Mark’s 2020 Themes

Art by Mark (me)

Themes

Themes drive focus on whether we are conscious of this fact or not. And when I define my theme, I am able to target my goals with pinpoint precision. The question is why?

Goals are our destination–they are where we want to be by a specific date and or time. We create a process that reinforces the steps needed to reach our destination. And the theme, the core idea, the subject, is what focuses us on our journey. Here is an example:

As I worked away on Project Dollar, I cam to a point where I found the writing painful. Each writing session took an army to pull the words out of me. After hours of writing, I would find that my mind was taxed and I was ready for a night’s rest after only completing 500 words. Then one day, as I reviewed my writing, reviewed why I was writing, the theme of the book formed. I would no longer spend hours upon hours to write 200-500 words, I would now write 2-3k words in the same span of time. The subject was clear to me.

With this success, I applied themes to my monthly goals and was able to attack my languishing tasks with success, but there was still chaos. The themes shifted each month and my focus kept changing. It wasn’t until my friend Kyle, co-host of The Productivity Lab, suggested we do yearly themes. We pick a central idea, subject, or narrative to guide us throughout the year. I put in a lot of thought regarding them, and here are my picks:

Execution

I am a researcher. I know that it is better to DO, but I can’t help but research until I’ve covered every angle and am ready to implement it. This has caused a list of tasks and projects to just pile up. Small tasks, large tasks, ideas of things I want to do but feel I’m not ready to execute on. The truth is, and I know this, is that I will never be ready. It is better to just execute and iterate! Nothing is perfect. The more I watch of my favorite creators, the more I see of their growth like Chris Do from The Futur. His earlier design education videos were low budget but you could see they were trying to learn the world of live streaming and education. Even so, they provided great information and it truly reinforced the idea that content is king. And you could watch their learning and application on the go.

With Execution as one of my central themes for the year, I am focused on simply executing on the ideas that I have, the tasks I create, and the projects I make. This means that I aim to not overthink, which is a challenge in and of itself, and to take action. To give you insight, here are a few examples of my thought process and workflow going forward:

Writing

Non-fiction writing is much easier for me, but I don’t execute as often as I should. Thus I will:

  • Express the idea as I write. Writing is for thinking. When I get an idea, I log what it is and why but I don’t go too deep. I want to think about it as I write.
  • Remind myself that the first draft is strictly me telling me my idea. The edit and revisions will be removing the filler for everyone else.
  • Don’t obsess over perfection. Do what I can, with the time I have, and do better next time.

Taking this approach removes a lot of friction for me and allows me to focus on the process which is the most important thing of all. And when you do, you find that you get better over time and write more quality words that require less and less editing and revision. I just need to execute.

2-Minute Rule

For 2019, I’ve been employing the 2-minute rule. This says that if the task can be completed within 2-minutes, do it. The first application of this was in home maintenance. I, like many people, would hold off from doing the dishes, or some other task, because it might take too long and interfere with my existing activity. This caused things to pile up and I would then have to dedicate an entire day to clean-up.

With a 2-minute rule, which I later learned was from David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”, I determined if I could complete the task within two-minutes and would do it if I could. This resulted in fewer clean-up days as the smaller items never built up into a mountainous task and made an easier flow of things within the home. 2020 will see this expand to other tasks and projects.

Health

Health is a big focus. This should be a no-brainer, but this is always a background concern and I am moving this to a foreground concern. To start, I have suffered from lower back pain and my last episode ended up with me being on pain meds for a few weeks and developing sciatica. With physical therapy, I’ve been able to overcome sciatica being in both my legs and have reduced the pain in my left leg. Though with it, I had to drastically reduce my workouts due to the sheer pain I would feel in my leg. Now that things are getting better, I am increasing my workout routines and aim to drop the weight gained while in therapy.

As for mental health, this cannot be understated, we need to be sure we focus on how we are feeling, and when we need to rest. We need to manage the stress we feel by journaling, exercising, or seeing a therapist. Part of that starts with sleep as it impacts us in a multitude of ways thus I will really focus this year on creating healthier sleeping habits and continue listening to myself when I need to rest.

To give you an idea of a few things concerning health, I’ve incorporated the following:

  • Developing a consistent sleep schedule, including weekends.
  • Journaling – writing down thoughts on things that are bothering me to alleviate anxiety.
  • Gratitude Journaling – writing things I am thankful for. This has been proven to alter brain chemistry and outlook.
  • Increased workouts – Thanks to physical therapy, I can now sustain a minimal physical fitness plan.
  • Diet – I’ve reduced many processed items, include more fruits and vegetables. This means cooking more at home.
  • Fasting – Many fast for dietary reasons, but I fast for overall health reasons as there are many documented benefits.

In Closing

Themes are illuminating and helps puts the focus in your life for the things you want to maintain or improve. The two themes I’ve chosen, Health and Execution, counter-act each other by ensuring that task/project execution doesn’t impact my health. I’ve experienced burnout before, and it is never a great feeling.

2020 will be an exciting and challenging year for me and I can’t wait to see what I can do.

Do you use yearly themes? Are you interested in getting started? Let me know if you have, I’d love to hear about your experience.


I talk about my yearly themes on The Productivity Lab with my co-host Kyle. Listen to the episode 2020 Yearly Themes.

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