it feels like we’re putting in tons of work but going nowhere. Even months after starting this blog, I don’t feel like I’m making any progress. But staying consistent not only keeps us moving forward, it also keeps us in a position to take advantage of opportunities that arise. If we’re consistently working on our passions, when something great does present itself, we’re ready to tackle it.

Here’s my plan

Consistency isn’t easy – so it’s best tackled one task or habit at a time. I’m going to start by getting more consistent about posting here.

If you’ve followed this blog, you may have noticed I post on a wildly inconsistent schedule. I’ve posted on every day of the week for no rhyme or reason. Sometimes I post twice a week, sometimes I completely miss a week. Sometimes I’m scrambling to finish an article, sometimes I have a couple backlogged. It’s a crapshoot.

So my habit, publicly stated here, is to post a new article on this blog every Tuesday – without fail. Here’s why I’m choosing this habit:

  • It’s public and I’ll be held accountable. If it doesn’t happen, you all will notice – and I hope you’ll call me out.
  • It’s results-oriented. It requires I actually produce something, so it’s very easy to judge success or failure. Just saying “write every day” could mean writing one word, or writing garbage, while making the habit a posting schedule means the work has to be meaningful.
  • It’s a keystone habit. Following this habit will force me to follow other habits – like writing consistently and managing my time well enough to ensure the writing gets done.

So look for an article every Tuesday (with the option for a “bonus” article on Fridays as I see fit). And if you don’t see one you can send a swarm of highly trained assassin sparrows to peck my eyes out.

What are you working on?

What’s the one habit you’re going to work on to build consistency? Let us know in the comments!

ExperimentationExplorationRisk

You need a hug

March 8, 2016 — by Matt

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I’m not going to lie. I’ve had some times in the last few weeks when I just needed a hug.

First there was a DJ performance at a networking night that just went abysmally. Then there was the crippling feeling of being overwhelmed when working late, promoting and organizing two events and the flights for three trips, and failing to work on any of my own projects all culminated in a single week of deadlines, lost sleep, and stress headaches. And there are just life issues that crop up here and there that make you feel like you can’t win.

I know these things are surmountable. I know life doesn’t intentionally try to screw with you; it just provides winds that you can either let knock you over or harness to steer you toward something better. And I’m confident that I can handle these winds, and so can you.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times I feel I just need a hug. And I believe that’s a GOOD thing – even as a fully functioning adult.

kids hugging

When we were kids, we needed hugs all the time – skinned knees, bad dreams, and scary, unknown experiences tested our resolve almost daily. If we needed a hug it usually meant we had run into a situation with which we were unfamiliar, or tried something that ended up being scary. Sometimes it meant we failed. But while the hug made us feel better in the short term, it was really just a symptom of something larger. We were learning, experimenting, taking risks and facing fears in order to learn about the world around us (and ourselves).

As we grow up, we learn how the world around us works. We learn lessons, we build assumptions, and we build an identity. None of these are bad things – we need them to become a real person, functioning member of society.

But I think some other things happen also. We find a comfort zone, and then we carve out a groove there. We become less vulnerable, less willing to put ourselves in a position to get hurt. We’ve had so much pain in life that as adults, we’ve learned ways to avoid it. We do what feels comfortable, we shield our passions, and we take fewer risks. In fact, there are studies that suggest that risk-taking decreases with age.

If you make yourself someone who never needs a hug, never needs a shoulder to lean on, then you’re self-sufficient, resilient, and strong. Right?

Yeah, maybe you’re those things. But guess what you aren’t? You aren’t excited about anything. You don’t have anything that really revs your engine. You’re OK with mediocrity because breaking out of it would require too much effort, too much risk.

I’ve seen these grown-ups. Hell, I’ve BEEN that grown-up sometimes. The type that know everything, the type that don’t need to try new things because they’ve apparently experienced enough of life to know what they like and don’t like. The type that are cynical or apathetic about everything. I’m not talking about selective apathy here, which is a great tool to keep your focus. I’m talking about general apathy. If you don’t care about anything too much then it can’t hurt you too much.

