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Cover image for New Year's Resolutions Suck! Pick a Theme of the Year

New Year's Resolutions Suck! Pick a Theme of the Year

Cover image credit: [Marco Verch]

This is an idea I first came across on the Cortex podcast with C.G.P. Grey and Myke Hurley.

The problem with resolutions is that you set them at the start of the year, and when your excitement about keeping up with it wanes enough, you feel like you've just failed your resolution, and don't think about it until the next new year comes around.

So instead, he suggest picking a general theme for the year that guides your decision making during the year. Some examples I've heard:

  • The year of less: removing distractions, and commitments that don't add much value to your life
  • The year of branching out: finding new possibilities outside the space you're currently working/thinking/... in.
  • The year of adulting: This was a yearly theme for Myke Hurley in the year he got married, bought a house, ... He just had a number of big life events that required a lot of planning.
  • The year of order: try to systematize things in your life, set a clear schedule, make checklists for things you do often, ... This was 2018's theme for CGP Grey

What's Your Theme?

I'd be interested in hearing other people's themes and why you want to focus on this particular theme in 2019

My Theme for 2018

The year of Structure .

This is basically the same as CGP Grey's year of order, but the word "structure" clicks better in my mind for some odd reason. My mind goes racing all over the place a lot of the time, causing me to not think of the most useful things at the right time. This makes me prone to procrastination, forgetfulness, lack of focus, ... I've often resisted adding more structure to my life because I thought it'd confine me, but I think it'll be extremely beneficial.

First steps on adding more structure.

This is the backbone of my year of structure. It allows me to evaluate the ways I'm trying to structure my life, and figure out what works.

I want to start the practice of writing a 5 minute journal every evening. The idea is that you answer a small set of questions every day such as

  • What great things happened today?
  • What could have made today even better?
  • What am I thankful for?

The original template focusses a lot on positive psychology, gratitude, ... but I'd like to add questions that are more specific to the things I'd like to work on.

This creates a feedback cycle between your past self and your current self, allowing you to keep track of how your decisions each day impact you, and what you want to adjust.

Because of my visual impairment, it's not easy to do this with pen and paper. I'd like to use an app that I can use both on my Mac (either native or web app), and on my iPhone. I tried out Grid Diary but it's support for VoiceOver is abysmal. For now, I'm thinking of just setting up a daily e-mail using something like IFTTT, that sends me a Google form with questions. If you have any other app recommendations, I'm interested. If there's an open source solution out there, I'd love to contribute.

Time Tracking

I'm going to track my time using toggl, probably in combination with something like RescueTime to automatically keep track of the apps I'm using on my Mac. It also keeps track of the particular tab/document I'm in.

I'm already using cold turkey to block apps and sites that frequently distract me at times when I want to be productive.

So, comment below with your theme, or more generally, how you want to improve yourself in 2019.

Top comments (6)

joshhadik profile image
Josh Hadik • Edited

Love this idea. Resolutions never quite seem to work out for me.

Here's Mine: The Year of Execution

(execution as in executing a plan.)

Looking back, if I had to pick a theme for 2018, it would be the Year of Learning... which was awesome! I learned a ton over the last year (Docker, Kubernetes, React, Vue, Photoshop, AWS, GCP, CI/CD, Elixir, Phoenix, Adobe Illustrator, Swift & iOS Development, Alexa Skill Development, etc), and I wouldn't trade that for anything. But I also understand that learning only takes me so far.

Unfortunately, 2018 also ended up being the Year of a Thousand Half Finished Side Projects.

For 2019 I'm gonna try to shift gears and focus on what's important. Instead of letting every new technology I come across side track me and send me on a three-week long learning / experimenting binge, I'm gonna try to focus on one project at a time, build it with a strict MVP mindset, and work on it till it's done.

By the end of 2019, I'd love to be able to showcase a handful of high quality apps and projects instead of the interconnected mess of unfinished projects and dependencies I built over 2018 (and who knows, maybe one of those apps could be the catalyst I need to finally start that business I've been talking about for five years.)

_bigblind profile image
Frederik πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’»βž‘οΈπŸŒ Creemers

Great theme!

If you're looking for app ideas, I'm still looking for a great question-answer style diary that syncs across iPhone and mac/web, but looking forward to anything you build in 2019!

joshhadik profile image
Josh Hadik • Edited

Weirdly enough that's actually one of the 'thousand projects' I started this year. I was developing it as an Alexa skill at the time, but I always planned on making iOS and Web versions of it afterwards. So yeah maybe I will take another stab at it... I'm focusing on my portfolio site right now but once I'm done with that I might give it a go!

peterwitham profile image
Peter Witham

Hi Frederik,

Great post and topic for discussion. I think the idea of picking a theme is a good one, I was giving this some thought of the holidays and decided that my theme for the year is one of

Refine and Reduce

Much like you mentioned, I seem to have a tendency to jump from topic to topic and tool to tool. So this year I'm planning to start by reducing my areas of focus and the tools I use. This should give me not only a greater understanding of the smaller selection I aim to use but hopefully enable me to focus on my core interests.

equinoxworldorg profile image
Equinox World

This year I'm working on my clients blog.