Tips for Adulthood: Use January To Tackle Your Backlist

Editor’s Note: I initially ran this post last year.  As I once again find myself using January as  a time to tackle my backlist, I thought I would re-run this post to inspire others. I’m pleased to report that some of the items – like redoing my website – have been accomplished. Others, like writing my memoir, are well in motion. And one – looking at you, Count of Monte Cristo! – have yet to happen. Regardless, I wholeheartedly embrace this strategy for coping with January and plan to make it an annual ritual. Let us know what’s on your back list this year! 

A friend of mine once counselled me never to make big decisions in January. She knew that for me, as for many people, January is just one long string of Sundays.

So although for years now, I’ve used January as a time to set resolutions or embrace a concept for the year ahead, this year I tackled my backlist. And by “backlist,” I don’t just mean things like sorting out my taxes or doing some digital decluttering. I’m talking about engaging with the stuff that’s been sitting there for so long, the agony of having not addressed it has ossified into some permanent corner of your brain.

I think I’m going to make this a new tradition. And I heartily recommend that you do so too. Here are some ideas for how to take on January with gusto:

1.Make Progress on One Big Project. When I teach project management, I always sing the praises of the Eisenhower matrix. The beauty of this tool is that it forces you to acknowledge the big ticket items on your To Do list that are “important but not urgent.” This year, I decided to revamp my website. It’s been 10 years since my last refresh of this blog. I’ve literally gotten to the point where if I accidentally hit the wrong button in my WordPress dashboard, the whole thing shut down. I also knew that I needed one, unified online presence that would better capture my portfolio career. So I called up a web designer who’d helped me launch a website at my old job, and I took the plunge. Watch this space.

2. Refresh your CV. Most of us never bother to refresh our CVs unless and until we’re on the job market. And then we’re usually racing to do it in order to hit a deadline. While my own CV was more or less up to date, I realized recently that I hadn’t bothered to input all of the volunteer work I do. In addition to all the voter education I did during the 2020 election, I’ve also done a fair bit of mentoring of young entrepreneurs in how to speak about, write about and pitch their ideas. All of that work is potentially part of my offer as a communications consultant. So I took five minutes and tossed it into my CV. Tick.

3. Breathe New Life into a Creative Project. I’ve been working on a memoir about my family since last summer. It’s going pretty well. But in the back of my mind, I knew that I had been taking notes on this project for years. So one day, I forced myself to sit down and find all of those notes. Lordy, were there a lot of them. So this month, I stared devoting at least 30 minutes a day to taking those notes and inputting them into Scrivener, which is the app I use for all of my writing projects. I won’t lie. It’s been a major pain in the neck. But as I go through these old notes, I am reminded of some real gems that absolutely need to work their way into my story.

4. Get in touch with long-lost friends and colleagues. Lockdown has been a great time for deepening friendships. My husband and I routinely do Zoom drinks with friends in both the US and the UK. But this month, I’ve been setting up calls and linking in with a wider network: former colleagues who’ve moved on to new jobs and careers…high school friends whom I’ve not spoken to in 20 or 30 years…people who once featured prominently in some segment of my life, but who’ve fallen off my radar. It’s been really gratifying to reconnect and fascinating to learn what they’ve done with their lives. One guy I worked with at a summer job during college hit the big time and, at the tender age of 58, is now retired. He’s contemplating a two-year, post-pandemic tour around the globe. Wowza.

5. Read a book you always meant to read. January can also be a great time to revisit all those books lurking on your backlist that you never quite got around to reading. After listening to a recent episode of my daughter’s podcast focusing on revenge, I decided it was high time to finally take on The Count of Monte Cristo.

How about you? What’s on your deep backlist?

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

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