DON’T suppress that part of you. DO go after things that scare you. Test your limits. Learn to fail. Put yourself in a position to need a hug once in a while. Because the people that have not hardened themselves to eliminate all vulnerability are also the ones willing to take the necessary risks to achieve their dreams.

BalanceHealth

A few deep breaths

February 24, 2016 — by Matt

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There’s no article this week.

I know, this shiny new post looks an awful lot like an article. It’s more of a reminder.

I find myself in one of the more stressful, anxiety-ridden weeks I’ve experienced in a while. The reasons aren’t important, but the feeling – that everything is urgent, that everything is being requested of me all at once, that the world is conspiring against any hope of peace or relief – is a feeling I’ve felt before. I’ll bet you have too.

At times like these it’s often difficult to even think about mitigating your stress. You’re too busy with the “real” things on your list, and forgoing those will only stress you out more. Meditation, solid sleep, and time alone seem like laughable propositions.

I mean, you should do those things. Your entire situation would improve, as would your outlook.

But I get it. Those things are daunting. And sometimes your mind isn’t in a place to take that much-beneficial “me” time.

So this is a reminder to just start with a few

… deep

… breaths.

Do it now. Start with three. Anyone can do three right? If it feels good, keep going. What’s it going to take, a minute out of your day?

When you feel like you’re about to snap and go Super Saiyan on the next person you see, take a few deep breaths, look around, and reframe. There’s no downside.

Weekend Reads

Fear is real, but conquerable! (Weekend Reads)

February 19, 2016 — by Matt

I think a lot about fear. What if I wasn’t afraid to quit my job or of not having enough money to survive? Does fear affect my ability to finish projects, or take risks? How can I overcome the fear of x, y, or z?

I guess I’m not alone. I’ve stumbled upon a few articles recently that tackle the topic of fear. If you’re dreading the future or you feel like fear is holding you back from being great, use these as reminders that we all face fears, and they’re all surmountable.

I AM AFRAID ALL OF THE TIME

The beginning of this article is almost comforting. Entrepreneur and writer James Altucher lists out a few of his top fears that probably sound strangely familiar to your own. It might be a tactic to disarm the reader and inspire empathy, but dammit it works. I felt better about my own fears after reading it.

The rest of the article launches into techniques James uses to overcome fear. His “themes over goals” sounds a lot like my identity based personal pillars, so you know I’m in. And although a lot of the others seem fairly obvious, they’re still good reminders that we have strategies to squelch our fear and really achieve.

THE THIN LINE BETWEEN STAYING UNCOMFORTABLE AND CREATING FEAR

This 99u article by Stephanie Kaptein identifies the potential problem with the timeless advice of “stepping outside your comfort zone” to gain inspiration – that going too far out of the zone can backfire, making us too afraid to go on. Knowing where the line between motivating discomfort and paralyzing fear lies is important if we want to avoid self-sabotage.

I really like this article. It recognizes that fear is a real thing that can hamstring our resolve and our creative process, rather than ignoring it and believing ourselves to be impervious to its effects. Strategically evaluating where we are in relation to that line is an important self-check that will keep us moving forward.

—-

Have a great weekend, and keep conquering your fears!

Weekend Reads

Contrarian Ideas about Procrastination (Weekend Reads)

February 12, 2016 — by Matt

This weekend’s reads are all about procrastination. But rather than lambasting the favorite vice of so many of us, these articles take a different approach. I love challenging my own views on things and these articles were refreshing in how they presented procrastination.

PROCRASTINATION CAN BE A GOOD THING

This is an article Austin Kleon included in his most recent newsletter, and it’s an interesting take on procrastination. Author Adam Grant experimented with purposeful procrastination and found that it actually helped his creativity.

