What will you commit to for the next 365 days?

My Year of Making Things That Matter

Cynthia Koo


I just finished a year of learning how to draw. I drew (nearly) every day starting in August 2013, until I hit 365 days. It was astonishingly productive, but mentally demanding. The thought of another year’s worth of commitment makes me slightly anxious.

So why am I subjecting myself to another 365 day project?

Because it scares me that I could feel so productive, but still, possibly, not be making things that matter. That matter to me, that matter to the people who matter to me. That matter to the world on the grand scale by which we measure how a life matters.

There are a lot of things I have always wanted to do. Things that I have talked about doing for a long time. Things that I would regret not doing on my death bed. Going after these things seems like exactly the kind of endeavor to subject to the 365-day format. Systems seem to work really well for me. In particular, I am obsessed with what can be done when you do something small every single day.

Though—what if I do 365 days of work and still get nowhere?

I’m also doing this because it’s scary.

You see, learning how to draw was different. I’d always believed myself to be terrible at it. So there was nowhere to go but up. And I covered a lot of up. But what if I get tired midway through a year of attempting to make things that matter because I realized I couldn’t do it? I’d be so disappointed in myself.

But the disappointment of inaction would be worse.

Finally, I’m doing this because I very much love being here: on the brink of possibility. Scheming. Dreaming. But “on the brink of possibility” is not what I want my eulogy to be.

The Rules

So, how will it work? And what do I mean by “matter”?

The rules—per my own advice on how to design a 365 day project:

  1. Projects must either (1) matter to me, (2) matter to people who matter to me, or (3) matter to the world. Mattering to me means that they either help with my career, help me generate sustainable residual income, or are things that I have always wanted to do, things that I would regret not doing on my deathbed, or things that I would be immeasurably proud to complete.
  2. I will commit to 365 days of making something at least 5 days a week, starting on February 1.
  3. A day counts when I have something visual to show for it, or have done at least 15 minutes of work.
  4. A project can take as few days as possible, but no more than 30—the point being to scope projects down to manageable chunks and more importantly, to force launching.
  5. I’ll wrap up each project with a retrospective.

Medium, deliverable—all else entirely flexible.

Projects completed

  1. Project #1: Designing greeting card templates for Oriental Garden
    My dad has been the manager at Oriental Garden since before I was born. I wanted to design a set of greeting card templates for him to print out for customers celebrating holidays and special occasions at the restaurant. 2.23.15
  2. Project #2: Designing a word art portrait
    My friend Mandy’s birthday was coming up, and even though she is beautiful, I’m not sure she has ever really, truly believed any compliment that I have ever given her. So for her birthday, I wanted to give her written, crowdsourced proof. 3.6.15

Projects in the queue

  1. The Interview Project: Ask my parents 1 question everyday for 30 days and document their answers (matters to me—will regret not doing on my deathbed)
  2. Design Cases: Sets of instructional design case studies, in the vein of HBS business cases (matters to the world [hopefully ;)])
  3. Story: A portfolio platform for telling the story behind design decisions (same as above)
  4. 1000 Eulogies: An art project exploring the question, what do you want to be remembered for? (matters to me, and hopefully to people who matter to me)
  5. The Yelp Rating Project: Figure out how to bump Oriental Garden’s Yelp rating up to 4 stars, authentically (matters to my dad, who’s been the manager there since before I was born)
  6. And many more I have not fleshed out or thought of yet.

How would your life change if you did something everyday for 365 days?

Pick something good. Check out my Skillshare class on how to do your own 365 day project.

Now, join me? ;)

And sign up here via email to follow along and keep me publicly accountable. I haven’t decided what I’ll be sending out yet. But I’ll make it good, I promise. ;)

I’ll also be posting to Instagram. See ya there! And please let me know if you decide to do something too!

Chasing Magic

My year of writing every week. On design + love + designing a life I love. Written by @cyn_koo

Cynthia Koo

Written by

Designer, entrepreneur, obsessive list maker. Chief Dimsum Eater @wontoninamil

Chasing Magic

My year of writing every week. On design + love + designing a life I love. Written by @cyn_koo