The following exercise is not mine. It belongs to my friend, Chris Brogan. The idea is that you choose three words to theme your year.

It’s an exercise I have found helpful for setting goals and developing plans, even if I have often found a way to retain a theme simply by changing the word.

I have kept this practice since 2013 and here is my history of this exercise.

2013: Platform. Lean. Tribes.
2014: Pivot. Frames. Margin.
2015: Order. Depth. Lifestyle.
2016: Growth. Multiplier. Focus
2017: Integrated. Impeccable. Essential.
2018: Polaris. Via Negativa. Leverage.
2019: Velocity. Execution. Potential.
2020: Intentional. Lines. Performance.

A year is 8,760 hours. We perceive time as scarce because we overestimate what we can do in a day (and by a wide margin, deluding ourselves about what is possible in twenty-four hours). However, we underestimate–by an even wider margin–what we can accomplish in a week, a month, a quarter, a year, or especially a decade.

My Three Words for 2021

Here are my three words for 2021 with a short description.

1. Deepen

The charge here is to go deeper. To read deeper. To think deeper and produce works with greater depth, work of greater import, and weight. It’s also an intention to improve by working on the internal, to be more introspective, to deepen all my practices.

2. Polish

Polish commands that one make something smooth and shiny. It is to refine something, and by doing so, improving it. Apple is an excellent example of a company that excels at “polish,” where even the box that contains a device is beautiful, positively contributing to the experience. “Polish” also speaks to the surface of things, making it the perfect counter to deepen. Every holon has an inside and an outside.

3. Slow

There is no mystery around this word. Productivity, a measure of work, is often confused with tasks and busywork. Real productivity is a measure of the value of the work you complete, the work’s outcome, the impact of the work, and the contribution it makes towards your goals. Going slow gets more done at a higher level of quality, increasing your effectiveness.

Whenever you set a standard, it’s worth writing down a set of questions to test whether you are meeting it.

  • Is this work deep enough to be both meaningful and useful?
  • Is this work polished? Is it beautiful?
  • Does this work need more time?

Happy New Year!