January 1st is when most of us set our New Year’s resolutions and goals.
But January might not be the ideal time for activating your goals. In fact, jumping right into your new year goals can risk burnout or even lead to abandoning your goals a month into the new year.
Goal planning and building new routines takes time. Think about it in terms of running a marathon. If you were going to run a marathon, you wouldn’t start preparing the day before; you would have a long-term plan and build up to it.
Another reason to start reflecting on your goals now is that advanced planning can help you cope when life throws a few curveballs along the way. This year has been a challenging and unpredictable one to say the least. While we can’t always control or predict our lives, we can learn to adapt and then use these challenging moments to re-define and support our goals.
By planning our 2021 goals now, we have time to see what’s working and what’s not, then recalibrate as necessary.
Goal setting can also bring us a sense of comfort during this stressful time. If 2021 goals seem too far away to consider, then you can try simply reframing your goals into something that you look forward to in general.
As human beings, we thrive when we’re learning new things and challenging our minds. Having new goals in place can give us something to be excited about and have beneficial impacts on our confidence. They don't have to be tied to a specific time period, like the new year, to be meaningful.
Your goals don’t even have to be big; a small or medium-size goal that gives you a sense of accomplishment is just as valuable as a major life goal.
Below, you’ll find tips on how to end the year strong, and how to start planning to make sure your work leads in the right direction in the new year.
How to end the year strong
When December rolls around, it’s easy to bemoan the year that has flown by, as well as criticize ourselves for not meeting the career and personal expectations that we set out to achieve. Remember: we’re not productivity machines and we can’t be expected to work 24/7. By being gentle with ourselves and realistic about our lives, we can pursue our goals more wholeheartedly, without lingering guilt.
Luckily, it’s never too late to start acting on our goals. Here are some things you can do to end the year strong and make progress.
1. Write a list of 10 things you can do right now to move closer to your goal.
Take out your Ink+Volt Planner and write a list of micro action items that are so easy to achieve that you can act on them immediately.
If your goal is career-oriented, micro action items can include:
- Updating your website
- Registering for an online class or professional workshop
- Listening to a podcast interview with a person you admire
- Emailing your friends and family and letting them know your career goals and asking for help
If your goal is personal, such as eating more healthy meals, micro action items can include:
- Pre-washing and chopping your vegetables so you have easy access to them
- Placing the healthy food items near the front of your fridge so they have better visibility
- Bookmarking healthy recipes for the week
When we think about our goals, we tend to think of the big pieces that we need to conquer. But if we sit down and knock off these micro items, we can feel a huge sense of accomplishment and then build off this momentum to pursue other steps to our goal.
2. Tackle a big thing you’ve been putting off
So now that we’ve achieved our micro items, let’s try to tackle at least one big thing that we’ve been procrastinating on.
It doesn’t even have to be goal-oriented; it could be an administrative item that you’ve been putting off but is still weighing on your mind. Maybe it’s making that call with the health insurance company. Or completing your performance report. Or updating your resume. Or reaching out to that professional contact that you’ve been too nervous to approach.
Make an effort to just complete it today. Yes, just get it done today. If you decide to just do it, you'd be amazed at how much progress you could make.
You won’t have time to drag your heels by putting it off tomorrow. After you do it you’ll feel *so* glad that you did it. Plus, you don’t have to worry about this carrying into the new year and you can start on a totally clean slate.
So what is one thing that you’d like to resolve now so that it will make life easier in 2021? Try to see if you can do it today. Don’t forget to treat yourself to something relaxing afterwards!
3. Upgrade your tools
Make a list of items or situations that are currently giving you a headache or inconveniencing you. Don't worry about how trivial they seem--you don’t have to show anyone this list. :)
It could be something as small as “never having any pens that work” or something as big (but easy to ignore or just deal with day-to-day) as “my back hurts when I use my computer” or “seeing a mountain of paperwork stresses me out.”
Now make a list of things that you could do to improve your situation. What are tools you can have on hand to make life easier? Maybe it’s a matter of upgrading your tools and getting a paper tray for documents or a new set of pens or a pillow for your back.
Sometimes, one simple tool can vastly improve your well-being. For example, I was getting shoulder pain from using my laptop’s mouse pad, and after enduring it for so long, I finally purchased a mouse. It was such a game changer, I can’t believe I had been putting it off for so long.
What are the simple items that could make your life and work easier?
Then there are the upgrades that can help you feel the way you want to feel every day. The tools you use do make an impact, whether it's using high quality tools that just work better, or accessories that reflect how seriously you take yourself. A high quality, serious notebook not only looks professional to your colleagues, but can boost your mood because nice paper feels exceptional to write on.
Reflect on this year to set yourself up for next year
An important reason to start your new year’s goals now is that you need time to examine the current year in order to have a clearer sense of what you want to get out of the new year. The holiday season is usually such a stressful and frantic time, that it can be hard to find a moment of solitude to check in with yourself.
Instead, see if you can find an hour this week to take stock of this year. What worked this year? What specific challenges did you encounter and how did you manage them?
You can even complete our free Ink+Volt Mid-Year Review Worksheet to help you focus and review your accomplishments, missteps, and challenges. There are even exercises to help you re-align with your goals and vision.
By being honest about your successes and challenges, you’ll be in a more grounded place to think about your 2021 goals. You can start off small and see what you can realistically manage. For example, if your goal is to run 10 miles, then start by doing one lap. Or start by running for two minutes without stopping. Don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally go a few weeks without running. You have time to adjust your plan and experiment with ways to motivate yourself.
The benefit of starting our goal planning early, is that you have the time to build new habits and routines. This way, you can make your goal more sustainable.