Contributing Author: Kirsten Pabst, NDAA Prosecutor Wellbeing Committee Chair
If we know that New Years’ Resolutions don’t work, why is it so tempting at the end of each December to proclaim our goals for the next year, as if saying it out loud will make it come true?
I’m going to lose 10 pounds.
I’m going to stop yelling at my kids.
I’m going to work out every day.
I’m going to learn Italian.
I’m going to. . .
Try this instead: a personal review. John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience. . . we learn from reflecting on experience.” The review should only take about an hour — yes, 60 minutes is a hefty fee right now but if being better or healthier or more interesting is important to you, then an hour is nothing. Ideally, try to block it out before December 31st. Bring your calendar and something to jot notes.
When it’s time for your review, you’ll need to concentrate, so close your door, silent your device, and limit distractions. This exercise has three parts and each deserves your undivided attention.
The Calander Analysis Part
To begin, divide your note-taking page into four parts, with headings of People, Projects, Activities, and Drains. Open your calendar to the first week of January 2023.
In their respective categories, write the names of the people, projects, and activities that made a positive impact on you by supporting you, teaching you, inspiring you, and/or adding energy for growth in your life. I call these Beams — as in beams of sunshine.
In the fourth section, make note of the Drains, which include people who intentionally or unintentionally disrupt your progress or consume your precious energy. This box also includes those projects and activities that have a negative net effect on your overall productivity and esteem.
Go through 2023, week by week, filling in the names of people, projects, and activities that are Beams, and those that are Drains.
The Reflection Part
Now that you’ve taken a brutally honest look at the influences over the past year, start a fresh page. Write out short answers to the following questions.
Beams. For those people, projects and activities that created positive energy, ask yourself whether you spent enough time on each. Did any get neglected? Which deserve more of attention in 2024?
Drains. How did I handle the drainers? Did I allow them to consume my time and attention unchecked? Or was I able to stop the drain in real time? Which of the drains can I eliminate or reduce in 2024?
Domains. How am I doing in each of the different domains of wellbeing?
Physical: How am I eating? Am I maintaining or building my strength and improving my balance? Am I up to date on preventative medical appointments?
Social: Are my relationships with others supportive? Is my circle growing?
Intellectual: Am I challenging myself to learn new things?
Occupational: Is my financial landscape improving? Is my career on the right trajectory?
Emotional: Am I getting better at regulating? Staying in the window of tolerance?
Spiritual: Am I living in alignment with my values?
Of these 6 domains, which could use the most attention in 2024?
Learning. What new thing did I learn this year? More importantly, what did I change my mind about?
Fear. What did I not do because I was afraid? Was the fear objective and reasonable when deconstructed? Do I want to forge ahead in 2024?
Impact. What were the most important things I accomplished this year?
Regret. What was the biggest missed opportunity?
Purpose. Finally, did I do good? This is the name/s of a person/s who is suffering less because of my actions:
The Action Part
This is the easy part because it won’t take any more time right now, but involves commitment to spend 2024 in ways that will bring your life deeper meaning, more satisfaction, and a higher level of productivity. Re-read your answer to the questions in the Reflection section in preparation to engage in some aggressive scheduling.
Block out a vacation plan. The dates don’t have to be set in stone, but taking your 2024 vacation isn’t negotiable.
Calendar appointments each week for exercise and your personal wellbeing practice — prayer, meditation, journaling — whatever helps you maintain your center.
Calendar deep work sessions [DWS]s and utilize the benefits of single-task focus. Each DWS should be solely devoted to projects that are important. For a great discussion with Cal Newport, Author of Deep Work, listen to this.
Finally, insert reminders into your calendar to incorporate time for those people, projects, and activities make a positive impact on you by supporting you, teaching you, inspiring you, and/or adding energy for growth in your life.
I know an hour seems like a lot right now but I urge you to try doing a 60-minute personal review instead of proclaiming another useless resolution. With careful reflection and a commitment to place our focus on those things that really matter, 2024 promises to be the best year yet.
Kirsten Pabst is the elected prosecutor in Missoula County, Montana, chairs NDAA’s Prosecutor Wellbeing Committee, and is the author of Thriving Through Chaos — Survival Gear for Criminal Justice Professionals. She can be reached at email@example.com.