This article first appeared on my Medium Blog
As we enter the final quarter of 2016 it is time to begin thinking about the year ahead and what you want to accomplish. Too often we leave the thinking process until the final few weeks of the year, which means we end up rushing the process instead of allowing time for ideas and thoughts to percolate and to really get to the bottom of what we want to achieve in 2017.
Over the years I have evolved a simple process that allows me two months to think deeply about what I want to achieve and to give myself enough time to really allow thoughts and ideas to be developed. It is surprising what ideas I have when I allow my brain time to think. Ideas pop up at the strangest of times and in the strangest of places. I could be sat down watching an old episode of BBC’s Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson could say something and boom! I have a brilliant idea. Or I could be writing away in a coffee shop, minding my own business while enjoying a cappuccino and suddenly another idea might come up.
Having my phone, computer or iPad with me at all times means I can capture those ideas and add them to my list any time, anywhere, whether it is on a bus, tram, subway or even in a meeting.
Over time, I have fine tuned this process to help give myself a little more focus on the things that are important. I developed a basic Evernote note that has five main sections. Each section is clearly identified in the note so I can easily get to the list I want. These are as follows:
This is where I write down anything I would like to do next year. That could be a country I want to visit for a holiday, or simply something to buy like a new iMac. This is essentially where I put random thoughts and ideas. During this idea capture phase, the crazier these ideas are the better, as the crazy ideas often lead to ideas I had never thought of before.
What Would I Like To Change about Myself?
This is where I add thoughts about what I would like to change about myself. Perhaps I don’t save enough money, or I spend too much time doing unproductive things. It could also be something like give up smoking, drink less alcohol or read more books. Anything that you would like to change about yourself would get added under this heading.
What Would I Like To Change About My Lifestyle?
This is where you add things you would like to change in the way you live you life. For example if you live with your parents and want to get your own place, you would add it here. Or it could be something as simple as eating a healthy breakfast every day or get up at the same time every morning including weekends.
What Would I Like To Change About The Way I Work?
This one is a relatively recent addition to my list. Because the nature of work is changing so fast these days, new way of getting work done are being created every day. Here is where you write ideas about how and where you would like to get your work done. It could mean you want to work for a remote company so you can work from home or the local coffee shop. You might decide to do your work using only a tablet computer rather than a desktop or you would like to learn how to use a different kind of software. Anything that involves changing the way you work today would go here.
How Can I Challenge Myself?
This one, to me, is the crucial one. This is the question that gave me the idea of starting my YouTube channel, Medium blog and to write my first book. As human beings we are hard wired to fall in to routines. Challenging ourselves is the best way I know of getting out of routines and and a mediocre life into creating and achieving something new and exciting. To add to this list think of some of the things you are afraid of doing and if the idea of doing those things excites you, then add it here. Whatever you add, it needs to be challenging and more importantly exciting.
The key to this system working for you is spending the next two months thinking about it. You don’t need to think about it everyday, but as and when new ideas come up, add them to the list. No matter how crazy you might think they are, you can always remove them later. The process of adding things to the lists will spark new, exciting and challenging ideas and one of those could very easily lead you to making a fortune or meeting your life partner. Just one of those crazy, stupid ideas might be the spark that changes your life forever.
Here is a link to an PDF template I created which you can copy to your note taking app of choice. I recommend for the next two months you have this note saved in a place that is easy to access at any time. You want to be able to get to the list as quickly as possible so you can add that thought straight in to your list. The next two months is not about sorting, editing or organising, it’s about collecting, developing and thinking.
I will post part two of this exercise towards the end of November so that I can guide you on the next steps towards a fantastic 2017. But for now, you only have to think and develop. Good luck.