How I’m Approaching the New Year

Cheers to (almost) making it through what’s been an extremely difficult year. I know we’re all eager to move on from 2020 and hopeful (or desperate) for a better year in 2021.

Regardless of all the madness of the past year, time doesn’t stop. It continues to pass whether we enjoy our time or not. And we won’t ever get it back.

So here we are, faced yet again with the end of another year — reflecting on what we’ve lived through and making plans for the year to come.

I thought I’d share a bit about how I’m approaching the new year and what I’m focusing on.

First off – I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. I know I’m not the only one!

I’m sure they do work successfully for a lot of people who approach them as an additional opportunity to set goals (which is in part what I do) and at the very minimum, it’s better than nothing at all! But here’s why I don’t like them.

They tend to be vague statements. Lose weight. Save more money. Spend less time on social media.

Because of that, they rely too heavily on motivation & willpower, which are fleeting states in the absence of a good strategy or process behind them.

And they demand perfection. The second you slip up, it’s an excuse to give up.

They also don’t tend to be reviewed regularly enough and adjusted to make improvements. Why wait until a new year to make adjustments? That’s just an excuse and a lack of commitment which ultimately comes from not having a strong enough process in place to help you stick to your plan in the good times and the bad.

I like to keep my approach to the New Year simple– a few key ideas that I’ll carry with me all year.

Here’s what I’m focusing on as I plan for 2021.

1. Iteration. Set goals, review often, adjust, and keep working.

As I mentioned earlier, any opportunity to set goals is great – but I believe in keeping them flexible.

And rather than making broad generalizations, I like to pick 1-2 specific goals in each area of life I want to make improvements and review them often so that I can assess my progress and readjust.

Iteration is key. It helps place emphasis on taking action, no matter how small, and repeating that action until you start to get your groove. And it can take time so be patient!

As long as I’m keeping my feet moving and regularly assessing how happy or satisfied I am in different areas of life, then I’m meeting my goal. This is ultimately my goal, not any of the specifics. Those become a by-product.

As you can see, this goal is very process oriented rather than goal oriented.

Below are examples of a tracker I’ve created for myself using Google Sheets. It has a tab for monthly goals, and then tabs for each month that have quick bullet journal style prompts.

I’m not going to lie to you — I don’t fill this out in its entirety every single day. Not even close 🙂 But it’s one tool in my toolset that helps me stay on track and keeps me thinking about the hard questions during moments when I’d rather avoid them — what I want out of life, how satisfied and happy I am, what’s missing. I find it especially helpful at times when I’m struggling.

Also, since it’s on Google Sheets, I can access it wherever — on my phone, any computer, I can even download it offline. Plus I love color and I’m free to update the colors and make it aesthetically pleasing which is super satisfying to me.

2. Focus on creating an effective process– it’s more valuable than focusing on a desired outcome. If the process is strong, the outcomes will follow.

This is just a different way to expand on #1 and say that :

  • Setting end goals is not enough
  • You need a strategy to help you power through the bad moments where you feel less inspired & less motivated
  • Focus on improving the foundational habits that make up each area of life you wish to improve – make it your goal to (at a minimum) stick to these small actions, no matter what
  • As a result, good outcomes will follow

Saying I want to lose weight is not enough. Saying I will stop spending money on things I do not need is not enough.

Plan to make a commitment to some form of repetition every single day. To iteration. To showing up for your goal even if its for 1 minute. To building the habit and giving yourself a chance to experience how good it feels.

I like placing the majority of my emphasis on a strong process because it also gives me flexibility to pivot. If along the way my end goal is no longer attractive, I just tweak it and use my established process to pursue the new goal.

I’ve found more success this way than with simply setting goals that sound nice and look good on paper.

Define a focus or intention for the year. This year, I’ve chosen the word “simplify.”

I like picking a word to set as my intention or focus for the year ahead. Usually, it comes from reflecting at the end of the year on what went well and what I can do better. And usually, one word can apply to multiple areas of life.

Inspired by all that occurred in 2020, the word that keeps popping into my head is “simplify.”

Simplify wherever possible. I’m after the same or better results with a less complicated strategy.

Examples of what this looks like for me:

  • Simplifying how I track my expenses — I’m not interested in sticking to a budget for each category of spending because my categories vary from month to month. What I care about is setting overall spending targets to ensure that I’m saving more than I’m spending, and that I’m allocating money to investments. This is just what works for me. If you want insight into exactly where your money is going, then categories of spending are very useful!
  • Simplifying my investment strategy — I want the least effort strategy where consistency & time get me similar or better results than spending my time researching and picking stocks.
  • Simplifying my branding so that I can create more valuable content in less time — Why over complicate things? I’ve recently transitioned to a color palette that I feel still reflects myself & my brand but also makes it much easier for me to create content quickly and effectively.
  • Simplifying my wardrobe — I know what I like in terms of styles, comfort, and colors. I’ve already made a commitment to only buying clothes that reflect what I know will be useful investments for me, and taking a lot of my mental capacity away from this.
  • Simplifying concepts I learn from books, podcasts, blogs, articles, etc. and a simple method for tracking ideas to reference later. It helps me understand it better, and it helps me share what’s most valuable from what I learn with you.
  • Simplifying my writing style for greater clarity on what the most valuable takeaway is.

You get the picture.

I wouldn’t consider myself a minimalist as of now — I haven’t gotten rid of near everything I own apart from basic necessities and I’m not planning on it per se in 2021.

BUT I think mental clarity and focus are increasingly important in a world where frankly we are bombarded with information and have too many choices to make every single day (and too many options to choose from).

I want less mental clutter. I want a calmer, more effective mind that allows me to focus on what’s most important. I want better mental health.

Simplifying where I can in ways that still allow me to achieve the results I want seems like the best possible thing for me to focus my energy on.

But again, I’m just sharing what works for me and what I’ve gravitated towards as my focus for the coming year. It’s important that you do what’s best for you!

I know those were long explanations despite only picking 3 areas to talk about(particularly for someone who is trying to simplify her writing 🙂 ). But as I was writing, I realized I haven’t really shared in depth about some of my personal life philosophy or how I approach things.

So if you stayed with me through all this, great! If not & you’re skimming, here’s the quick, visual summary.

How do you approach getting ready for the year ahead? I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Years!

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