Appetite Planning

With resolutions, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. It’s easy to set big, hairy, audacious, pie-in-the-sky goals without the time or energy to pursue them.

Basecamp, a company that builds collaboration tools, runs many internal projects with appetite-based planning. Instead of saying, “We want a new email app with XYZ features by July,” they might say, “Solving this email problem is worth three months of effort.” The team then decides how much of the problem they can solve in three months.

Appetite-based planning sounds odd and idealistic, but I’ve found it surprisingly grounding—much more aligned with the reality of my time and energy while setting healthy boundaries. How to do appetite-based planning:

  1. Determine capacity. How much time and energy do you have? For instance, I can handle about 60 to 90 minutes of writing per day, but no more. That’s about ten hours per week.
  2. Make a list of desires. What projects, goals, or resolutions do you want to pursue. For instance, I want to work on this newsletter, short stories, a novel, and essays.
  3. Allocate capacity. Do you want to “sample” a bunch of things or have one or two full meals? I’m very hungry for this newsletter and short story writing, but I don’t have the appetite for novel writing this year.