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New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time

Effective Living Newsletter #3

Dear Friend,

I hope your year’s started well. But, in case it hasn’t(!), this week I’ve been writing about how to do a Yearly Review and a Yearly Plan. Many people like to make – and break – New Year’s Resolutions, but breaking down your goals into concrete plans, with steps for how you’ll implement them, is the way to actually make change in your life.

Here’s the abridged version of How to make a Yearly Plan:

  1. Set aside a day, ideally with your Yearly Review already complete
  2. Break your life down into different areas
  3. Set SMART goals
  4. Review whether your goals make sense as a whole
  5. Translate those goals into systems
  6. Make sure you review your plan at regular intervals throughout the year

>> Read the full article


In the interests of reducing procrastination, I’ve stayed clear of social media for the last few years. However, with making this website, I’ve decided to re-enter the fray. You can follow me @TheTomNorth, or just have a feed of my latest articles @ELivingCo.


I’m also making my first foray into YouTube, and have a video coming out this week, based on my article on How to keep finding good music. The YouTube content will be a bit less serious – and more fun – than the website, but nonetheless thoroughly researched, like the stuff on

What I’ve been paying attention to

This weeks audiobook has been Escaping the Rabbit Hole, by Mick West. It’s a mature and sensible approach to trying to help friends or family members out of the ‘rabbit hole’ of conspiracy theories. As someone with a few friends in this category, I found it interesting.

In short, the advice of the book is to a) be informed of the detail, so that you can have a discussion on the same terms b) actually listen to what your friend has to say, so you don’t put words in their mouth c) find areas you can agree on before d) politely and respectfully pointing out where – ideally by their own standards of evidence – there are flaws in their theories.

Clearly, the advice applies to arguments in general. The book mentions one of my favourite techniques, Daniel Dennett’s ‘steelmanning‘, which is expressing an opponent’s argument in the best possible version you can, before disagreeing with it. I can’t claim to do this much in conversation, but I’m working on it.

Other things I found interesting this week were this article, discussing the virtue of heuristics. Countering Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, psychology Gerd Gigerenzer argues that ‘System One’ thinking is often helpful, particularly in unpredictable areas.

What’s coming up this week

Sticking with the theme of time planning, this week I have articles coming up on How to do a Monthly Review and How to do a Weekly Review. These are the processes by which I keep on course to achieve my longer-term goals, as set out in the Yearly Plan.

As ever, I’d appreciate any feedback on this newsletter, or on the articles I’ve written this week. You can directly reply to this email, or contact me at

All the best until next week,