How to Plan for the New Year

Step-by-step guide to life prioritization in a new year

Last week, we talked about how to review the year. Putting the year up for a review helps you capture big and small wins and reflect on the lessons you've learned.

Today, I will go through how I plan for the new year step-by-step with a few valuable tips so you can do the same for yourself.

1. Break your life into different life areas

If you went through the review process last week, you should have a good understanding of life areas. If not, simply write down areas of your life that demand your attention or that you want to make progress on.

In my post on How to Think About Your Life, I break my life down into six areas: work, money, relationships, fitness, learning (personal growth), and hobby.

You can come up with more areas if you want to, but these six are a good place to start.

2. Decide what to maintain and what to grow

Once you have written down the life areas, it's time to decide which areas you want to maintain and which you want to grow.

Maintenance means you're not looking for a significant leap in outcomes but rather to keep enjoying what you already have. On the other hand, to grow means to hit a major milestone or achieve a specific outcome. This step would be easier if you went through the review process because you get to think about them with some insights and learning from the past 11-ish months.

Growth takes lots of energy and effort, but so does maintenance. Most people mistake maintenance in two ways.

First, they assume it takes zero effort. The truth is that maintaining past success takes effort too. Take relationships for example, you need to keep showing up to maintain them, whether it's with your spouse or your friends.

Secondly, people might think that maintenance is equal to no growth. But because maintenance takes effort, you will still make small progress doing the same thing over and over again. You might not see a huge change, but the consistency you put into maintaining a life area will inevitably improve it.

That being said, I usually aim to grow only one to two areas of my life in a year and maintain the rest. The tip is to be realistic about the time and energy you have to juggle all of them.

Now you should have a list that looks something like this:

  • Work - Grow
  • Money - Maintain
  • Relationships - Maintain
  • Fitness - Maintain
  • Learning - Grow
  • Hobby - Maintain

3. Set process goals for maintenance areas

The next step is prioritizing the areas you want to maintain with process goals. In other words, think about the routines and habits you want to put in place to keep these areas at a high standard.

For money, it could be saving and investing 20% of your income every month.

For relationships, it could be going out for a date night with your spouse every week.

For fitness, it could be walking for at least 10,000 steps every day.

So why would you prioritize maintenance over growth? The reason is that life areas you want to grow are intrinsically more exciting than those you want to maintain.

Taking your career to the next level or learning a new language is fun, important, and urgent. And thus, it's easy for them to get all the attention.

By prioritizing and committing to the process goals for the areas you want to maintain, you're less likely to overlook and ignore these equally important areas. A common trap people fall into is to lose the important things they already have for the sake of the things they don't.

4. Set outcome goals for growth areas

Now you're ready to set the outcome goals for the life areas you want to grow.

Make a list of things you want to accomplish, and pick a few that are measurable and exciting to you. Since you have a year to work on them, I suggest you aim high and break them down into smaller, more practical milestones afterward.

No rule says you have to fit your goals within a year. So, if the goals or projects you have in mind are too big to work on within 12 months, it's okay to think about them in a longer timeframe. Just make sure you're being realistic and practical with your strategies.

5. Think hard about resources and probability

Many people hate the words "realistic" and "practical," especially when it comes to goal-setting.

I'm all for thinking big. But I would suggest you spend more time thinking about your strategies for your big, hairy, and audacious goals. Understand the different forces around the outcomes you want to accomplish and know that you have no control over many of them.

Then, think about the steps you would take, the resources you have available, and the probability of things happening your way. The process will improve your ability to deal with uncertainty and, thus, the likelihood of success.

6. Commit and take action

Now you've done all the thinking and planning. The last and most important step: do what you say you are going to do.


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