Mother and young son walking into Whole Foods:
Mom: “Remind me why we’re here again?”
Son: “New year, new us.”
Mom: “No, the other thing.”
Son: “Oh yeah, chicken.”Overheard LA
It’s the new year and we’re all fired up to do Big Things. This year we are going to eat vegan/keto/paleo, run a marathon, start a business, write that book, get a promotion, travel to Bali and oh yeah, save the world. We have good intentions, but it’s just too much too soon and often by March we lose steam and fall right back into the status quo. Well, not this year my friend! This is going to be Your Best Year Ever! Just follow these five steps and get ready to do Big Things. For real.
Reflect on last year.
Before you can take on the new year, you need to reflect on last year. When were you happy, focused and feeling good? When were you stressed, anxious and unhappy? Of course, many things are out of your control; a tragedy such as a loved one dying is just plain awful. But think about what aspects of work and leisure you enjoyed. What filled your cup?
And conversely what was a total time-suck and energy-drainer? Was your weekly Sunday afternoon Netflix-binge a moment to recharge and refresh or did it make you feel lonely and sluggish? Did you feel challenged and appreciated at work or did you dread every minute of every day? Who did you look forward to seeing and wished you could have spent more time with? Who was toxic? Were your relationships intentional and meaningful? Use these reflections to help set your goals.
Identify your goals.
I call this area Goals and Habits To Cultivate, which sounds very lofty and self-help guru-ish but it’s important to set goals in a focused and tangible way. This is accomplished in three ways: be intentional about how these goals will enhance your life (that’s why the reflection step is necessary), plot your goals for the year and refer to them monthly. Let’s break it down.
List goals and habits for the year.
First, identify your goals for the year under these categories:
Personal – Do I want to start a new hobby or pursue an intellectual curiosity? How can I grow as a person?
Health – Do I have any medical or mental health concerns? What are my goals for exercise, nutrition, and self-care?
Family/Friends – How do I enhance the relationships in my life or make new ones? How can I maintain or build community?
Work – What are my professional goals? What are the steps needed to achieve those?
Household – Are there any household or “life” projects that need attention – like decorating, finances or planning a big event?
Next, plot the goals throughout the year, because you can’t do everything at one time (that’s why many people are exhausted and defeated by March). I print out a paper calendar for all twelve months because I need a high-level visual. I add the major events and breaks in my schedule like holidays and vacations. Then, I add my goals, in smaller steps if necessary, throughout the year. Because I have to work around my kid’s school breaks, a printed paper calendar lets me see where I have the biggest chunks of time.
For instance, I can start a major writing project in January because I have a few months before spring break, but November and December are best for short term projects or tackling a goal-building to-do list. This method is also useful for launching a business, building stamina for more strenuous exercise or planning a big vacation.
Break down the year-long goals into monthly goals.
With the yearly calendar as a guide, list your goals for each month in a document that’s easy to access. I use Apple Notes. At the start of every month, look at this list, adjust it if necessary (life does happen) and plug those goals into your schedule. Although this is an ever-changing document, it’s crucial to have a master plan.
This is my February and March:
Start the re-write on my book.
Read one book.
Incorporate yoga into my exercise practice.
Work on scrapbook.
Get a massage.
Start work on a new screenplay.
Read one book.
Work on scrapbook.
Brainstorm summer vacation.
Get a facial.
I have a goal to “read more” but I want to make that more tangible and measurable by shooting for one book a month. I do hope to get back to reading a book a week, but I’m trying to be realistic with all that I have going on. “Work on scrapbook” is more of a priority than it sounds. This is my daughter’s baby book – many, many, many years late – and she has let me know that she does not appreciate the second-child neglect! I have a goal to finish in three months.
Create a schedule.
Create an “ideal” weekly schedule. It’s flexible, but it’s a working blueprint of where and how you spend your time to stay on task. Work, exercise, family/friend time, household chores/obligations, self-care – it should all be there.
A word about creative work. I do creative work and while this requires freedom and inspiration, it also requires discipline. Spending the time to plot and plan my year, months, week and day creates intention so that I create from a place of purpose. It also frees my mind of clutter so that there is room for creative thoughts to bloom and grow.
Every day is different, but here’s what Wednesday (ideally) looks like:
6:30am Wake up (reluctantly).
6:30 – 7:00 Journal, pray, say affirmations, and meditate.
7:00 – 7:30 Dress for exercise and help get everyone out the door.
7:30 – 8:00 Plan to-do list for the day, read emails and the news.
8:00 – 8:45 Walk the dog.
8:45 – 10:30 Go to boxing class, back at home shower and eat.
10:30 – 3:00 Work at home – matcha in hand.
3:00 – 3:30 Read and answer emails.
3:30 – 7:00 Pick up from school. Run errands. Cook dinner and eat with family.
7:00 – 8:30 Read and answer emails. Tackle household/family to-do list.
8:30 – 10:30 Read or watch TV. Occasionally do more work.
10:30pm Go to bed (aspirationally).
Of course, there are appointments, meetings and family obligations, but I do try to be protective of my exercise routines and time to create as much as possible. If I don’t respect my boundaries, no one else will either.
To keep organized with your goals and schedule you need to create systems, mainly a calendar, to-do lists and a place to store all the information that invades your mind every day.
Calendar – For a calendar, I use Apple iCal on my Macbook because it syncs with my phone, but my daughter finds a paper planner and calendar more suited to her personality. Whichever method you use, get into the habit of updating your calendar monthly and weekly. I do this at the start of every month (as I refer to the list of Monthly Goals and Habits to Cultivate) and on Sunday evenings for the week. I plug in appointments and events as soon as I am aware.
To-do List – A to-do list is crucial to stay on task for the day. There are so many electronic options out there as well as good ole paper and pen. I use an app called Things that syncs across my laptop, phone, and tablet. It allows me to create different categories – website, screenwriting, books/other projects, household – and attach dates. Every morning when I open the app that day’s tasks are waiting in a section called Today. If it needs to get done, it goes on the list.
A place to store information – Apple Notes is where I keep checklists, ideas, inspiration, and notes on every aspect of my life. Many people have this app, but probably don’t use it as much as they could. It’s both my brain-dump and where I keep information I need to access quickly. I also use Evernote (so much so that I pay for the yearly subscription), but in a different way than Notes. This is where I keep all the articles I read and want to save, travel aspirations and long-term plans for books, business and blog posts.
One more thing.
The most important thing of all to make this Your Best Year Ever: be good to yourself and make self-care a priority. Exercise daily, eat foods that fuel your body, take time to be with your thoughts and HAVE FUN.