Self leadership and conscious life management (a.k.a. Excel of my life 4.0)

I promised to do a workshop for Herizon (a fantastic non-profit promoting diversity in the tech industry) on self leadership and conscious life management and when I was preparing the contents for it, I realized that my approach has evolved quite a bit in the past few years.

It’s been 4,5 years since my last post about our beautiful life development process with dearest Emma. I am happy to report that our life development partnership is still going strong and we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary next summer, yay! Honestly I am really proud that we’ve stayed committed to it despite me having small kids and us living in different countries for the past 8 years. Funnily enough we don’t even talk that often, but we always make sure to find time for a longer yearly review as well as our quarterly review calls/dinners and I know that if I really need Emma, she’ll always find a time for a call. And we have a WhatsApp group called “Champagne” where we post about achievements we are proud of – because it’s important to remember to celebrate them and Emma is typically one of the first people I want to tell about them 🙂

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

From vertical progress to more fulfilling life

One clear change has been that it has started to feel less important to set exact goals. Instead I’ve been focusing much more on figuring out how to enjoy life more. I guess this is a natural evolution when you get older 🙂 Early in my career it seemed much more important to constantly be thinking about (vertical) progress: What is the next step in my career and what are the next steps in my life? Then at some point you realize that you have actually reached many of the things you set yourself out to do and that maybe some of the things weren’t worth pursuing after all.

At work I notice that I don’t for example care about titles almost at all anymore. I care about learning new things and getting to work with smart and kind people on something meaningful. I do care about influence and mandate, because that’s how you change things and have an impact, but that’s not necessarily tied to a fancy title 🙂 In my private life I’ve also been very lucky: I’ve been happily together with my husband for 14 years now and we got the family we wished for and our beautiful kids are already 6 and 3 years old. I have reached all the “traditional milestones” from getting married to buying a home and having kids. Sometimes I am almost appalled at how conventional my life seems from the outside as I like to think of myself as a rebel, but at least we haven’t bought a car (and don’t plan to) 😉

I guess one aspect is also that doing this type of conscious life management works: If you regularly take time to look at your life, what you have learned lately and in what direction you’d like to head next, it’s much more likely that you end up in a place that feels good, because you’ve consistently made conscious, value-based decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of struggles in the past few years (which is also why no blog posts were published in a long time): The social isolation caused by COVID was an absolute nightmare for an extreme extrovert like myself, having two very small kids is no walk in a park, selling an apartment just when the market crashed (and you have already bought a new, expensive one) caused a lot of stress and I’ve doubted myself professionally on multiple occasions. But still, throughout those struggles with this framework I’ve had a way to put things into perspective and get a clearer picture of what’s not working and what I can do about it or what is simply out of my influence and better to accept as is.

Yearly review – From quantification to themes

This change in thinking has been reflected in the process and the templates I use too. In the past few years there has been a clear shift from quantifying things to defining important themes.

Yearly review slides

The yearly review consists of four parts:

  • Review of the past year
    • What I am proud of
    • What I am grateful for
    • What I found challenging
    • What I learned
  • Core: Who am I and what do I want
    • This section has been inspired by Aki Hintsa’s book The Core and it’s mainly about listing core identities / values and how they are reflected in your life
    • E.g. Feminist – I want to promote gender equality and do my part in promoting feminine values in the workplace and the society as a whole.
  • Good life overview
    • This exercise I took from Maaret Kallio‘s beautiful online course Voimana Toivo (freely translated “Hope as a source of power”), which I warmly recommend to everyone. It was a major help to me during the difficult COVID times <3
    • The instructions were to think of 5 core values that represent good life for you. Good, not perfect life. Then try to think for each of them what they actually mean in practice. What kind of actions belong to it and which don’t? How are they visible in your everyday life and how are the not?
    • The template shows my 5 core values and some examples but you can replace them with your own.
  • Big themes for next year
    • Finally, instead of setting goals, I define themes.
    • These are typically a bit more vague and high level, such as “Getting strong again” (after giving birth twice) or “Figuring out my next professional move” or my personal favorite “Frivolous fun” which was aimed at making sure that after a few very challenging years there would be more light-hearted joy in my life and things that are absolutely useless but a lot of fun 😉

Note: I would encourage you to take the contents from the yearly review template, but download a more inspiring visual template from Canva (or other online template services) to make the template itself more visually inspiring 🙂

Weekly review as a core habit to stay in touch with my values

I’ve been extremely loyal to my weekly review habit for most of the 9,5 years that I’ve been doing this conscious life management. It makes me feel grounded and helps me make changes quickly before issues escalate when I notice there is some misalignment with my values in my everyday life. There have been difficult times when I have skipped the review – sometimes even for months – because I just didn’t have the energy to do it. This to me is a big red flag that I am really not doing well and I always try to come back to it as soon as I am feeling better. At the same time I feel it’s important to always remain self compassionate and not force habits on yourself when you are feeling down. At those times it’s totally okay to give yourself a break and doom scroll on social media or watch reality tv 😉

The current weekly review has been simplified a bit to ensure it doesn’t feel like too much work and it has three sections.

Weekly reflections

  1. General reflections from the week – this is kind of like a mini diary that helps me reflect what were the main events each week.
  2. What I am grateful for – this question reminds me of focusing on the things that are well in my life.
  3. What brought me joy and variance – this question I added after the long, boring COVID period when life was super monotonous and boring. I learned that to me a crucial aspect of happiness is having some variance in my life (learning something new, meeting new people, going to new places, doing something new), so I try to make a conscious effort of making sure I get some stimulation each week 🙂 I also try to take fun and joy seriously. If I can’t come up with anything to note in this section, I make sure to immediately plan something fun for the upcoming week 🙂

Weekly stats

I feel that people are divided into two camps when it comes to metrics and self measurement: You either love having data about yourself or you find it highly anxiety provoking. If you have been reading my blog, you know I definitely belong to the first group 😉 To me data is just data: objective observations about what has actually happened. I don’t get anxious or depressed if it looks bad, I simply take it as an input that helps me see where I need to do some course correction.

I measure some basic health stats like sleep and exercise but also social stuff like have I been meeting my friends or gone to a date with my husband. The social stuff has a very direct impact on my wellbeing too so it’s good to measure it too. As all parents know, not everyday with young kids is exactly fun and when you are exhausted and angry, it can be difficult to remember the good stuff, so I try to force myself to note something cool that happened with the kids each week.

Weekly check list

Finally I have a couple of weekly reminders on doing a calendar check with my husband (Do we have any exceptions to kindergarten delivery & pick-up, which day are we planning to use our me-time, special stuff that needs to be taken care of, etc.) and make sure there is something fun planned for next week 🙂

Traffic lights

The second sheet includes a classic “traffic light” check on what do you want more in your life, what do you want to keep as it is and what do you want less of. It works as a great pre-work when you are planning the specific questions / stats to follow for the next half-year as you can then include items that make sure you add more of the things you want and make a conscious effort to decrease the things you want less of.


So that’s all for today folks, hope you got some food for thought from this post! Feel free to download the templates and use them as an inspiration for your own life management exercises. To me the main point is to regularly stop and reflect on your life status and choices and make conscious decisions about what way you want to head in the future. The format is less important but I think it’s good to share practical examples so that it’s easier to understand the basic idea 🙂 I would love to hear your feedback and what kind of methods you are using for life management purposes!