On Years' Ends and Making a Plan


As the old cliché goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans. (Let's ignore for the moment the cliché of naming a cliché as such so your readers will let it slide.) So in the interest of giving God a few chuckles as a new year prepares to arrive, every December, I take a week and a half off work and spend a lot of time planning for the dozen months to come. 

Back in the days of Web 2.0, we called this an Überlist. I have no idea who first pioneered the idea—which was to make a list of 100 Things To Do plus the number of the year, so 2017's list would include 117 items—but I made my first one in 2006 going into 2007. So on the tenth anniversary of that list, I've sat down to make yet another.

Überlists are instructive and helpful for a number of reasons. For a Type A personality like mine, any workable plan is better than none at all, and while my nearly thirty-seven years of life have taught me that any given year is going to give the big middle finger to any plans I make, I like having them. It gives me a feeling of direction. 

Also, best-laid and never-realized plans are instructive. At the end of a year, I look back at the previous year's Überlist and look at what I achieved—new patio furniture for the back porch! Redecorate the office! Stay in my current size pants!—and what I didn't—Read sixty books! Go down a pant size! Yoga every day!—and see where I went right and where I went wrong. 

The number of items hasn't mattered to me for years in making my Überlist. And having a list of To-Dos for an entire year isn't helpful, especially if I never go back and look at the list. So I've made my Überlist into a master list of routines. When will I exercise, and in what way? This year, I'm running what will be my third half-marathon, training for which will begin at the end of January. But I don't want to give up cycling. And I need to get more serious about weight training and yoga. So creating a weekly schedule of exercise, which I did today, is helpful. Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays will be lift days in the evening. Half marathon training runs will happen Monday and Thursday evening and Friday morning, with long runs on Sunday, long bike rides on Saturday, and yoga class on Wednesday night. Fill in the rest of the spaces with leisurely bike rides and running in the neighborhood, and the allotment of exercise minutes for the week is filled without feeling stressful. Have a contingency plan for crappy weather (that mostly involves the YMCA or yoga at home). 

Same thing with writing. When will I write, and what? My plan is to achieve at least 500 words of fiction and one poem a day, with specific times set aside for editing at vox poetica in the evenings. And instead of telling myself, "SIXTY BOOKS THIS YEAR!" I have set out a reading plan for January, after which time I will reassess: Did January's reading go according to plan? If not, why not? What worked? What didn't? How do I make adjustments for February? 

And so it goes. I know I'll look back on December 29, 2017, and laugh at what I thought I'd accomplish this year. But I've learned that for an Überlist to be useful, it has to be actionable, and for me, that means a grand plan broken down into manageable chunks—not a list of 117 random things I'm going to tell myself to do in 2017. After all, that would mean I'd have to accomplish three things a day. And trying to make a plan to do that fills me with dread dark and entire. 

So what are you—and I hesitate to use this word—resolving to do in 2017?