I read The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell last year and it changed my life. I think about organization, planning, and intentional living differently after reading this book.
John talks about how at the end of each year, during the week in between Christmas and New Years, he goes through his calendar from the previous year and evaluates how he spends his time. This year, I will be doing that, too. I actually make sure my calendar reflects what I do so that when it’s time to review how I’m spending my time, I can really decide whether my time aligns with my values.
This is where planning your best year ever comes in.
I believe that you can make next year your best year ever. You can create a year that you remember for the rest of your life. You don’t have to squander another year. Life doesn’t have to be so hard, and you don’t have to be bored. You don’t have to be in the same place next year. You can take advantage of the time you have now and make next year your best year yet.
The end of the year is the natural time of year where people are ramping up getting ready to set goals and New Years Resolutions for the next year. But you can do this at any time – it doesn’t have to be the end of the year. The same strategies apply.
To get started, I recommend do the following 5 steps. They have helped me, and I think they can help you, too!
1. Reflect on the last year
“Experience teaches you nothing. Evaluated experience teaches you something.” – Andy Stanley.
Your experiences from the last year can help you create your best year yet, but you have to evaluate those experiences. To evaluate the last year, look back at your calendar and see how you spent your time each month, week, and day.
Questions to ask:
- What are your overall feelings for the last year?
- What did you like about last year? What did you accomplish?
- What did you hate about last year? What disappointed you?
- If you could change anything about the last year, what would it be?
- How did you do in each of the eight life categories last year?
- The eight life categories are: health, relationships, finance, career, personal/ spiritual development, recreation/play, environment, and service/contribution (learn more about that in my eBook).
Write the answers to these questions down. But really – write them down. It’s so much more effective if you actually write down these answers because you organize your thoughts, take the process more seriously, and are more likely to make the change you want in order to have your best your ever.
Since doing this exercise, I am more diligent about keeping things on my calendar so I can reflect later on. I look for patterns and see what I’m putting the most time into and whether that aligns closely with what I want. It’s amazing how effective this exercise is in helping me evaluate the past and make changes for the future.
2. Write down 25 things you want to accomplish before you die
Think about how you want to be remembered. Think about what you want to do before you die. Write down 25 things that you want to make happen while you’re alive. Make sure you write them down – it’s not enough to think about what you think you would want to do. Make a list of the top 50 things that you want to do before you die. It can be anything – selfish, selfless, and everything in between.
3. Find your why
You need to find your “why” (this means you need to find your vision). This is a critical step in the process. It requires that you dig deep and figure out what it is you want most and why it is you want it. You need to find your why because it will help you stick with your commitments when things get tough. Achieving your goals and following a path won’t always be easy – you will have to get through tough times. Your why will make that possible.
To find your why, ask yourself what it is you want, then ask “why?”. Continue to ask why seven times until you peel back the layers and find your real why. This step is so important that I recommend listening to this podcast episode with Dean Graziosi, where he discusses this practice in detail, including how it worked for him. It was so powerful for me that I’ve since discovered my real why and It’s been life changing.
Your why will keep you going. It’s the reason that you care. It is the truth behind the actions that you take.
4. Set goals for the next 12 months
Set goals using the SMART method. Set few goals. If you set too many it may be harder for you to achieve them. Make sure the goals you set are in line with your why (or your vision). And learn the difference between visions and goals before you set your goals. The main idea is that your goals are a subset of the overarching vision you have for your life.
This step is the crux of your best year yet; however, it won’t work without the other steps. Complete steps 1-3 first, then work step 4. Incorporate what you’ve evaluated from the past year, what you want to accomplish before you die, and why you want to accomplish whatever it is you want into setting goals. Then, when you’re ready, use the SMART action to set goals.
S — Specific
M — Measurable
A — Achievable
R — Realistic
T – Timely
Keep your goals to yourself. It’s more likely that you’ll actually achieve them if you keep your goals to yourself. Watch this TED Talk to learn why.
This means that when you create goals, they should be narrow, in writing, achievable, and have a deadline. Write your goals down. Give them a deadline. Hold yourself accountable. Make sure they’re realistic.
Examples of two bad goals:
- Get on track financially this year.
- Be more careful with my credit card.
Examples of two good goals:
- Create monthly budgets the first of every month for the following month with my husband and use Personal Capital to track my budgeting electronically.
- Pay off my credit card every month and stop using it for everything except groceries.
Whatever you want in life – create goals for getting closer to that. It can be skydiving, volunteering, changing jobs, practicing gratitude — anything. There are no restrictions on what you should set goals on. Do what’s wise for you to do in order to make this year your best year ever. Only you are responsible for the year – only you can make it your best year ever.
5. Set up systems to implement your best year ever
You’ve done all of the substantive work in order to create your best year ever. But you still have to implement your plan and make sure it happens.
Do this by: 1) put deadlines on your calendar to accomplish your goals and 2) create monthly check-ins on your calendar to revise and reflect on your progress. These events on your calendar should be treated like any other appointment that you have – with commitment. When the date arrives, go over your progress and evaluate your experiences. Make changes where necessary.
Be proactive and intentional. Concentrate on your progress and keep notes in writing. I use Evernote for all my writing and notes (there’s even a book that teaches you how to use Evernote).
If you really want to take it up a notch, I recommend reading throughout the year. These three books will help you really understand what it means to live with purpose, commit to work that’s meant for you, and implement habits that make it all possible. Each was very instrumental in helping me live intentionally – happier and with fewer regrets.
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell
- The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olsen
If you take these 5 steps seriously and plan your year, you can create your best year yet.
- Reflect on the last year
- Write down 25 things you want to accomplish before you die
- Find your why
- Set goals for the next 12 months
- Set up systems to implement your best year ever
At the end of next year, I encourage you to review what you’ve done that year, including looking over your calendar. Evaluate how you’re spending your time and focus on growing and living the life you want for yourself. And of course, keep reading (see my full book list here)! 🙂
What are you most excited to do this year?