December is the perfect time to set goals, intentions, and New Year’s resolutions for the upcoming year. I like to take a few hours every December to reflect on my last year, celebrate all I’ve accomplished over the last 12 months, review learnings on anything that went off track, and thoughtfully outline what I’d like to create and focus on in the New Year. This process is much more meaningful than simply creating New Year’s resolutions; it’s akin to a retrospective for all things over the past 12 months, and forecasting for all things you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, both professionally and personally. This planning and reflection will make your New Year’s resolutions strategic, thoughtful, proactive, and personally meaningful for you.
Making sure you are focusing on the right goals and objectives for next year is critical to make sure your energy is being spent on the right things. This New Year’s resolution process includes proactive and strategic thinking to make sure you’ll spend 2024 working smarter and not harder.
When I go through the process for myself, I am focused on what will create the most impact in my business and on my personal fulfillment and happiness levels. If a goal doesn’t fill one of those buckets, I rethink it before I commit. As James Clear said, “The most invisible form of wasted time is doing a good job on an unimportant task.” This highlights how important setting the right goals are.
My process changes a bit every year. Here is the five-part process I am using this year:
- Part 1: Reflecting on Your Year
- Part 2: Inquiry – Looking Back to Assess Your Year
- Part 3: Projecting One Year Into the Future
- Part 4: Inquiry – Looking Ahead to Design Your Year
- Part 5: Avoiding Roadblocks
Part 1: Reflecting on Your Year
Re-connecting with your highlights and lowlights from your past year can help you get in touch with how you want to design your upcoming year.
1a: Replay Your Year
Take about 10 minutes to sit quietly and re-play the past year in your mind as if you were watching a movie reel of highlights and lowlights from your year. In your mind, starting with exactly 12 months ago, play through the year month by month and notice what arises. Finish the re-play in the present moment by noticing how you are genuinely doing today. For a longer version of this exercise, check out the script from last December’s post here: https://widelensleadership.com/annual-self-performance-review-looking-back-to-look-ahead/
1b: Browse Your Calendar
Skim through your calendar from this past year, preferably week by week, and write down any significant or notable events, projects, tasks, gatherings, accomplishments, conversations, or moments. Jot down any context as to why these moments were meaningful to you, and note whether they had a positive, neutral, or negative influence.
Part 2: Inquiry – Looking Back to Assess Your Year
Over the last 12 months, let’s excavate the good, the bad, and the ugly from 2023 before we get into goal-setting for the year ahead and New Year’s resolutions. This part will help you assess: What’s been working well for you? What hasn’t been working so well for you?
2a. On a scale from 1 – 10 (1 = couldn’t have gone much worse; 10 = couldn’t have gone much better), how has your year been?
- Work: Take a moment to consider how happy you are with your level of professional success today – however you define professional success. This involves anything related to your role, your work, your leadership, your income, your satisfaction, and all the ways you spend your time when you are working. ___/10
- Personal Life (How do you feel about your personal life, projects, relationships, and endeavors?) ___/10
→What would have lifted your scores?
2b. What are your 5 biggest wins from 2023? What are you most proud of?
- Work: These could be as big as winning an industry award, getting a promotion, landing a big client, publishing a book, or meeting your KPIs, or as small asl moments of connection, new ideas, or conversations with colleagues.
- Personal Life: May be related to anything from fitness, health, family, relationship, social, spiritual, travel, or habit wins.
→How can you set yourself up for more successes like these in 2024?
→How can you cultivate more feelings of pride next year?
2c. How do you feel about what you accomplished over the last year – where did you deliver most and what contributed most to that success?
→Is there anything you can double down on here for next year?
2d. Who supported you most in 2023? List as many people as relevant.
→ Who do you wish to spend more time with next year?
2e. What are the experiences, moments, and places where you gained the most happiness and energy over the last year – personally and/or professionally? These could be one-time or repeated projects, routines, conversations, tasks, events, or moments – and it could be people who show up where you derive the most energy.
→ What do these say about what to prioritize in 2024?
Struggles & Growth Edges
2f. What (or who) drained your energy in the last year?
→How can you draw some better boundaries here for next year?
2g. What were your biggest challenges, mistakes, or misses from 2023?
- Personal Life:
→ What did you learn from them? What advice can you give yourself for next year?
