To me, going forward in life has a certain intrinsic value, which is why I greatly enjoy developing myself and planning for it. When last summer (original post from April 2015) my friend Emma told me about her goal excel, I immediately got excited and suggested to Emma that we should start going through our excels together in order to offer peer support. For the last 9 months we have in fact set goals together and analyzed the results always once a quarter.
My first experiences with the excel of my life have been very convincing and I also feel that the related peer support has brought a lot of positive energy into my life. I see the excel of my life as a life management tool. It helps me define, what kind of life I would like to be living and to check regularly, whether I am in fact living the way I claim that I want to live. You can download a template here: Excel of my life_template. But before using it, I recommend strongly that you read the user manual below:
Step 1: Prioritizing different areas of life
The first tab in the excel forces you to prioritize the different areas of your life. The most common mistake in the “making a life change”-projects is that people try to improve everything at the same time. This, however, typically leads to a couple of weeks of inhuman super effort and then a minor glitch comes along in your everyday life and you quit completely. The second fact that you need to accept is that we simply don’t have time for everything. We cannot possibly put great amounts of time simultaneously to sports, work, studies and social life, but we need to divide our time between them. That’s why it’s important to start by becoming clear about what are the current priorities in your life, so that you can adapt the ambition level of the goals in the different areas to the priority that was given to them. In our experience you should set goals in half-yearly periods because that’s an easily graspable time frame. Priorities and goals can of course be modified during the year.
Step 2: Goals, activities and measurement
The second tab in the excel is meant to take the priorities in different areas to a more practical level. You can set one or more goals in each area of life. In addition to the goal, it’s extremely important to define what achieving that goal actually means on the level of doing, and how can you measure your success. I have left a few examples in the template. If I want to get 8 hours of sleep every night, I have noticed that one of the most important things to do is to start calming down early enough and stop playing around with different screens latest around 21.00. I measure my sleep with a Beddit device, which gives me direct feedback every morning about the quantity and quality of sleep. Typically the most controversial topic with friends and acquaintances seems to be relationship goals, because many feel that they seem too cold and rational. I, on the other hand, feel that it’s quite naive to assume that my relationship will stay magically happy if I don’t do anything about it. That’s why as a pragmatic person I feel it’s important to define activities that support a happy relationship. For me it means for example that I make sure to spend enough time at home (in other words that I don’t overbook my social calendar which is a clear risk in my case) and that we do something fun together every week.
Step 3: Weekly review
The weekly review has turned out to be a central success factor in using the excel of my life successfully. We both started doing weekly check-ups from the beginning of this year, typically on Sunday evenings. The weekly review is both about looking back and ahead. The questions about the past week guide you to analyze the week (what worked, what didn’t), gather learning and celebrate successes. In addition we look at the coming week and think about what would you like to achieve and who would you like to connect with. In addition to this we have added some measurements, with which we can follow the progress of set goals. To cheer up all excel fans even more, we have of course added conditional formatting to those cells, so that they turn automatically red, yellow or green so that it’s easy to get a good overview of whether it’s been a good or a bad week. I have found the weekly review especially useful, because it helps me take quick corrective actions, if I for example notice that my sleeping stats are going in the wrong direction.
Attitude: Relentless mercy
The most typical question I get when I tell about the excel of my life is “Don’t you get super stressed about it?”. I typically answer that yeah, I probably would if I would evaluate myself weekly and would always make a judgment about whether I have been a good person or a bad person. But that’s so not the point. The point is to raise my awareness on whether I am living according to my own values, and to help me take corrective actions if I notice that I am going in the wrong direction. In the same way I can re-evaluate my goals if I notice that I am systematically not implementing my own plans in a certain area. That is why it’s good to combine using the excel with a self-compassionate and merciful attitude, so that it becomes a useful tool and not a huge source of stress.
You can also now check out the next version of the excel in this newer blog post!