You Need a Quarterly Review

In this post I will tell you why you need a quarterly review and what one is.


I believe I can say with confidence that most of us are so deeply concerned with running our life on a day-to-day basis that we often forget about the long term. What is it that you are trying to achieve, exactly? Being productive every day feels great, but what are you ultimately working towards? I feel this kind of question should not be relegated to the back burner, and instead should be something we should aim to answer more often than we currently do. At the same time, however, we still do need to run our day-to-day affairs.

Extreme focus on the short term causes long-term blindness. Extreme focus on the long-term causes short-term blindness. We thus should aim to strike a balance of sorts, where we can still run our daily life while also being concerned about where the road is going. For me, this balance is satisfied by performing a general review of my life every three months. I will now show you what this review looks like, so that you may do it too, if you so chose.


Put simply, every review, I answer a series of questions about my life during the three months that passed and the three months that will follow. This allows me to evaluate my performance in the past and make changes in the future to better align myself with my long-term goals. This is what some sample questions would look like (click or tap to expand):

Of course, the questions vary from person to person, and I would highly recommend you take the time to think about them. This is, I think, very much part of the process of understanding your medium- and long-term self. I like to make categories first, and then to come up with questions related to such categories. This is why I used a mind map (done with the excellent mind-mapping software MindNode,) as it allows me to visually branch out categories and questions.

As you can see, every question about the past three months is paired with a question about the next. This is crucial, as performing a quarterly review without thinking about how one could be better in the future is, I think, not as useful an enterprise.

If after reading this post you too start to do such a review, I would love to hear your feedback.

Sticking with Habits (the hard way)

I am not affiliated in any way with any product or service mentioned in the article.

The problem

If you’re anything like me, you’re not very good at sticking with habits. You tell yourself that you should “walk more”, “exercise more”, or “read more”, only to then relapse after a couple of days (or weeks, if you’re good). I can safely say, for instance, that throughout the entirety of 2017 I have exercised for maybe 6 or 7 hours, in total, and that’s being generous. Why would I do it, after all? My monkey brain cannot see past the short-term goal of “get a rush of sugar from this pudding” to the long-term goal of “be a healthier person”. That’s normal.

The solution

This is where commitment devices kick in. A commitment device is essentially something that is external to you, independent from you, which forces you to stick with things. It sounds weird but bear with me.

If you think about it, most of your goal-setting is context-dependent. When you’re in bed about to sleep, for instance, that’s usually when you come up with the grandest of plans for your life. This happens because at that moment, there is nothing you can do about your goals, hence you are able to think about what an “ideal you” would do. When you are up and running, though, it takes a lot of willpower to actually go through with your plan. That’s because you can actually do something about your plans, and who wants to do stuff? So how about something which takes your great bed plans and actually tries to turn them into reality without your puny, awoken self getting in the way? Commitment devices.

Alright, I think I’ve convinced you on why you should use one. Now let me show you one: beeminder.

I won’t go into the details of how it works, since their website it quite self-explanatory, but essentially you open it up, you set your goals, and it will start tracking you for whatever habit you’ve put in. I have a couple of habits in there myself, you can check them out here if you want. Now, beeminder is incredibly fair. It gives you a lot of leeway, you can tell it when you go on vacation, but the gist of it is that if you consistently fail to stick with your habits, you will be charged actual money. The first time you slip you’re charged 0$, just to scare you off, then it goes up, until it reaches an upper ceiling of your choice. Mine is 10$ because that’s enough to coerce me into doing my habits, but you can set it to be quite high if you want it to.

I know, it sounds crazy. Why on earth would I give money to some random strangers if I fail to keep up with my habits? Because that’s the most effective way to keep you doing them. Many people wonder why the money does not instead go to charity. That would defeat the purpose, since you would not feel as bad slipping off. The entire point is that you have the constant threat of your money being burned away were your short-term you to ever take control of things. It sounds terrifying. But it works. The results are there. Last year, I could not exercise for more than three days in a row: now I have an uninterrupted streak dating back from January 2nd. When you just set up a goal, you have a week in which you can delete it immediately. After that deadline, if you wish to delete a goal, it will be deleted only one week later. This is to avoid your short-term brain into trying to come up with excuses to not do the thing today.

Of course, you’ll hate it. You’ll wish you hadn’t started it. Yet while short-term, blind you will be bumping their fists on the table, long-term you will be eternally grateful.

Welcome to Beeminder.