Turn the page to the possibilities of the New Year. Start planning now in December and you can hit the ground running when January 1st arrives.
Review the days that made you happiest this year. If you kept a journal, go back and check when your joy was highest. Look through the photos on your phone and your social media feed. It may even be helpful to go back two years to find more favorite moments. Write down the highlights.
It’s important to take stock of the things you wanted to do that didn’t happen this year. Clearly, unexpected turns sometimes happen and derail the best of intentions. But it’s okay. List the failures and the near misses. They’ll help fuel the year to come.
Before you set your objectives for the coming year, it’s important to list your favorite accomplishments of this past year. This can include successes from your work life or your personal life. It could be finding a new job or simply mastering that intricate recipe. Include it all here.
Maybe you want to learn a new language. Or you think this is the year you run your first half-marathon. Or maybe you want to try yoga or become a vegetarian or improve your baking skills. Whatever the goal, list it all here and then narrow it down to your 2–4 favorites.
Sure, successful years and lives are defined by accomplishments. But ask any older person looking back at a life well lived. The best years are also defined by the relationships you nurture. It’s about being a good friend, spouse, parent, son, daughter or sibling. So, list your biggest relationship goals this year. Maybe it’s establishing a stronger connection with a relative or old friend. At this point don’t worry about how you’d do it. Just list the goal, focusing on the 2–4 that matter the most to you.
Start by thinking where you want your career to be in 12 months. Maybe it’s an entrepreneurial opportunity you’d like to try. A new job. Or an opportunity for growth at your current position. List the 2–4 things you’d like to look back on as work successes at the end of next year.
Create a digital or real collage full of pictures that represent the year you want to have. Have a friend you want to reconnect with? Include her picture. Want to get into hiking? Add a trail photo. Hoping to plant a garden? Include a gorgeous backyard garden picture. Seeing it is believing it.
The most common excuse for abandoning a goal is a lack of time. But the truth is, you may have more time than you think. The enemy is distraction. Put yourself on a time budget for social media. Another good trick to adopt in the coming year: don’t check any news sources for the first hour you’re awake. That time will suddenly become productive.
As you look at your vision board, consider the questions and obstacles that might stop you. Make a list of potential obstacles and devise a strategy for each. Hint: the biggest obstacle is usually fear. Don’t let it slow you down. The elderly report that most regrets are from things not tried, rather than things tried and failed.
From your vision board, choose the three goals that mean the most to you. The rest can be saved until later in the year, but start January with just three.
Get specific. Write down actions that can get you moving in the first weeks of the year. If your goal is to find a job, devise daily and weekly actions that can help (researching how to improve a resume, spending a daily hour on job boards, etc.) If it’s reconnecting with an old friend, the tactic can be as simple as sending an email to set up a monthly call.
Break your three goals into a series of smaller goals — milestones you can achieve every couple of weeks. Evaluate how you’re doing as the year goes on and adjust goals as needed. Maybe that half- marathon becomes a 10K. No worries. The most important thing is the journey, not the destination. Give it a go. As the year begins, you’ve already got a head start.