Plan Your New Year's Resolutions in 5 Simple Steps
Updated: Oct 15, 2019
Are you one of those people who ogle all the pretty planners at the onset of each new year? Let me guess, you buy one with the best of intentions, of course, but never end up using most of it. If I'm wrong, then, simply put, you're a better person than I am. Because. It. Never. Fails. If I buy a planner, I last three months, max, then the thing dies a slow and painful death on my shelf next to the self-help books I'd also enthusiastically purchased that year. Well, that is until another year rolls around, it's December, and I'm suddenly all gung-ho about the planner idea again -- and the self-help things, too, but that'll need to be covered in a different post. Today, grab your favorite binder and pen, follow these 5 basic steps, and get the new year started with my simplified, free printable, instead.
That way, if it flops, you wasted a fingerful of paper and a smattering of ink, at most. Click here to download the free printable.
Step 1: Choose A Focus Word
Focus Words have everything to do with a positive mindset and nothing to do with the expletive you'd find yourself using in the event you don't come up with said focus word. In other words (heh, see what I did there?) really think hard about the one word that will be the foundation for everything you'd like to achieve this year. Right now, I'm leaning toward discipline for mine. Because despite my best intentions, most days I'm very much lacking in that department. I'm one of those awesome mom/wives who go to sleep at night praying I'll be a more attentive mother and a more dependable homemaker in the morning; only to wake up the next day and decidedly sit in my chair with my coveted hot chocolate, pouting about how loud my children are and promising myself I'll go do the dishes after. Just. One. More. Cup. When really, I know my life would be so much better if I was disciplined enough to play a quick game with my boys, hug them, give them all those kisses they really don't want, and knock out my chores first thing like the domestic goddess I know is inside me somewhere clawing to get out.
Last year, my word was efficient and my life was all the better for it: I was able to use that word to guide my daily, weekly, and monthly actions and create super easy life and business workflow systems that made even the simplest of things that much more streamlined. The problem at the end of the year was that I wasn't disciplined enough to carry it through. This year, that will change!
Step 2: Decide What Your Top 5 Intentions (Goals) Are
As a writer, I'm naturally inclined to love words. For this very reason, I am changing the word "goal" here to a much more apt word: intention. Goal is so frequently used that I believe somewhere along the line we stopped taking it seriously. "It's my goal to start blogging this year." But doesn't that sound more like a wish or desire, minus the consequence for not following through? What if, instead, "I intend to start blogging?" To me, intention is a much more active word, in opposition to its passive counterpart in this example.
What do you intend to achieve this year? Pick up to five main intentions and write them down, preferably on the same page as your focus word. These five intentions will be the biggest projects you'll work toward finalizing this year in order to make room for five new intentions next year.
Here is what my business intentions look like this year:
Publish Her Reverse Genus #3
Publish Her Reverse Genus #4
Publish DOP #1
Start Blogging (Hey, look at me go!)
Start Newslettering (Totally made that word up)
Step 3: Break Each Intention Down Into 5 Main Tasks
Now that you have a visual of what you will accomplish this year, it's time to expand your intentions into the primary steps that are required for each. This is the task people tend to overthink. Don't do that! The intent of this blog post is to help you break down your resolutions in 5 simple steps. If you're struggling with it already, there's a chance you're overthinking the process. Instead of going into a long, drawn-out spiel here, I'm going to simplify the explanation by showing you how I've broken down my first intention: Publish Her Reverse Genus #3.
See? That break down is about as basic as it can get. The fact that each step technically has a billion things invisibly nested beneath it, is beyond the point. That's not where our focus lies right now; the finer details are covered later.
Step 4: Assign Dates to Your Top Priority Tasks
Here is where the real fun begins! Sorta. Kinda. Well... not really. Unless you're an organization dork/freak like me. You might have guessed by now that all those lovely steps you outlined for your top five intentions need dates. Yes, dates are important. No, you cannot skip this step. Because as soon as you assign dates to your major tasks, what you need to do beyond that unfolds naturally. For me, I started from the bottom up in the case of assigning dates to my book publishing intentions. First, I set the date I intend to release the book, then I factored in how long before the release date I should start promoting. From there, I took into account how long the editing process takes and how long it would take me to prepare the graphics and promotional material and set a start date for those tasks. Last, I broke down exactly how many words I will need to write each day in order to finish my first draft by the date I need to begin the edits. Here's an example, but this does not represent my own books because I have a real, living, breathing anxiety over sharing my intended publish dates with my readers, for fear I'll let them down -- maybe next year my focus word should be confidence, hmm?
3/30 - Release Date
2/24 - Start Promotions
2/09 - Design Graphics
2/07 - Begin Editing Process
Write 1600 Words Per Day
Step 5: Plan Your Week
With this five-step method, I'm not suggesting you plan every single daily task for your entire year right at the forefront. Doing so could preemptively result in failure and disappointment. Instead, we will focus on what needs to be accomplished on a weekly and daily basis. Don't worry about tomorrow, the next week, or the following month -- plan for the here and now. Read through your intentions at the beginning of each week, and "brain dump" as many thoughts, sub-intentions, and any minor and major tasks required to get you closer to reaching the finish line for your priorities. Then, each day, read through that weekly brain dump, pick the top four most productive tasks and make it a point to knock them out in a timely manner.
Based on the five intentions I've set for myself this year, today's top four tasks -- in order of priority -- look like this:
Write January Blog Post
Design Blog Post's Social and Blog Graphics
Schedule Blog Post's Campaign (with my Google Calendar system)
Self-Edit Previous Day's Writing Session (with ProWritingAid)
How about that... we're already done! 5 simple steps, printed at home for freeish, should do the trick. And what's better, you can slip these papers into a few page protectors, pop them into your favorite binder, and use wet-erase markers so the pages can be reused over and over again.
I love what David Allen said in his amazing book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, "One of the best tricks for enhancing your productivity is having organizing tools you love to use." While I often wish pretty planners like The Happy Planner (this is my favorite one to look at from a distance) and motivational planners like Conquer Your Year, by Natalie MacNeil (this one held my attention longer than any other planner to-date and was the inspiration for this blog post) were my go-to organizing tools, the hard truth of the matter is that a pretty pen and an awesome binder are what result in more productivity for me.
If my 5 simple steps for planning your intended goals don't have enough meat for your liking, I highly recommend checking out the books and planners I just mentioned. They are each amazing in their own right!
Whatever you choose, use the tools you love... don't force yourself to use something that isn't a good fit. In the comments below, share with everyone what organizational tools you swear by and/or whether or not my free printable helped -- we'd love to hear from you!