in life

Ten Things You Must Do To Make 2012 The Best Year Ever

It’s January 3rd and we’ve already established that 2012 is going to be a great year. But in order to make it the best ever, there’s some things that you’re doing that you shouldn’t, and other’s you’re not doing but most definitely should…

(1) Stop making the “I don’t have time” excuse. If you say, “I can’t do _____ because I don’t have time”, you’re only bullshitting yourself. You do have time, if you make time. Focus. Be selective in your commitments. Make time for what matters. Forget the rest. Lets this year be about managing your time and allow yourself to say “no” a little more often so you can say “yes” when you should.

(2) Don’t over-commit. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Getting to where you want to be is hard. Sometimes it’s damn hard. But if you’re OVERWORKING to get there, you’re actually doing more harm than good. Feeling overwhelmed is the absolute worst. If you’re there, find ways to drop a few things off your “must-do” list.

(3) Schedule time to relax on your calendar. This one is big. And I was deliberate in saying “on your calendar” because that is key. It’s easy to say “I’ll make sure to relax more often” – and it sounds great in theory, but it needs to be something you actually make an effort to have as part of your day. Just like working out, answering emails, writing proposals, or whatever else you block out time to do. Block out actual time each day to watch Boy Meets World reruns, take a nap, eat Fruit Roll Ups, or whatever else you do to relax (and don’t act like those hypotheticals don’t sound awesome. You know they do).

(4) Make to-do lists. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to to-do lists. The first step is admitting the problem, right? Though in my case, it’s not a problem at all. I’m deliberate about making a to-do list first thing in the morning. If possible, I write it on a white-board, every little thing (even things like, “empty the dishwasher”…you’re welcome, dear). It keeps me organized, the act of scribbling a thick black line through each item as I get them done is extremely satisfying. Don’t believe me? Give it a try today.

(5) Write. Just write. As I’ve said before, you NEED to stop editing yourself. You do it, I do it, but we shouldn’t. Whether you’re writing on a blog, for a magazine, or in a diary, let things flow more naturally. Don’t hold yourself back. Don’t focus on perfection. Get your thoughts, ideas, and words down. Some of it will be complete shit, but you’ll be very surprised at what you can come up with if you stop holding yourself back.

(6) Stop writing and read. I know, a grand contradiction from my last point. If you’re a writer, you know the value of creating content, but we understimate the value of absorbing information, reading, learning, and the growth that comes from listening to others. If you’re debating between cranking out another article or spending an hour or so reading, side with the latter a little more often.

(7) Let go of the reins. In other words, stop telling yourself that you can do it all. You can’t, and you never will. For me, 2012 is going to be about trusting others, especially the people I work with, much more. Letting them do what they do so well so I can focus on my best assets. We’ll be expanding our team at Proof to make this a reality, and will focus on bringing people together to create an environment that allows people to not only do what they’re best at, but what they love.

(8) Be selective with your availability. I wrote recently about how I shut off GChat, Skype, etc a year or so ago because it was such a massive distraction throughout the day. But a huge goal of mine in 2012 will be doing the same with email. If you’re like me, you have your inbox open in a tab of your browser 24/7. You check it obsessively. Every time you see that little (1) pop up in the tab, you stop whatever you’re doing and go check. It’s distracting as hell and totally throws off any rhythm you have. So join me, if you will, in my pursuit to periodically check emails (every 90 minutes or so is my goal) – you’ll come to find that little, very little, actually demands “immediate” attention.

(9) Exercise. I dropped 40 pounds and ran over 600 miles last year, but the real success was in how being physically active effected everything else in my life. I feel better, more confident, more clear-headed, and more focused than I ever have. Seeing a smaller number on the scale is great, but for me, it’s become a critical part of my day, week, and overall lifestyle. And once again, you have time if you make time. Even time to train for a marathon, if you’re crazy like me.

(10) Live. Working hard is important. Organization, productivity, goal-setting, planning things out – all of these things matter, but we get so caught up in our work that we forget that it’s all for not if we don’t find any time to enjoy the whole “living” part of life. Take on a few less clients. Go home at 5pm and leave some work for tomorrow. Do what it takes to get things done, but allow yourself time, plenty of time, to focus on living.

What are you doing to live 2012 with purpose, deliberateness and passion?

Add Your Voice



  1. Good stuff here Matt. One caveat I’d add re: “stop writing and read” is to read things OUTSIDE of your discipline and to read MORE BOOKS. Certainly there’s a handful of blogs that really add value to our lives and we want to support our friends as well, but beyond that it’s really easy to get caught up reading stuff that reinforces what we already know instead of content that challenges us and pushes outside that comfort zone. Best of luck in 2012 hombre.

    • Ryan! You’re alive! Good to hear from you my friend. And yes, I completely agree. Reading outside your niche is super important. Expanding your horizons and aborbing information, inspiration, and wisdom from outside your bubble is the best way to bring fresh ideas back in. Best of luck to you as well, Ryan. I hope all is well!