2h. Where did you come up short against the goals you set out to achieve?
→What got in the way?
2i. If you could wave a magic wand, what is one thing you would change about how you approached your world over the last year?
→ What does this say about how you’d like to approach next year?
2j. What are some words or phrases you would use to describe how you felt about your past year?
Part 3: Project One Year Into the Future
Stephen Covey’s quote “Begin with the end in mind,” is one of my favorites. As you plan and design the year you want to have, begin with the ideal end in your mind.
Image you are exactly one year into the future, and that you have had the best year of your life. What will make it truly great? Really dream big and imagine you’ve reached your highest and most aspirational goals – both personally and professionally – and you are happy and successful in all the ways where you derive the most meaning. What would make your work and life be the best, in one year’s time? Describe in detail what personal and professional success looks like to you in one year. Take some notes on your definition and description of success in each area of your life at the end of 2024.
3a. Professional Success: What would your 10/10 work world look like one year from now, including your role, key players/team, systems, routines, processes, mindset, leadership, income, education, how you spend your time when you are working, and any other areas relevant to professional success. What is different about your work in this ideal future, than it is today? What changes have you made?
3b. Personal Success: What does your 10/10 personal life look like one year from now, including but not limited to your relationships, family, health, down time, fitness, religious or spiritual life, social life, hobbies, sense of freedom, community, and any other areas that fall into the personal domain. What do you most value, cherish, and enjoy doing when you are not working? What is different about your personal life in your ideal future, than what it looks like today?
Part 4: Inquiry – Looking Ahead to Design Your Year
Now it’s time to outline what your most important New Year’s resolutions and goals are for 2024. Take a look at everything you’ve written down so far and answer these five questions.
4a. What would you like to START doing in the New Year? List as many things here as you’d like.
4b. What do you need to STOP doing or need to let go of in the New Year? Take a look at your answers from the “Struggles & Growth Edges”, and consider: What can you delegate, simplify, or eliminate in your life? What are you saying yes to that you should be saying no to, in terms of spending your energy and time?
4c. What do you absolutely need to CONTINUE doing and prioritizing? Take a look at everything you mentioned that was going well.
4d. If three new things were accomplished at the end of next year and you felt very SATISFIED and SUCCESSFUL, what would they be?
4e. What’s your breakthrough goal? If you were only allowed to focus on one goal for next year – a goal that will create the greatest impact on you – which goal would be most likely to ensure every other goal was accomplished, even if you were not allowed to work on them specifically?
Part 5: Avoiding Roadblocks
Nothing worth doing is easy. In your pursuit of setting ambitious goals and New Year’s resolutions, you will encounter roadblocks – both internal and external obstacles in your way of reaching your goals. If you can imagine possible roadblocks in advance, you can create a plan to get a step ahead of them to minimize the risk they pose of getting in your way.
5a. What is one potential risk or roadblock that could impact your goals, if left unaddressed? What could derail your goals and priorities?
5b. What filter could you create, in order to ensure you are sifting out lower priorities and anything that pops up that could distract you for your goals?
5c. In one year, if you are disappointed by your results, why will that be? Be honest…
5d. What routines or systems do you need to create to make sure you get into a rhythm with any long-term or ongoing goals?
5e. How will you ensure you stay on track? What do you need to do? Who can help you?
Closing: Bringing it All Together
You can only really commit to a few things, so it’s time to focus.
- High-Level Theme: What words, phrases, feelings, or a theme, would best describe the kind of year you desire your 2024 to be?
- Finding Priorities: What are your top three priorities? If you could only choose three, what would they be?
- Building Momentum: What is one immediate step you want to commit to taking in the next few days or week that will get you closer to your goals? It could be as simple as sharing your intentions with someone close to you.
Congratulations, you’ve created a blueprint for successful New Year’s resolutions and goals! Now, take a look at your calendar to make sure you’re scheduling what matters and setting yourself up for a successful year ahead.
“Be ruthless about what you ignore. Time, energy, and resources are so precious. You have to be ferocious about cutting your priorities—more than you realize and certainly more than is comfortable.
You can only deeply commit to a few things. One or two? Maybe three?
Every pretty good, sorta nice, kinda fun thing you abandon is like shedding a weighted vest that lets you move at top speed. You were so busy focusing on how much you could carry, you never realized you could run this fast.”
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