December 31, 2023
Every year about this time, I write a post about my goals for the year. I do it for myself, and I think that by posting it publicly, I have an even better chance of making progress toward those goals. Last year, for my 2023 “one-word goal”, I actually chose two words to focus on: creativity and self-discipline. Some of you liked it when I wrote, “I’m not creative enough to find a new term that combines them, and I’m not self-disciplined enough to choose just one.” I believe that those two words are still outstanding goals for 2024, but I want a new one. It’s challenging to renew or improve your efforts when you don’t update your mindset.
So my word for 2024 intertwines creativity, self-discipline, and more, and is inspired by the greatest coach of all time, John Wooden. Coach Wooden wrote, “Make each day your masterpiece.” When I shared that quote with my wife Jill, she responded, “That is way too much pressure.” Take that, Coach Wooden! But I want this kind of pressure in my life. So . . . Masterpiece is my word for 2024.
Things have changed for me since I wrote my goals for 2023. At that time, I was very immersed in a full-time leadership position which was challenging in a wide variety of ways. In last year’s post I wrote, “The busier I am, the more self-discipline I need to get my priorities accomplished.”
Well, I am rethinking that statement.
Because here’s the thing – when you are extremely busy, you have multiple deadlines, and somehow, maybe because you have to, you find a way to finish what needs to be done. But being retired, I have fewer deadlines imposed by outside forces. And it may sound odd, but in this new era of my life, I need to be more self-disciplined than ever. My days do not get planned for me by the gazillions of meetings that used to dominate my calendar. (I used to say that I ran or attended meetings for a living. Funny, but really true.) In this new phase of my life, I have to be even more focused to make each day my masterpiece.
For the last four decades, I have been on a quest to become organized enough to be great at my job and to make the most out of life. It’s a quest that continues to this day.
I would say that I lived in organizational oblivion until I was in my late twenties. That all changed when I started using a FranklinCovey planner. I loved my Planner. I was recently at a meeting with my friend Christine when she laid out her beautiful leather-bound FranklinCovey Planner on the table. I had not seen one in years, and I wasn’t sure they made them any more. I was so jealous of her at that moment. It was like seeing somebody wielding a beautiful Mont Blanc fountain pen. That FranklinCovey planner made me better. It made me focus on each day. I listened to cassette tapes of Steven Covey as he guided me on how to be a better leader, spouse, and person through the FranklinCovey Planner. I attended conferences with other devotees. It was the center of my organizational existence. But, over the last 15 years, for better or for worse, my phone and laptop eclipsed that wonderful planner. And while I was so envious and a little wistful when I saw Christine unsheathe that FranklinCovey Planner, I don’t want to go back. So, without my beloved planner, how do I make each day my masterpiece?
For me, it all starts with having a clear idea of what I need to get done. David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) has been a major influence on me here. I keep several task lists on Google Tasks: a big picture list, project lists, a list of what can get done when I have time, and a list of tasks to be done as soon as possible. I have also begun working as an educational consultant. I have several different projects that I work on, and I keep a task list for each of them. I spend dedicated time reviewing all of these lists every week, and it helps me in my weekly planning.
As far as my calendar goes, I keep just one Google Calendar. Having the same calendar on my computer and phone makes everything easier. Each week, and then each day, I block off time to get essential tasks done.
But the Franklin Planner mentality lives on. If I’m going to make each day a masterpiece, I have found that I need actual sheets of paper to write on, something on which to center my day, and something that allows me to physically check off the boxes when I finish each task. I try to be as joyful as my friend Ellen, who checks boxes off her list with delight and flair. Over the last six months, I have been developing a personalized one-page document that lists tasks I can center upon each day to make it my masterpiece. It also leaves an area for things that need to get done from my priority list. It is this piece of paper, customized for each day, that will help me to maximize my chances of living out Coach Wooden’s advice.
So what’s on my task list for every day, and who or what inspired that item? If you’re still reading, I’m sorry that you’re as geeky as I am about organization and productivity. That being said, I love you for still being here because of that geekiness, so let’s go!
- Check/Update Master Task List (David Allen)
- Review Calendar for Today and the Week/Prioritize My Day (Steven Covey; John Maxwell)
- Clean the Kitchen/Organize my desk (Admiral William McRaven)
- Play (Calvin and Hobbes)
- Challenge Myself/Improve in my Hobbies and Passions
- Family/Friend Communication
- Stretch (My Physical Therapists)
- Make Someone’s Day (Pike’s Place Fish Market)
- Cardio Training or Strength Training (Younger Next Year; Outlive)
- Quiet Time/Yoga/Meditation (John O’Donahue, Dan Harris, Roland Merullo)
- Write or Journal Writing Ideas
- Meal Planning/Prep (So many – Ina Garten, America’s Test Kitchen, My Mom)
- Outdoor Beauty (Or as Dad told me as a kid, get out of the *&$# house!)
- Sharpen the Saw (Steven Covey)
- Prepare for Tomorrow (Steven Covey)
My friend Ted reached out to me after my last post, and reminded me of a poem we read back in high school. It was Dylan Thomas’s Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. It was a perfect response to my post. If we are going to fight getting slower as we age, and if we are going to make the effort to make each day a masterpiece, we cannot let life just happen to us. We only have so many days here, and I hope we can do all we can to make each one of them as special as possible. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making.”
As I said, it’s been a long journey of trying so many different ways of making each day a masterpiece. I am excited about my current efforts, and I know my journey is not done.
Like last year, I’d love to hear the words you’re thinking about to guide and inspire your 2024.
I wish you all a happy, productive, exciting, meaningful, and healthy new year, and may your 2024 be a true masterpiece!
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Post #98 on www.drmdmatthews.com
Photo by Meghan Scheding – Jill and I in the last week of 2023, checking off a few boxes as we looked out towards 2024 from the top of the South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, CA
My daily task list is a Google Doc, and if you would like to see it, you can find it here.
Archbishop Tutu’s quote can be found in The Book of Joy, a beautiful book that encapsulates a series of conversations between him and his very close friend, The Dalai Lama.
And here is my list of words, updated from reader input last year, that might guide your thinking for the year.