      • Definitely agree with Ryan. I’m doing this more and more and it really opens you up to a whole new perspective. Matt your points are so on par with mine. My words for this year are Fierce Focus and I think that’s going to be a lot of saying no to things that distract me and feel like they could be good but do not directly contribute to my bottom line or sense of health and happiness. Looking forward to seeing you rock this year!

  2. Awesome post, Matt.  Your words always ring true to me.  I absolutely agree with the scheduling “me time.”  I used to say, oh, sometime today I’ll relax.  And then it never happened.  So now I schedule time each day for me to do my own thing.   Scheduling my own time makes me happier, more productive, and calmer.

    I, too, am all about the To Do List.  List making is one of my favorite activities ;)  I like the satisfaction of crossing things off.  Sometimes I even add things to the list I’ve already done just so I can cross them off!  I like seeing those accomplishments.

    I am excited to learn more about how you expand Proof this year.  If you need any remote work, let me know!

    • Thanks, Sarah. Actually putting “me time” on a calendar is super important – it’s easy to say you’ll take breaks, but when it’s a scheduled part of your day, it’s much, much easier.

      I am totally with you on adding things to todo lists just to cross them off. I think this makes us huge nerds, but I accept it.

      AND, I’d love to set up a time in the next few weeks for us to chat about what you’re doing, what I’m doing, and how we can potentially partner up in the future. Let’s make it happen!

    • I was a fat-ass. Okay, not a total fat-ass, but pretty heavy. I weighed just under 200 and am now at around 158. Still a little ways to go, but it’s the lowest I’ve been since I was, I don’t know, 8th grade? Feels great! Lost it all through not eating AS MUCH crap (I still eat my share and drink too much beer) and running, a lot. Losing weight isn’t rocket science, it just takes hard work. :)

  3. Good stuff my friend. I think the point about not having enough time is spot on. Too many people claim not to have enough time, but all they’d have to do is get up an hour earlier or sleep an hour later. There’s  something that most people who make that excuse could give up in order to gain more time. I do like the idea of shutting off distractions. For me, I’ve learned that if I work in 30 minute blocks things get done. 

    • I do something I like to call “Productivity Power Hour”: Usually once a day, I turn off everything – Twitter, Facebook, email, TV, music, everything – and I focus on knocking things off of my todo list. When you literally have NO distractions, it’s pretty incredible what you can get done, even in a very short period of time, huh?

  4. Love your list! Especially #1. I am definitely guilty of saying “I don’t have time” when deep down I know I just don’t want to make time…

    • We all are (myself included). But it’s all about making time for the things that matter, which means saying “no” a little more often and making sure we don’t over-commit. Cheers!

  5. Brilliant…as always

    I am committing to having fun and ENJOYING life in 2012. I had a killer 2011, but I’m not going to lie, it almost killed me. Dead is no way to go thru life!

    One of my biggest things in 2012 is reading more fiction. I’m realizing that while I love learning and growing through reading non-fiction, I desperately miss the philosophies and stories of fiction. My writing career started 12 years ago with creative writing, it has deviated drastically since then. That makes me kind of sad. Which is, you know, the opposite of enjoying.

    I think your points for the rest are so valuable and so “I needed to re-hear that”. Saying no, being careful with time and self-resources (if my life had a Legend of Zelda energy life bar I would be effed lately!), and making rest/relaxation a priority. 

    I feel this will be a lot easier when I am sitting on the beach with my toes in the sand and my Kindle loaded up with lovely tales.  ;)

    • Thanks, Elisa. If we’re going to go old-school Nintendo reference up in here, I feel you 100%. I feel like in 2011 I was like Mario who picked up the invincibility star. I moved faster, jumped higher, and nothing could stop be. But like you said, eventually that rapid-paced lifestyle becomes extremely overwhelming, the music speeds up, and it wears off.

      Like you, I hope to do much more ENJOYING and much less running as fast as I can to do a million things. Here’s to both of us making that happen! :)

      • Now you’re speakin’ my language. As evidenced by my slightly elevated anxious heart-rate as I heard the end of invincibility star music in my head.

        Here’s to 2012 – I see big things for both of us (on both sides of the planet!!)

  6. Matt, may I ask how tall you are?  I’m guess 6’3+ in order for you to lose 40 pounds?  That’s a lot of weight, and for an average guy like me at 5’10 it’s kind of impossible at 168lbs.  I’m trying to get down to 157 lbs.  Thx, Sam

  7. Good stuff :)
    I definitely need to curtail my obsessive-email checking – I suspect it WOULD help me be more focussed. I especially like point 10 – I don’t want to let my resolutions/work get in the way of living and being happy… 

    • I’m still getting there on the email thing. I’ve been taking a gradual approach but I think I just need to treat it like a bandaid and rip it right off. God speed, to both of us. :)

  8. So very wise words for someone so young. It is great advice and I’ll will try to follow along. Very proud of you and Lierin