Buckets for 2021

2020... we didn't see that coming. Long story short: last year's resolutions failed epically. That's why instead of resolutions, this year I'd like to try out and set — what I call — areas of interest, buckets, or themes.

Where to start, what to say… it has been quite a year. From the outside, it has become almost conventional wisdom that, as a society, we’ve collectively hit pause — that we’ve skipped an entire year; yet from the inside, a lot has happened, there are so many things to unpack. However, at least we can still agree that we didn’t see that one coming.

Now looking back at my 2020 and it seems I’ve crossed almost no item from the list. I did other things, true, but at some point, the year took a detour from the original plan and it ended up not working out as intended. Or not in the way I had originally wanted or envisioned it from the outset.

Before jumping in, though, two things need to be addressed. They might seem related but aren’t. The first is how we tend to blame or use COVID as a wild card to give grounds for failed intentions — when some can be better explained by lack of action. The second relates to how the “newly designed” yearly personal goal setting scheme didn’t work, and what to do about it.

But first, some background.

  • This section started out as a “pure” /now page, inspired by Derek Sivers and the nownownow project.
  • By the end of 2018, seeking a more permanent log and enhanced accountability, the ephemeral section was revised and turned into a quarterly theme. Blending the idea of the Now project with a goal-setting ledger.
  • Finally, it was only last year when the quarterly cadence was deprecated in favor of a one-off, released at the dawn of each year.

TL;DR: it didn’t work.

I can rationalize and invent an excuse for every single item on that list. Gamestry’s growth exceeded our wildest expectations and ended up managing rather than coding; I spent three months under lockdown and couldn’t reach the 1.500km running mark; I could go on and on, but that’s not the point.

COVID changed a lot of rules. It prevented us from doing certain activities, such as gathering together or traveling. That’s all true. However, most items on the list remained unchecked not because of COVID, but the decisions I made and how I ended up investing my time.

This brings me to the second point: the plan didn’t work. Don’t get me wrong though, I remain extremely proud of 2020. It has brought plenty of joy, amazing projects, and experiences I didn’t even expect. Overall, I’d say it has been a good year. Great in many ways, but not if we evaluate it from the perspective of early 2020 resolutions.

Good planning without good work is nothing.

—— Dwight D. Eisenhower

So, who’s to be blamed? Were resolutions poorly set? Or it was just me letting the urgent, unimportant things, take the lead and determine my fate? Probably a combination of both. But does it matter?

Again, I’m happy about how 2020 turned out to be. I wouldn’t exchange it for any other outcome.

  • First and foremost, for what didn’t happen: I still have my health and I wasn’t “hit” by COVID in any (undesirable) way. I didn’t get the virus, and neither did my family, nor close friends.
  • I spent the entire lockdown at my parents’ place, away from the city. Because of it, I was blessed with “extra” time with them that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Also because I forgot my running shoes at home I started running barefoot again, and for months, I was also able to ride my bike on empty roads.
  • The bet on Gamestry, in retrospect, turned out to be an amazing decision — especially given the circumstances and the fragile moment it was made.
  • Out of the blue, Safareig — one of the most exciting side-projects I’ve embarked on recently — launched back in September.

Despite this, I can’t stop but wonder how my one-year-young self would have felt about it. What I know for sure is that the 2020 Marc, then considered the items on the list to be his top priorities. The most important things 2020 Marc must work on during the upcoming year. Yet somehow, throughout the year, those priorities were altered. And since I can’t point to a single event that determined their demise, I assume they faded gradually.

This probably means that the cause of their deviation wasn’t important, but just a consequence of walking the path of least resistance. No matter what, the outcome remains the same: they failed. For this reason, at the outset of the year and after mulling over it, I’m taking a different approach to goal setting.

Some things haven’t changed, though. I still abide by Jocko Willink’s quote about resolutions:

I think resolutions are, for the most part, little feel-good statements that people use to justify a delay in execution.

—— Jocko Willink

That’s why instead of resolutions, this year I’d like to set — what I call — areas of interest, buckets, or themes. These are different from resolutions because they are not dogmatic about their outcome, they remain open-ended, and simply set the stage to determine what’s considered to be important. And yes, I made the name up.

Right now, I’ve got four of those, in no particular order:

  • Taking care of myself: every single day, with no exception, both physically and mentally. Although my opinions around health have evolved throughout the years, I still believe this is the single most important lifestyle intervention one can do to lead a better life.
  • Sharpening the ax: never stop learning new things. Learning has always remained one of my top priorities, but it has also been the first one to be dropped on a busy day. I want to treat it as non-optional. No matter if it comes from reading books, courses, or just watching a documentary. It has to become a sacred daily ritual, allocate time to do it, and don’t make room for exceptions.
  • Prioritizing what’s important: doing less, but better. I won’t allow myself to be spread too thin. I’ll commit to and work on just a handful of projects — direct to them all my energy.
  • Connecting (again) with real-life: after a year composed of mostly WFH days, it has become almost too easy, too comfortable to even bother going outside and participating in the real world. The combination of loneliness and fourteen solid hours a day in front of the screen has done nothing but nurture the confirmation bias we all live in. I want to reverse this trend, meet people, expose myself to new experiences and realities.

This is how I want to approach the goal-setting this 2021. I don’t want to commit to specific objectives, because they’ll certainly become outdated the moment I write them down. Instead, I want to remain more open, allow for some serendipity — something I have never indulged myself with.

I hope these buckets will help me navigate the uncertainty that comes from the process. Ensure that regardless of the unexpected, I’ll remain true to what’s important, committed to the vision.

I’ll probably go into more detail about each area of interest in upcoming posts, but to recap, this is how 2021 looks like from the outset:

  • Drop the yearly Now project in favor of: a canonical Now page that will be ephemerally updated throughout the year. This section will be followed by a series of personal, more introspective posts. For this reason, I’ll retroactively move all of them from the blog to the Now page and stop using the main feed for such purposes.
  • Stop using the yearly cadence and start issuing more regular updates to the Now section. I’d also like to play around with Buster Benson’s idea of annual reviews on the day of your anniversary.
  • Finally, set four directional themes for 2021: taking care of myself, sharpening the ax, prioritizing what’s important, and connecting with real life.

That being said, let’s all hope for a wonderful new year 🤞.

First published on January 01, 2021