The Big List

by Tobias van Schneider
first appeared
on my private email list.

I’m not a planner. I don’t trust planners and I don’t like to be one myself. I like to live life the way it falls in place. Day after day and week after week. The fact that we always have a plan b already gives enough evidence that plans don’t work.

Only thing I do is “planning” little things, hours or days ahead. Sometimes weeks if it’s needed when coordinating & collaborating with other people. But I only do it for the sake of not being a complete asshole when working with other people. But there is a fine line between planning, and having a plan.

I don’t have a big plans for my life. For me, planning your whole life means you’re not allowing that life can just happen to you. If you already know exactly what you are going to do the next 10 years, where is the fun in that?

Interesting enough, these are the expectations in our society as we grow up. What is your plan? Where are you going? When are you getting married? What about a house with a nice white fence around it?

What I do have is a big list, my big wish list of things I like to do. This list serves as my personal north star or you might call it a compass. I turn to this list every time I’m in doubt or feel like I lost track of where I’m going.

Here are the basics:

1. Keep a permanent list that contains one bullet point for each goal or thing you like to achieve in your life. If you never had one of these, start writing down around 10 items right now, big or small.

2. The list can be completely random, there is no ranking or priority. Keep it simple, just write it down on paper. (mine is analog)

3. Each item on the list can be completely different from the other. They can be range from serious to crazy. Be honest with yourself, if time, money, etc. would play no role, what would you like to do? Here are some examples:

- Adopt a Panda
- Meet a real monk
- High Five Elon Musk
- Build a tree house
- Fly to space
- Write a book about XYZ

4. Keep this list private. You might tell some friends about a few items, but this is your (dirty) secret little list.

How to use this list

Now, every one or two months I pull out this list myself. I read through it, and check which items I might be not interested in anymore. There is no shame in it. If you decide to not do something anymore, remove it from the list. It should never make you feel guilty. Change is good.

Once you’ve done this, look at all the other items that are still on the list and ask yourself this one single question:

Is what I’m doing right now (every day) supporting any of the items on the list? If yes, keep on going. If not, change something immediately.

There is no pressure in checking off any items on the list, but there is something magical to see if you are still on the “your” path. Try to not see this list as a plan, but more of a compass helping you guide the way.

During busy times, it’s often easy to drift into directions by accident, blindly following others. Some times I look at the list and notice how I got completely side tracked over the last few months. If there is a huge disconnect between all the things on your list, and the way you lived your life the last couple of months, you might adjust either one of them.

And again, there is no pressure in achieving any of those items in a specific time frame. The list is less of a bucket list, but more of a compass helping you to stay focused on the things you want to do.

Every other month I look at my list, I either find myself again, or I notice how much I’ve changed from last time I edited the list.


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Yours truly,
Tobias

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Tobias a Product Design Lead & Art Director at Spotify NYC. Maker of many other things and member of the Board of Directors at AIGA New York www.vanschneider.com

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