By Emily Morrow

Building Your Yearly Theme: Worksheet & Planning Series Part 3


Craft a theme that will motivate you and empower you all year long.

A yearly theme is like a compass for your year.

Life is full of complex choices, opportunities, and distractions; having a theme that is driving your year can make it easier to know what to do along the way.

A yearly theme helps to bring into focus all the great things you want in the coming year — it's a word, a phrase, or a quote that you can return to all year long to help you prioritize and stay on track. 

Today, in part 3 of our yearly planning series, we’re going to help you build your theme for the new year!

Download your free worksheet here! 

Here are links to the rest of the series:

If you’ve been following along with our planning series, you know we’ve already spent time reflecting on the past and the present. Today it’s all about looking ahead.

Before we dive in to the worksheet, make sure you’ve taken some time to prepare yourself to make the most out of this planning session. Your theme is going to be your guiding light in the new year, so you want to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.

Block off at least an hour in your calendar for this process, set your phone to do not disturb, and settle in someplace cozy with a cup of coffee or tea, your planner, your worksheet, and a pen. 

Okay, *now* you’re ready to begin.

Think about your focus areas

What do you need to focus on this coming year? On the first page of the worksheet, we’re going to ask you to hone in on the things you want to improve, make progress on, stop, start, or put your energy toward in 2021. We’ve divided your focus areas into three categories: personal, professional, and social.

When you’re thinking about personal focus areas, we want you to think about what you need in 2021, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Here are some questions to help spark ideas:

  • Are you drinking enough water?
  • Are you eating healthily?
  • Are you moving your body enough?
  • Do you have a regular gratitude practice?
  • Do you know when to rest? 
  • Can you be more present?

The second section — professional focus areas — is where we start thinking about some of your career goals, your productivity, and your ability to innovate. Some questions to think about:

  • What does professional success look like to you?
  • What do you need to do to get that promotion or raise? 
  • How can you be more efficient with your time?
  • Have you given yourself enough space to innovate? 
  • What are some new ideas you’d like to see through this year?

And finally, let’s focus on your social life. Relationships are a crucial part of success, so how can you nurture those in the coming year? Reflect on:

  • What does your family need in 2021? 
  • Which friendships need some TLC? (And are there any that you should leave behind?)
  • How can you be contributing to your community?
  • How can you love the people in your life better?

We talk a lot about goals, success, and productivity here at Ink+Volt, but it’s so important to remember that you are more than your work. And your life contains so many more elements than just your professional goals.

Take this time to focus on all of the aspects of your life and how they influence each other. Because without spending time throughout the year focusing on elements of your life like health, mindfulness, and community, you will never be able to accomplish everything you want to. 

Three big questions for the new year

On the second page, we’re going to ask you three big questions about how you want to shape your year. Make sure you’re incorporating the things you want to focus on from page one into these answers!

  • How will you improve yourself in 2021?
  • What would it look like if 2021 went perfectly?
  • What do you want to leave behind next year?

It’s so important to think about what your perfect year would look like. Now, we all know the best laid plans rarely end up exactly how we envisioned, but knowing what you’re working toward in an ideal world will help you prioritize and take the right steps along the way.

Use these questions to help formulate how the things you’re going to focus on next year fit into the big picture. Are they making you better? Are they helping you leave something behind? 

Your yearly theme

This is your chance to combine all of the reflecting and brainstorming you’ve done so far into one, cohesive theme.

In the first box on the page, we want you to free write or draw: What inspires you? What adjectives describe your attitude? What is your mantra? Set a timer for 10 minutes and fill this open space with anything that comes to mind.

Next we’re going to get more specific: When you’re looking at what you’ve written over the last few pages, what ideas or actions excite you? What do you feel most strongly about? Use the sentences, words, or ideas that resonate most with you to craft statements about how you envision the year ahead.

Finally, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: Deciding on your theme for the new year. This should be a word or phrase that you can apply to *all* aspects of your life. It’s going to be your north star this year, reminding you about where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. 

For some people and some years, building a theme is easy. For others, it takes a little more time. If you’re feeling stuck, don’t worry! Put your pen down and take a break. Take a couple days or even weeks to let the ideas you’ve developed here marinate. Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve settled on the right idea.

Here are some examples of yearly themes that we’ve heard over the years to give you a little inspiration:

  • Intention
  • Get it done
  • Savor
  • Say yes
  • Balance
  • Grow
  • Commit
  • Find joy

Once you’ve decided on your new year's theme, make it easy to remind yourself all year long! Write it down in your Ink+Volt Planner, put it on a Post-it in your bathroom, letter it on a card that’ll stay visible in your workplace. Wherever you put it, make sure it’s easily accessible to you all year long. 

Then join us next week as we turn your big ideas into action in part 4 of your Yearly Planning Series.