I can be a terrible procrastinator. And like most of us, I attribute such negative connotation to procrastination that whenever I do it, I chastise myself mercilessly. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing and the ever-present underlying guilt, maybe it’s my expectations for myself… whatever it is, I feel like shit while I’m procrastinating but I just keep doing it.

Practiced or purposeful procrastination is an interesting idea though. I actually think the value in Grant’s approach is in slow, steady work and not in the procrastination itself – doing nothing for a month and scrambling to finish your work the night before a deadline won’t do anything for creativity.It’s true that when you rush to finish something, you often take the most logical, conventional route. Working more slowly allows you to explore more creative, divergent, non-conventional ideas and approaches.

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PROCRASTINATION BUT WERE TOO LAZY TO FIGURE OUT

This article also deals with procrastination, but the contrarian idea found here isn’t necessarily about procrastinating. It comes at the end of the article, and it’s about positive thinking and identity. Here’s a passage from the article:

Chances are you’ve experienced this in some area of your life as well. The more you care about the outcome, the harder it feels to achieve. The less you care, the more naturally it comes to you.

It’s backwards in a way. The more I try to convince myself that I’m a brilliant writer and that I have something important to say, the more the simple act of writing an article threatens my identity, and the more I procrastinate writing it.

Whereas if I just believe that I’m just some random dude who puts words on paper, eventually the act of writing then threatens nothing and procrastination stops.

This is one (of many) ways that positive thinking can actually derail us.

What Mark Manson (who is becoming one of my favorite bloggers) touches on here is very interesting – the idea that building this idealized idea of our identity puts tons of pressure on ourselves, because failing to do what we tell ourselves is inherently in our nature threatens our identity.

I run into this all the time. I start an article or a song and I tell myself it’s going to be amazing – and as such, I won’t let myself just create because if it isn’t perfect, it’ll be a failure. Maybe this flies in the face of my identity-based personal pillars a little bit… or maybe not. I’m not sure yet.

I do know that when we were kids, we didn’t care about what legacy our actions would leave or if it threatened our identity or not because we didn’t really have a premeditated identity – we just did stuff. And I also know that injecting a little bit of that “just do stuff” mentality into our life and work could help a lot of us bust through our self-inflicted roadblocks. I mean, we are what we continually do, right?


Have a great weekend!

BalanceExperimentationHealthTools and Systems

Non-Goals for 2016

February 8, 2016 — by Matt

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I wrote down a bunch of my goals for 2016 a couple of weeks ago, mostly in the creativity realm (but in some other areas as well). And I tried to make them SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused, and Time-Bound.

Sometimes, though, I have more general stuff I just want to keep in mind. Yeah, “exercise more” isn’t a great goal because there’s no results defined, t’s tough to measure success, and it could be interpreted so loosely that it loses its meaning. But when I was writing my goals I also wrote down some things I would try to do in 2016 that any SMART goal purist would scoff at.

These things aren’t specific and at the end of the year I probably won’t be able to tell you that I “achieved” them. They’re more like themes. And just because it isn’t measurable or quantifiable doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

Here are some non-goals for 2016. And I think they are themes that all of us could benefit from keeping in mind.

Break some rules

Break the Rules non-goals

I analyze, I plan, I get lost in details. I organize, I set boundaries and rules for myself in the hope that I’ll stay focused. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But I’ve realized that sometimes making and trying to enforce my own rules is in itself consuming my attention. Sometimes, setting rules for yourself and following them is just masturbatory. If I can admit that I don’t know everything and like everyone else, I’m just trying to figure it all out, then I need to admit that maybe the rules I’m setting are bullshit too.

Look, some rules and guidelines are important. Some are powerful tools to say no to the things that leech your energy and to ignore things that don’t honor your vision. But some are just rules, and you don’t know if they’re important or if you’re just wasting your time trying to follow them until you break them. So I’m going to break some rules, especially my own.

