Dear Tobias, ...
Last year I went through a phase of change in my career. After realizing that my work at a big consultancy firm was not fulfilling to me and made me feel unhappy, I knew something had to change. To plan my next steps, I went to a career counselor and subsequently decided to quit my job. At the end of 2018, I left my job without yet knowing what my next step would be.
Career counseling did not exactly tell me what to do next, but it taught me a few important lessons about myself. Firstly, I wanted to become more conscious of how I was spending my time. Secondly, I wanted to be agile in adjusting my life and make sure I would spend my time in a meaningful way. To achieve this, I came up with a tool I call the "Monthly letter to myself."
What it is and does
At the start of each month, I write a letter to my future self that I subsequently read and answer at the end of the month. What these letters allow me to do is:
- To set tangible goals that I want to achieve in the coming month.
- To reflect on the past month and what I will do in the next month.
- To free up mental space while keeping track of my well-being.
- To act and readjust in an agile way.
How it works
All my letters are structured in the same way.
- I start each letter with a few sentences (3-5) on how I feel on that particular day.
Questions I ask myself are:
- What is my energy level?
- How do I feel?
- Am I happy?
- Next, I move to two retrospective elements: (i) my three tangible goals of the past month, (ii) and 10-15 reflective questions.
- When evaluating my goals, things I ask myself are:
- Did I achieve my goals?
- If not, why not, and is that goal still important to me?
- If yes, does the result meet my expectations?
- The questions for reflection I put down are usually things such as:
- You decided to start playing the trumpet again; how is that working out?
- You wanted to meet up with your friend Matt; how is he doing?
- How did the certification exam go?
- After reflecting on the past month, I switch my focus and look ahead.
- I set myself three goals that I can achieve in the next month and help me reach my overall goals.
- I write down 10-15 new questions that I want myself to answer at the end of the next month. Doing this, I already form a clear picture of how I will be spending my time in the next month and whether that is how I want to spend my time.
- Lastly, I end with appreciating how much I have achieved and done in a month and wish myself a good month.
I have been writing these letters for a year now and am pleased with how they help me live a more mindful life. I am more aware of where I am going and have a dedicated time slot each month, where I am reflecting and readjusting my goals. Moreover, the tool helps me to take measures when I feel stressed or start doubting my path.
Also, it is the first such tool that I have managed to maintain over a year. I used to try and write a journal every day, but I was never able to keep it up. Now, with my monthly letters, I have found a rhythm that I can keep up, that allows me to reflect but does not make me overthink stuff.
After discussing the tool with a few close friends and getting positive feedback, I wanted to write down my thoughts and share it with a wider audience. Please use it if you like it and let me know what I could change or improve. Happy to get your feedback!