I’ve found my 2017 framework incredibly useful, both in getting things done this year and in planning for 2018. I’ve journaled for ~10 pages over the past week with that as my foundation, which is easily the largest amount of unstructured writing I’ve ever done.

To quote The 4-Hour Workweek though, “What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things” (emphasis in original). 2017’s framework was about the how, 2018’s is about the what.

The framework

(This has been my plan of attack – not saying it’ll work for you out of the box, but hopefully it’ll get you thinking.)

The following list is in order of importance. The questions should absolutely be answered serially.

1. What are your non-negotiables?

What areas of your life are of the utmost importance to you? Or as is the case for me, what areas of your life do you want to be of the utmost importance? There shouldn’t be too many items in this section.

Once you have a list, ask the following for each item:

  • Why is this non-negotiable? If you can’t come up with a good enough answer, drop it from the list. If you can, refer back to that answer when you lose sight of it. Your memory and motivation are fickle; a record of your current thought process will not be.
  • How can I make this happen? Find ways to hold yourself accountable. Apply the 2017 framework to your answer, and discard any steps that don’t conform to it.

2. What should you eliminate?

What habits or commitments do you need / want to remove from your life? Use your non-negotiables as a starting point – what’s hindering you from making those a reality?

Once you have a list, ask the following for each item:

  • Is there a reason I’m doing this? Being explicit about this will probably a) show you just how silly the reason is, and b) show you possible ways to tackle the problem.
  • What steps can I take to eliminate this? Are there easy or obvious steps you can take to stop doing this? Is it just a matter of discipline? Some of both? Also apply the 2017 framework here, and discard what doesn’t fit.

3. With the past two questions in mind, what might a daily schedule look like for you?

Write out some possible daily schedules now that you know what you’re going for. Do not over-commit; give yourself several possibilities, and leave considerable whitespace. Experiment with two or three and see what works best for you.

4. What “icing” would you like to add?

(I haven’t actually gotten to this part yet. The previous questions have given me enough to work on. I’d like to revisit it next quarter.)

Now that you’ve given yourself a solid day-to-day foundation, are there any new activities or projects you’d like to pursue? Add these to your daily schedule.

Other things to keep in mind

I couldn’t find a good place in the framework for these, but I think they’re important.

On schedule failures

In the past, I’ve tried to set daily schedules for myself and done a pretty bad job of it. Possible reasons include:

  • Lack of discipline
  • Not leaving enough whitespace, or scheduling too many demanding tasks in one day. I can’t redline mentally for more than a day or two (and I have no real reason to).

“Life overhead”

It’s really easy for me to over-commit myself if I forget about the time (overhead cost) required to merely be a civilized human being. I need to schedule unstructured time to cook, take care of my apartment, daydream, drive to and from work (or walk to class, for the college students), be creative, etc. Ben Franklin did it; I probably should too.

Experiment occasionally

Try something random every once in a while because you’re curious. Something I’m trying right now: turning off music that’s not for a specific purpose. I have one album that I play on repeat while I’m working, and one song I play on repeat while I’m journaling / blogging. Outside of those two things, I’m avoiding background music. There’s no real reason for this; just a one-off idea that I wanted to try.