So we’re more than half way done with January and I’m still trying to decide what my 2018 is going to be about. For all its hype and glory, New Year catches me off guard nearly every year, and before I can sit down and make the most of its fresh start and opportunity to reevaluate life it has gone and the normalcy and routine of the year has set in.
I was out of the country over New Years, and arrived home only hours before I was back at work. It’s all I can do to keep up with the daily needs of running our home and staying on top of my work commitments. Meals have been made (sometimes even three a day), the toilet has been scrubbed (once), I’ve shown up at my jobs on time (mostly). And that’s about it.
And we could just let that be all we do. Just barely getting through each day. Maintaining. Surviving.
But here’s the thing. It is painfully easy to neglect important things, even things we hold with great value, when life starts piling up. It is even more easy for this to happen when you haven’t taken the time to dream, goal set, and make a bit of a game plan.
So here’s what I do when it gets to the end of January (or February or April) and I realize I don’t have any sort of plan for how I’m going to do life.
1. Decide what you want this year to be about.
A word, a theme, an overarching focus. This will give you a filter to pass your decisions through. Get it stamped on a bracelet and blog about it like all the cool kids are doing.
2. Get a planner
I don’t care if it’s a bullet journal or a traditional day-timer or google calendar. You’ve got to see what your days are looking like and what you’re filling them with. EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A PLANNER. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be made up with pretty pens and stickers. You just need one single place to gather all the things and keep track of your days.
3. Add everything into this calendar that you’ve committed to.
Work schedules, trips, doctor’s appointments, coffee dates. They all go in. It is incredibly valuable to see all your things lines up. Suddenly your overbooking becomes starkly visible, as well as the unexpected gaps you didn’t know you had.
4. Choose one thing you want to do every day.
I am the queen of making daily goals and by the time my list is done I’m usually at 18 things I plan to do every day. This is a set up for failure. Choose one, the most important, the most in line with your overarching goal for the year. Commit to it, schedule it in, and if things fall apart and life overwhelms you, you have one thing to come back to.
5. Categorize and make lists.
How are you going to insert the things you value into your year? Here’s what I need a plan for at the beginning of every season: Spiritual disciplines, eating patterns, exercise plans, reading lists, writing goals, budget, house maintenance, and work responsibilities. Come up with your own list and then decide how they will fit into your days.
6. Create a (loose) daily routine.
Know when you’ll wake up and what you’ll do first. Know what your work schedule will look like and how you’ll insert your personal tasks into that. I know I’m more prone to schedules than others and could basically be a professional schedule maker. But even for you who like to keep things open and flexible, give this a try. I think you’ll find it helpful.
7. Re-evaluate regularly.
The thing about New Year resolutions is that we have no idea what we’ll value or need by the time July or October roles around. We might not even know what next week will look like. If things aren’t working, if new things arise, don’t be so caught up in your plan or word or theme for the year that you can’t adjust. I pull out my planner and reset on a weekly basis. Maybe this won’t be the year of the marathon. Maybe making food in bulk will work better this month and trying new recipes every night will be for another season. Maybe evening yoga will work better than a morning walks. HOLD IT LOOSELY and PAY ATTENTION.
One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The characters were in a crunch at the climax of the story and had a limited amount of time to find what they needed and this was their response: “Five minutes of planning are worth fifteen minutes of just looking.” You Guys. WE. NEED. A. PLAN. It feels counterintuitive when we’re so busy we can’t keep up with what we have to get done, but let me tell you, having goals, a plan, dreams, a routine, a rough draft on how you intend to live your life will multiply your time. Take this weekend and make your plan. A day or two of planning is worth a year of stumbling haphazardly through your weeks.
Resources for New Years Planning:
How To Set Goals Like A Normal Person (The Lazy Genius does life so well. Her blog and podcast on New Years Goal Setting episode is absolutely worth your time.)
Goals That Actually Work (The Simple Show podcast has become a go-to resource for me, especially when I need help calming chaos and bringing order.)