Monday, October 29, 2012

101 Things in 1001 Days

Superfluous Backstory

Early in the summer of 2006 I went through what I'll call a bad breakup for simplicity's sake. The following month I lost a friend to cancer. I spent the summer in rough shape at a job that I hated, and suffice it to say that by the time school started again at the beginning of September I wasn't exactly ready for it.

I don't remember exactly when I found the Day Zero Project, but whenever that was, I was apparently ready to start climbing out of the pit I'd found myself in and start setting goals for a brighter time in my life. I dropped two classes to finish the university term in one piece, met a new boy, and made a list of 101 things that I wanted to have done by my 23rd birthday in September 2009.

The Project

The Day Zero Project website looked a lot different when I first found it. At the time there was an About page and a list of people's 101 Things in 1001 Days blogs.

That's all you really need, though. The project is exactly what it sounds like: you give yourself a list of 101 things to accomplish over the course of 1001 days. Why 1001 days? Well, it's longer than a year (it's 2.7406 years), so you have plenty of time to set up something like a trip overseas or to win NaNoWriMo. It's also shorter (hopefully) than some hypothetical "before I die" point in time that will allow you to put things off indefinitely. The idea being, as far as I'm concerned, that if you really want to do something, you can put the plan in motion within two and three quarter years, or at least be more mindful of accomplishing it at some later date when you're working your way through other goals.

The goals should be realistic but also stretching, so for example nothing like "skydive from the edge of space" but also nothing like "blink at least twice per day."


Since I started my first list at the end of December 2006, I've worked my way through two of them and started on a third this June, which I'll wrap up in March 2015. Over the course of that time I've learned a bit about how to actually successfully accomplish what's on the list. Mostly I'll try to use examples of stuff that has been or currently is on one of my own lists. The following tips are in no particular order.

  • Set definitive goals.
    This one is surprisingly easy to get wrong. A couple of my lists have included things like "#29 - Write a poem every week." or "#28 - Floss." While these are probably good things to aim for (I don't write poetry anymore), they're also really hard to track over the course of 2.75 years. It's way better to set goals that can be crossed off after under half a dozen actions or so. For example, I still have "#22 - Read at least five books dealing with Canadian history." but I've gotten rid of a lot of other stuff that isn't just one single discrete activity. There are still a few things that are a little too abstract, but I'm getting better at not doing this.

  • Keep the list handy and visible.
    This one is also kind of tough. After a lot of trial and error (I don't even remember where I kept the first list, so obviously it wasn't anywhere prominent), I finally feel like I have a good system for keeping my list somewhere where I can see it. I've been using Toodledo to keep track of all my to do lists for the last few months and it's been extremely useful. All of my current 101 things are listed in Toodledo, and I also have an item to review my 101 in 1001 list that recurs every month. Plus, I set up a blog that only I can see where I keep track of the different items as I complete them.

  • It's ok to change your mind.
    When I made my first list, I was still pretty close to/struggling with the faith I grew up in (Roman Catholicism, for anyone who wasn't previously aware). So I had a few things like "#35 - Go to confession." I always hated going to confession, so that was definitely a stretching goal for me. But the fact is that by the time I got to the end of those 1001 days I didn't really care to maintain that faith anymore. Similarly I finally gave up "#20 - Make a zine." because I figured out that if I really wanted to make one I would've done it already. In some ways this can kind of feel like failure, but I like to look at it as a sign of progress and change.
Final Thoughts
While the 101 Things in 1001 Days method/project has treated me fairly well over the years, I think that my current list is going to be my last, mainly because 101 things is a lot of things. Half the time I feel like I end up including things on my list just to fill it out rather than because they're things that I really do want to do.

At the same time, though, I feel like a set of mediumish-sized, mediumish-term goals is a really good thing to have. I may instead try a list of 71 Things in 71 Fortnights, or something like that. About the same length of time, but a smaller number of items. That way I'd still be pushing myself toward things that I want that are outside of my normal set of actions/behaviours/whatever, but I could be a bit choosier about what those things are.

If any of you try this out, let me know how you fare!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the advice on effective goal setting. I especially enjoyed that you discussed how to think about removing a goal from your list as "progress and change" rather than "failure". I have been maintaining a list of things I want to get around doing for a number of years now. The last time I remembered I had such a list, I found that many of those items were not really all that relevant anymore to my interests. I found that some of them were no longer important in light of new experiences that have redefined the value of time.

    I really need to put that list somewhere visible, as you suggest, and make some short term goals for accomplishing a few of the items in a given period. Thanks for the helpful post!