Be present

Everyone and their mother wants to be more present, you’ll see it proclaimed across a million blogs and social media posts by everyone until it starts to lose its meaning. And it’s the ultimate example of a shitty goal – how can you prove you’re doing better? How can you measure your progress? I’m not even sure myself. But I still think it’s important to do.

I don’t know HOW to do it, but I do know some things that help. Meditating. Taking deep breaths. Putting down my phone and looking around. Doing one thing at a time. So even though I can’t measure my success, I’ll try to be more present in 2016.

Have boundaries

boundaries non-goals

I realized very recently that I might have an issue with boundaries. I take on other peoples’ problems as my own often because in some weird way I feel like if I don’t work to help other people in their time of need, I’m being a bad friend/boyfriend/brother/son/whatever. I’m like a personal-life micromanager.

That’s stupid. All I’m doing it providing a crutch for others, setting a bad precedent, and eventually resenting others because I feel like I’m always helping them instead of working on my own shit even though really, they didn’t ask me to. Boundaries will help my peace of mind and my relationships across the board.

Have more fun

I put a lot of pressure on myself. Often the result of this is that I keep myself from having fun because I tell myself I have to work. Just as often, the result of that is that the pressure of telling myself I have to work causes my to self-sabotage and procrastinate. If you haven’t caught the theme of this an other articles yet, I’m very in my own head.

I want to have more fun this year. Not like in my mid-twenties, where every weekend was fun only and I got nothing done – but a good balance of fun and hard work. And taking time to relax, have some fun, and take the pressure off can only help my mindset and productivity when I do sit down to write, or make music, or whatever. I’m still young. There’s lots of fun shit to do out there. Let’s make a few bad decisions.

Say ‘No’ more

I worked on this a lot in 2015 but I sometimes still struggle with it. I often over-commit to things – someone comes to me with an idea or a project and in the moment it sounds great, so I say yes. But then I realize I’m adding it to the end of an already-too-long to-do list, I get overwhelmed, and nothing gets done. And a lot of time, this new thing is much less important than the things already on my list.

A shorter to-do list makes for less self-inflicted pressure and is more likely to get done. In fact, we can really only have one priority at a time. I love Derek Sivers’ “Hell Yeah or No” (and Mark Manson’s more vulgar “Fuck Yes or No“) philosophy for just this reason, and I’ll be employing this concept to be very selective with the new stuff I take on in 2016.

Say ‘Yes’ more

yesman non-goals

This one seems like the complete opposite of the last one. It is and it isn’t. I need to say no to stuff I don’t care about to make room for the stuff I do. but I also want to keep myself open to new opportunities and adventures. Sometimes just saying yes results in meeting some awesome people, creating some epic memories, and finding some new interests. This balance will be tough to figure out, I’m sure of it. But if an opportunity presents itself that doesn’t obviously fly in the face of my goals or my identity, I want to at least consider a “yes”, let go, and let the winds take me.

Speak my mind

I’m a conflict avoider by nature. So I sometimes bite my tongue or stifle my true thoughts because I don’t want to hurt others or start a fight. But that only hurts me and hurts others. And by its very nature I do it more often with those I care about most, because those are the people I’m most concerned about upsetting.

In all honesty, I’ve gotten a lot better at this, but I have some work to do. So in 2016 I’ll try to care less about coming across as a nice guy and just speak my mind. It might cause some fights or conflicts with other people, but they’ll either resolve and the relationship will grow stronger with the honesty, or they won’t resolve and we can both move on.


There are probably more things I’ll figure out as the year goes on, and maybe I’ll even figure out some strategies to make these part of my personal pillars. Oh! And I just stumbled upon a no-goal concept from one of my favorite blogs here. Check it out for another perspective.

Do you have anything you’re trying to focus on this year that doesn’t necessarily fit into traditional goals? Share them in the comments below, and let’s help each other make these achievement-oriented for 2016!

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