Instead of setting resolutions for this coming year, I looked back at the last year and reviewed all the events that generated positive and negative emotions. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss and what he calls his Past Year Review (PYR). I started the process by cracking open a fresh page in my notebook and grabbing a pen. I drew a line down the middle of the page to create two columns, one labeled positive and the other labeled negative. I then opened Google calendar, switched to the month view, and flipped to January 2017.
I looked at all the events scheduled for that month and wrote down the ones that brought out the most positive and negative feelings in my notebook. I then moved on to February and did the same procedure. I continued this process until I got to the end of the year. After that was completed, I looked at the list to seek out patterns from both sides. The goal is to schedule more positive events for the coming and eliminate the negative ones.
Going through my log for 2017, I gathered my first insight rather quickly. I realized that I didn’t keep track of my experiences very well. Through April, I only had a handful of recorded events. They were mostly reminders for appointments or birthdays. It dawned on me that I needed to have a better way of recording my life. I don’t need detailed journal accounts or social media posts, just a quick line or two about the highlight of the day. Based on those observations, I decided to commit to a Bullet Journal for 2018.
Bullet Journal is a system created by Ryder Carroll to quickly jot down his thoughts and keep his OCD in check. He shared his system with the internet when he noticed how popular it was with his friends and coworkers. The Bullet Journal turns a blank notebook into a modular planner. One of the main features of the journal is the rapid logging of events by using bullet points. It’s a flexible system that encourages the user to make use of it anyway they see fit.
I am using my Bullet Journal as a mix between a planner and a traditional journal. At the start of the day, I use it as a to-do list and put down everything I want to get done. Over the course of the day, I cross off completed items and jot down daily occurrences. All of this is recorded as short sentences and doesn’t take too much thought.
My next realization from the PYR is that a handful of my positive events revolved around major life and career milestones. I was ecstatic when I passed my licensing exam in June. This lifted a huge burden because I didn’t have to put another 300 hours into studying. It was also my second attempt at the test and I wasn’t sure if I had the resolve for a third try. Shortly after the test, I jumped into the housing market and closed on my first home at the end of July. I’m proud to be a home owner, it’s nice to be able to wash your clothes without walking out of the apartment. Lastly, I turned 30 years old in August. I was reminded of how many wonderful friends I have at my surprise birthday dinner. Furthermore, I’m fortunate to have a thoughtful girlfriend put all this together without me noticing.
Along with one-time occasions, I have several repeating weekly events. These happenings started well beyond last year and some go back more than a decade (damn, I guess I really did turn thirty). I have dinner at my parent’s place every Wednesday since I came back to Hawaii in 2013. It’s the only time I see my parents and brother outside of birthdays and holidays. I appreciate getting to eat my mom’s cooking. Likewise, I enjoy talking to my brother and parents about video games, sports, and current events.
Another recurring event that stretches well into the past is pickup basketball almost every Sunday night. I’ve been playing basketball with my childhood friends since high school. We used to play three times a week but as we got older, our schedules got busier and our bodies didn’t recover as fast. I don’t see a bunch of these friends outside of basketball, so it’s nice way to keep in touch as well as keep in shape.
Finally, my last regular event is tutoring after school robotics at one of the nearby elementary schools. I got into this about three years ago though the help of a friend who teaches at the school. I missed not being in the classroom after Teach For America. Therefore this is a great way for me to still connect with the kids and feel like I’m making a difference in the community. My favorite part of tutoring is seeing the faces on the students’ faces when they finally get it. Their enthusiasm and newness to everything is also a joy to experience and keeps my cynicism at bay.
As far as events that produced negative feelings, I can’t complain too much. Most of the negative events that I remember were tied to something positive. I disliked losing my week nights and weekends for a third of year due to studying for the SE exam. Additionally, I didn’t enjoy the stress of getting all my documents and finances in order before purchasing my condo. Likewise, the process of renovating and moving before my lease expired was quite overwhelming. Having said that, it reminded me that positive events normally don’t magically happen. Hard work and dedication were required to produce these accomplishments.
After going through the entire process in detail, I realized the PYR didn’t help me schedule or avoid events for the coming year. I had most of my positive events already schedule; the weekly dinners with my parents, basketball on Sundays, and the robotics after school sessions were previously penciled into my calendar. Although the review didn’t have its intended effect, I still gained insight from it. For me, the PYR was more of an exercise in gratitude. It bought focus to the fact that I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to see my friends and family on a regular basis.