There are 99 days left in the year. What are you going to do with them?

Yesterday, mid-coffee, a strange reminder popped up in my Calendar.

Nestled among the to-dos, calls, and deadlines was a simple message:

100 days left in the year.

Just over 3 months.

That’s it. And then one more time around the sun.

Seeing that reminder knocked the breath out of my lungs. I don’t remember putting it in my calendar, but at some point in the last year I did. So now what to do about it?

It’s easy to get caught up in these memento moris—these reminders of our own mortality. Whenever we see a reminder of our limited longevity it’s like a not-so-subtle punch-to-the-gut reminder that all those things you’ve been putting off for the last few weeks/months/years? Yeah, they’re never going to happen unless you start. Now.

As old Ben Franklin told us:

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

But anecdotes and quotes are easy to say, but hard to live by.

We feel good spouting our borrowed wisdom, but inside we hate the pressure they put on us to act. To do. To actually create instead of sitting back and comfortably consuming.

I think my friend Leon Jacobs said it best:

“What happens between birth and death is a choice: to dream it, or do it; be silent or to speak up; consume or create. To spend hours anxiously avoiding spoilers for the next big Whatever just so you can binge watch it on the weekend, rather than finishing that screenplay, that app, that book, that business plan.”

It’s time to stop quoting and start doing.

What to do with your 100 days?

100 days may seem like a huge amount of time to commit to change, but in the grand scheme of life? It’s a blink of the eye.

So why not go all in?

So many of us overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year (or 100 days!)

Want to write a book? Committing to writing 3 pages a day means you’ll have written 300 pages by the end of your 100 days. (Which, according to Amazon’s Text Stats feature, is significantly more than the average novel.) Imagine that. A first draft of a novel in just over 3 months.

Consistency wins. But getting consistent is never easy. Jobs and commitments come up. Things get in the way. We get tired. We fall back on bad habits.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since yesterday morning. How do we make the most of our 100 days? Here’s how I’m doing it:

Be bold

Derek Sivers wrote a great piece recently about how to change anything in our lives we need to overcompensate to get anywhere.

When we start a change, all the bricks are stacked on one side. That’s our habits and mindset weighing down any chance of change.

When we want to make a change, most of us react with a small, seemingly manageable change. Which looks something like this:

That’s not going anywhere…

But what if we went all in? If we were bold in our choices. If we committed fully for, say, 100 days?

All in baby.

The goal, as Derek explains, is not to stay there, which is nearly impossible. But rather to ‘even out’ to a new place. A balance where you can keep moving in the right direction without falling back on your habits.

Just start (and keep going)

The easiest place to start is at the beginning. Whatever you’re choosing to do, just do it. Stack the bricks. Force yourself to push through the awkward, uncomfortable first few attempts.

You’ll slip. You’ll stumble. You might fall. But you’ll find your footing eventually. And it will feel amazing.

Don’t let fear or procrastination hold you back. Find whatever it is that keeps you committed to moving in the direction you want to.

For Victor Hugo, the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that meant locking all his clothes in a closet so he wouldn’t be able to go out socializing or entertain and would be forced to write.

For Douglas adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it was being locked in a hotel room for weeks on end (which his editors would actually do).

You don’t need to be as extreme, but finding a device to stop you from slipping will help. Personally, I’m using an app called SelfControl to block Netflix, YouTube, and social media in the evenings so I know that if I’m on my computer, I’m there to write.

Break down your big goals

You want to write a book? Great. But don’t write that down.

Don’t even write down: ‘Write 3 pages of your book’.

Instead, be specific. Don’t give yourself room to move. Break those bigger goals into short, actionable items by saying things like “I will work on my paper for 1 hour at 11am on Tuesday” rather than “I’ll work on my paper on Tuesday”.

Keep track

Use a calendar. Set up daily reminders. Draw lines on your arm. Whatever it takes to keep track of good days, do that.

Once you get a streak going, you’ll feel that moment to keep pushing on.

For writers, I suggest 750words, which tracks your writing every single day. It’s addicting, which is the point. For the next 100 days you are committing to something big.

Tell your friends

Make yourself accountable. Find people you trust and respect and tell them what you’re doing. Ask them to check in on you and give you hell if you aren’t keeping up.

Be gentle

Lastly, be gentle on yourself. The end goal is to hit a big target. To better yourself. To be happier in who you are. You can’t do that if you’re beating yourself up constantly for missing a day or two. Hell, I’m writing this on day 99 if that tells you anything.

So, what am I doing?

There are 3 places I’ve wanted to make big changes in my life for a long time, but never had the guts to go all in on. Here’s how I’m spending my 100 (now, 99) days:

  1. Health — Over the past year I’ve been boxing on average 2–3X a week. Which is a big step in the right direction compared to my past health routine. But go on vacation for a week and it all goes to hell. For the next 99 days I’m committing to exercising every single day.
  2. Personal writing — I write every single day as part of my job, but my own personal writing has slipped. Which I just can’t let happen any longer. For the next 99 days I’m committing to writing 3 pages per day.
  3. Mindfulness — Stress plays way too big of a role in my life and I’m not okay with that anymore. For the next 99 days I’m committing to spending 20 minutes a day practicing mindfulness through meditation and focus training.
  4. Reconnecting with the people I love — If this memento mori has taught me anything it’s that life is about so much more than myself. And that showing people I love and care for them is one of the best ways to increase my happiness. For the next 99 days I’m committing to tell the people around me what they mean to me every chance I get.

I’ve already slipped. Today is day 99 and last night I missed out on pretty much all of the things I wanted to do. I didn’t write. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t take time to be mindful of my thoughts and the people around me.

But I know that’s OK. I stumbled, but am ready to go.

99 days is still enough. Hell, 7 days is enough if that’s all you can handle.

Just remember that every day is a choice. A choice to be better. To push yourself to create. Or to sit back and watch it all fly by.