Resolution Grid

I was minding my own business on twitter yesterday, as you do, when friend and long-time Artefact practitioner Ian Fitzpatrick posted up this, a picture of his New Year's Resolution Grid. We thought we'd have a wee quick chat about it, in time for the New Year...

Hey Ian, (for the last time in 2014 probably)… has it been a good year?

I don’t think that the returns are in yet. Without going down a rabbit hole of ‘arbitrary endpoints’, the last twelve months for me were marked by events and transitions that will likely not be realized until 2015 or 2016. That said, far more good than bad transpired in my life this year.

That’s great to hear. Earlier today, you posted up this, a brilliant and simple framework for New Year’s Resolutions using your Artefact Cards - what prompted you to get systematic about it?

At a certain point, you’ve already quit smoking and the things you want or need to do take on a different posture. There are plenty of things I’d like to do — make more time for reading, run a 10k — and many I need to do — plan for the kids’ college, lose 20 pounds. Certainly, the challenges get knottier with age, and they tend not to be ‘solvable’, but rather they take on different forms over time.

I tend to like systems for working through these kinds of challenges, and decided to apply one to my resolutions for two reasons:

1. To ensure a thoughtful balance between those things that I want to do and those that I need to do.
2. To acknowledge that long-term goals tend to be outcomes of a series of shorter-term tasks. This is particularly helpful in prioritizing the output.

This was, as an aside, prompted by your own 'fidelity v. resolution’ grid system.

Ah yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. It’ll be the centrepiece for the Smithery 2015 projects I think. Expect a blog post or three on that first week back. Back to your grid though - do you already have a stack of things you’d slot into these nine categories? Is the framework helping you think of more?

I don’t know that it’s helping me think of more, but it certainly helps me think of goals as having multiple stages, such that I can view a life goal through the lens of now / next / later.

I actually complicated matters even more, and constructed four identical grids: finance, family, career and personal. What I love about this particular approach is finding that seemingly divergent end goals each begin with similar — or identical — near-term steps.

Where I think this ultimately takes me is the realization that, at 40 with a family and a firm to say grace over, my resolutions are less about the things I will or won’t do, and a bit more about the way I prioritize my time and resources. For example, looking across the notes I’ve made it’s clear to me that taking better care of my physical self is a first step on the path toward several long-term goals, many of which aren’t in any way fitness-related.

I was reading Sophie Lovell’s book on Dieter Rams over the holidays, and she talks about how Erwin Braun, one of the sons who took over the business in the fifties, was a great believer in the requirement of physical wellbeing - he applied the maxim “a sound mind in a healthy body” to every one and every thing in the business. Perhaps knowledge work should be best done on the move?
I’ve never spent much time contemplating knowledge work in motion, though I’ll admit that a brief flirtation with walking meetings failed out of the gate.

What I am more certain of is that my own capacity for clear thought and information processing is inextricably linked to both the exercise and sleep I get. For me, healthy body has a bit less to do with Fassbender abs than it does a clear, rational head — which is at the root of the work I (purport to) do.

But it’s also a really pragmatic concern: it’s rather absurd to build financial plans for retirement without resolving to be physically present for it. The older I get, the more that these concerns become interconnected systems — and so it only makes sense (to me) to develop a system in which to contemplate them.

I’m going to sit down and give your grid a go, I think, and see what happens. I’d encourage others reading this to do the same too. Any tips for us?

Sure. Start by considering your own grid. Not everyone thinks in utilitarian terms, nor in stages. If it doesn’t come easily, try to construct variations on the vertices. More critically, don’t try and fill in the grid completely — its entirely possible that you don’t have any ‘well-advised next steps’.

Alternately, invent (and share) an altogether better system.


Thanks to Ian for taking the time out to share his thoughts - if anyone fancies giving the method a go (or making up their own as Ian suggests), send us the pictures on twitter (@Artefact_Cards) and we'll post them up on here.

If one of your resolutions is to "draw more", then we've been testing out a daily drawing newsletter called Sixty Second Sketches through December - a simple little prompt and hint of something to draw. It's proved really popular, so we'll continue it through 2015. You can sign up to receive it here -

Happy New year, everyone, see you in 2015.

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