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The new and the old 101-in-1001 lists

In the spring of 2005, Is tarted a fairly ambitious project to complete 101 individually but somewhat arbitrarily chosen tasks in 1001 days. When the designated time period had elapsed, I had finished 74 of the tasks (the old list can be viewed here). With hindsight, I regard this as a huge success. Because of this project, I did lots of good, entertaining or necessary things that I would never have started without the list. Among the things I’m most happy with today, I would say running a spontaneous Marathon, reading lots of interesting books, organising my life in various ways and hiking more are the most important.

Problems with the list

However, as anyone who has compiled a similar list would know, there are lots of problems associated with having such a large number of goals running for such a long time. People change, the world changes and if the list does not morph in accordance, it will slowly be a lump of heavy machinery you have to carry around on your back rather than an engine that can propel you forward as it is was intended to be. I wrote about this in 2007, and what I said then is still true. The list is a tool and shouldn’t be allowed to take control. If something turns out to be meaningless or less relevant than it seemed at first, that item should be changed. However, simply changing things because they are too difficult would contradict the whole purpose of the list, so that’s something I won’t do.

2010 and the new list

If the 101-in-1001 list is such a flawed framework, why is it then that I launched a new list in 2010? Shouldn’t I have learnt from my mistakes and devised some other way to fulfil the same function as the list, but which has fewer drawbacks? Of course I should and I have. I experimented with monthly reports for a while, but found that they were too short-term and didn’t really give me the same motivational boost as the 101 list. Considering that I actually completed a majority of the goals on the old list, I thought that starting a new one would perhaps be a good idea, especially since I now know more about how to construct the list in a consistent and long-term fashion. It was also the case that I at that time thought graduation was about 1001 days away, so it was a nice, stable time in my life.

Or so I thought, because that was the first assumption that was completely turned over only a few months later. I now think it’s likely that I will graduate in less than one year; what I’m going to do after that I don’t know. Can a new 101 list survive such shifts in planning and daily life? Yes, I think so, with cleverer goals and a more organic view of the project itself. The 101 list is extremely helpful because it allows me to think about my long-term goals on a regular basis. It also helps me focus on various aspects of these goals, breaking them down and analysing how to best approach them.

Ideas on developing the list

By way of concluding this post, I’m going to raise a few questions. There is nothing that says that the project as it is in its ideal form. The numbers 101 and 1001 are more or less arbitrary. Wouldn’t it be possible to have a running list with a number of goals on various levels? Let’s say a flexible number of short-term, medium-term and long-term goals, and then change them or replace them either if they’re finished or become irrelevant. The rest of what now constitutes the list would be a list of potential tasks, ready to entered into the real list when needed. Such a system would take into account the fact that attention span is limited and that interest in various subjects vary over time. However, I’m quite happy with my new 101 list and I will stick with it either until I’ve developed something based on the above-mentioned system or the list stops working for some reason.

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  1. Martin Ackerfors’s avatar

    An idea, based on how we plan and structure our tasks at work, struck my mind as I read through your post. Of course, our system isn’t used for long-term development (as far as I know) but it would be possible to adapt it for this kind of projects. That’s my belief, anyhow.

    In short: we have a lot of tasks which are supposed to be finished – soon or in the future. Each week we organise some of them in a schedule spanning over 2-4 weeks. When new tasks are assigned to us, we schedule them as well, if they are important. If something isn’t finished, it is evaluated and rescheduled.

    In making the adaption, we need to consider the 101 tasks a pool of assignments which are supposed to be finished in a certain time. It would be, I imagine, a horrible operation to schedule all at once, but I know, at least for me, there’s no doubt about roughly how much time each of my tasks will need. Since that is the case, it would be possible for me to plan a month ahead, slicing up the bigger tasks into pieces, make some of them ongoing, finish off the small ones (and replace them with other ones), and so on. The structure, I believe, would contribute with a greater sense of control. And it would, as you asked, divide the tasks into categories after expenditure of time, as well as supporting the planning as whole.


    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      Interesting! Individual scheduling for goals or tasks is probably the biggest difference between what you propose and the standard 101 list. One problem with doing this regularly and having some sort of follow-up is that it’s quite boring. I had my monthly reports which seems somewhat similar to this, but stopped writing them after two y ears or something like that.

      However, regarding a 101-in-1001 list as a pool of assignments or things we want to achieve is very good indeed. No one can keep track of 101 goals at the same time anyway, so it seems like a good idea to focus on as much as one can and then look for new goals in the pool when whatever is in focus is done or becomes boring.

      It would be possible to have an open-ended list here, with a non-specific number of tasks, but then some kind of individual scheduling would have to be added, because otherwise there wouldn’t be any deadlines for anything and that’s definitely a bad thing. What do you think?