31st of December: Laying the foundation for a successful year/life.
Frankfurt Airport (FRA), 09:03 pm on the 31st of December 2021 at gate Z22. I said goodbye to my parents, who drove me here, and I am now waiting for my flight (UA988) to board. This flight will be a journey from the country and family I love to the person I love, and my heart is in a weird state between excitement and sadness.
2021 brought a lot of change, mainly my emigration to the US, which, contrary to how I planned it, seems to become more permanent than I hoped. I also started ambitious projects and created great memories with my wife, yet I feel like this year didn’t go my way: I could have done more and been closer to my goals.
My notebook bursts with (great?) ideas for content and businesses, I am still young enough to pursue them, and nothing is holding me back. I am at a point of immense potential, and it is on me to use it. The big fear of wasting my life is waiting in the back of my head.
How do I make my goals become a reality after failing at this task for over a decade? During this flight (which just starts boarding), I will try to figure this out, define what I want in life and the projects I will focus on, and analyse the things holding me back. High above the ground, I will set the foundation for my future.
What do I want in life
I see people living my dream - why shouldn’t that be me?
To pursue my dreams, I have to know what they are. We just reached our cruising altitude, and with a bright blue sky outside, I start thinking about my actual goals in life (an easy task to get started).
“Why are you here? Do you fear death? Are you fulfilled?”
- Living my life; collect stories while appreciating the moment
- Make my wife and my family happy and spend time with them
- Make my ideas a reality and create something lasting
The food card starts going down the aisle, and I see that I am the only person not consuming but creating something. Of course, on a 9-hour flight, this is to be expected, and I’d typically watch Top Gear specials as well, yet it feels to be a trend going on outside of this plane as well. People consume more than they create, and the few people who do it the other way around are reaching their goals.
What do I not want
- Waste my life realising dreams of other people
- Feel trapped in one place
- Waste my life consuming other people’s lives
- Numb my mind and lose the ability to appreciate the moment
What is going wrong?
These goals are no sudden revelations but thoughts that developed in my head over a long time. My problem is that I cannot put them into action (the full notebook). Why is that? The answer to this question could change my life.
The pilot just dimmed the cabin lights, and people are falling asleep, so I decide to close my eyes as well, but I am not planning on sleeping, but concentrate on finding the root of my big problem by using the 5 why method:
Why am I far away from my goals?
Because I am not able to make them become a reality.
Because I don’t sit down to work on them or get distracted after a few minutes.
Because it never feels to be the right time to work on things.
Because there is always something better to do, something I’d rather spend my time on.
Because I am addicted to the consumption of content. My brain craves dopamine from my phone, social media, YouTube, Reddit, and video games - the things that keep me from my goals.
Following this train of thoughts, I set two goals for 2022:
- Purge everything that is not getting me closer to my goals (i.e. a digital detox).
- Little choices compound - always choose what gets me one step closer to my goal and prioritise actions over motions.
Beginning tomorrow, I will start a digital detox and stop consuming any content. I will not read the news on my phone (but by a newspaper once a week), go through Reddit every free second, or watch YouTube when I am bored (something I have stopped already). Everything I do should get me closer to my goals.
A perfect Setup
Preferring action over motion means efficient working on things that produce an outcome rather than administrative tasks: Writing and publishing an article = action; Re-organising notes about said article = motion. Loving productivity tools and wanting to capture all of my ideas, I spend too much time on administrative work. To change that, I need one ideal setup.
I need a calendar
A physical Moleskine calendar will be my choice this year.
I need a ToDo list
I will use Things 3. I set myself some rules on how to write down ToDos and will separate my tasks into daily or anytime ToDos.
I need to capture thoughts
When I have a thought/idea on the go, I used to throw it into my ToDo-list, which leads to a mess. Now, I will use Drafts to capture quick thoughts and have a repeating reminder in Things to transfer these ideas.
I need an idea dump/content backlog
Roam is the perfect tool to capture and (kind of) organise all the ideas and content I want to pursue.
I need a project management tool
I choose Notion for this purpose.
I need one Kanban/Scrum board
After a lot of trial and error with different project management techniques, I decided to go with a simple, old, yet efficient method: index cards. They will help me stay on track and be productive.
I need a video editing tool
Yes, I have to define this as well. I am a master of procrastination and have already spent hours comparing Premiere, Final Cut, and Resolve - three tools all capable of doing more than I need. This quarter, I will use Premiere Pro solely for one reason: the interface that reminds me of some good old times.
The key, I think, is to use the tools without changing anything for a while and focus on producing output. I suspect this to be a good setup and will not adjust it before a reevaluation in three months.
We are about halfway across the Atlantic, and I am annoyed at the plane. We fly in a cloudless sky over the blue ocean, and the cabin’s interior is dark. These new dimmable windows cannot be “opened” if the pilot decides it’s time to sleep. (#bringbacktheblinds)
Anyways, it is time for the big one; the most important question of my most important flight: what do I focus on? What are the projects I want to pursue that will get me to the life of my dreams? After sitting in the dark for a while, I came up with this list:
Tier 1: Focus
Tier 2: Slow Burner
- A shop
Tier 3: Productive Leisure & Passiv
- Markus’s Media Imperium
- Markus has a printer
- Digital Oase
7 different projects, down from an initial 15 and a pool of over 100 ideas; still too much? The most difficult but crucial skill for an entrepreneur is to decide which things and projects not to do - a skill I don’t possess. (I still feel like there could be better things on my list and hate the idea of now pursuing any of the other ideas I have). I jump between thoughts, and none become a reality in the end.
duos insequens lepores, neutrum capit
After a lot of consideration, I am happy with this setup. I have only two projects I focus on and a few slow-burner projects I already want to get on the way for the future; It takes a long time to get traction, so why not start already? I have a few passive projects that either don’t require any active work (e.g. I’ll publish videos from my videos on stock-sites) or enable me to relax productively.
(I also still have 30 other things to do before I turn 30.)
I like the idea of the business portfolio and feel confident about this being the start of mine. My vision is to build a business portfolio by turning multiple ideas into a reality while documenting every step on my blog, an open log of my adventure, and learning the best ways to launch startups.
(What about the ideas and projects that didn’t make the list (yet)?)
I’ll share them in my idea-list. I don’t have enough time for all of my projects, and I am convinced that the execution is more important than the idea anyway - so keep them to myself?
Lets Start: The Shop
I feel motivated to get going right away, so I start brainstorming the theme of my shop. I know that I want to build one (it is part of my 30 before 30 list) and already have a few ideas for the things I’d sell, and after long considerations (I again have a problem saying no to things), I came up with my theme: slow travel. How I got there, how this flight and Leonardo DiCaprio influenced my decision, what this means, and what other options I had in mind will be the topic of my first business log.
How to stay on track
(One day later)
My connecting flight got cancelled, and I just woke up in a Holiday Inn at the airport in Washington. I’ll never forget this New Year’s Eve, and neither will I forget this morning; my jet lag woke me up early, and I am sitting at a hotel desk at 5.30 am on the 1 st of January. I love this productive start into the new year, and it allows me to answer one last question: how do I stay on track? I had ambitious goals in the past and made significant progress in the first days, but then I forgot about them. How can I keep going for the whole year?
My solution: routines and a manifest. I defined simple rituals to follow every morning and evening, and one part of them is reading my manifest, which is a little piece of paper that summarises my goal for the year.
And now, it is time to start. I will take a shuttle to the airport and head back home. I am unbelievable excited for this year; there is so much potential and, after spending years planning and thinking about them, it is time to make my dreams a reality.
Follow along if you want to see where this journey will go.