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IG#25: 2 Tools to Prepare You For 2024

The Past-Year Review, The Not-To-Do List, & more.

Dominik Nitsch
5 min read
IG#25: 2 Tools to Prepare You For 2024

Good morning & happy Sunday!

Grab a coffee, tea, mulled wine, beer, whatever floats your boat, and get your notebooks ready.

As today, we’ll talk about setting yourself up for success in 2024 - by looking into the past, the future, and your room (huh?).

Let’s dive in.

[1] Conduct a Past-Year Review

The holidays are time for reflection. Work is quiet, everybody is attending family reunions, the weather sucks, so time for reflection is plenty.

I use this time to do a Past-Year Review (courtesy of Tim Ferriss).

Here’s how it works:

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

It’s simple, but it will teach you a lot about your past year.

Now, do two things:

  1. Start planning out your new year, using the step-by-step cadence that I outline on page 9 of my Guide to Time Mastery. Take the things from your positive column, and start scheduling them.
  2. Start writing your Not-To-Do List.

[2] Write a Not-To-Do List

New year, new beginnings. The perfect inflection point to make a change.

Which most people do. They:

  • sign up for a gym to work out more
  • commit to start working on their side hustle to finally break free from that corporate job
  • find a language class to finally learn Spanish

Four weeks into the years, all the new resolutions go out the window.

Most of us have already maxed out the amount of things that they can reasonably do.

  • Instead of doing more, we need to do less.
  • Instead of saying “this year I will do …”, we need to say “this year I won’t do …”.
  • Instead of a To-Do List, we need a Not-To-Do List.

And that’s exactly what you’re going to write: a list of things that you won’t do next year.

Addition by subtraction.

It’s simple:

  1. Go back to the exercise above and find the 20% of activities that drained your energy a ton
  2. Put them onto your Not-To-Do List
  3. Take that list and put it somewhere where you can see it daily. Optionally, share it with your friends for increased accountability.

If you’d like inspiration, here are my versions for 2020, 2021, and 2023.

Having reviewed them for this post, I’m happy to say that I’ve internalized the vast majority of the items on the previous lists - the longer ago, the more internalized they are.

Except for the multi-tasking aspect; I still get distracted way too easily.

[3] Remove Distractions Around You

„Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be violent and original in your work.“ - Gustave Flaubert

Speaking of distractions: they are, mostly, a product of your environment.

So design your environment for focus.

Take a look at the photos in this article. The desks are all incredibly tidy, and mostly empty: the focus lies on the computer, which is where most of our work happens.

My favorite setup from the article

This is for good reason: the less tidy our desk, the more distracted we’ll be.

(I can confirm, writing this from a relatively cluttered desk).

So this holiday season, do a few things for a better 2024:

  1. Declutter your desk and find “homes” for the objects that end up lying there
  2. Declutter your computer: close all browser tabs, reboot it, put all stuff from your desktop into folders, clean up your dock
  3. Declutter the areas around your desk: I’m no expert in being highly orderly, but I can tell you that my focus increased once I started sorting the books on the shelf next to my desk by color
  4. Optional: declutter everything else in your household. I just threw away four trash bags of expired food from our pantry. Very relieving (and one less food safety hazard).

Less is more. Addition by subtraction.

In 2024, do more of the stuff you like, and less of the stuff you hate.

Today, build a foundation for a fantastic 2024.

Much love


One ask from my side

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that some of you really enjoy what I’m writing - which makes me feel giddy, warm, and fuzzy. Please keep that coming.

My friend Lea mentioned recently: “a few friends and myself love the newsletter - we don’t always agree with what you write, but it encourages discussions among us, and that’s awesome”.

I love hearing that. If everybody agreed all the time on the things that I write, this stuff would be boring as hell.

So if you feel anything like Lea, please tell a friend about this newsletter, and maybe even forward them this email. It’s the best thing you can do to help this newsletter grow.

The more people subscribe, the more time I’m forced to spend on writing the best possible newsletter. Again, everybody wins.

Thank you.

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:


Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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