New Year 2016 is comingIt’s about this time of year that the flurry of activity winds down, and the flurry of hope-making really kicks into high gear. It’s the time of reflection and resolutions and all the dreams we have that ‘next year’ is going to be better than ‘this year.’

It’s easy to get overwhelmed for all the possible ways we can improve our lot in life. From our personal lives to our professional lives, it’s natural to use this transition time to think about what we can do better. I’ve seen no less than 8 different (and popular) Year-End planning workbooks doing the rounds. In fact, I’ve downloaded most of them, put ’em in a binder, filled (most of) them out and have come to this conclusion.

These 6 simple ways are all I need to get my 2016 off to the right start.

  1. Set an intention for your new year – Half the people who make resolutions have broken them by June. So rather than a resolution, I like to choose a theme. Some years it’s a single word, other years it’s a quote or a catch phrase. Regardless, it’s something I can filter all my decisions through to gauge whether my actions are lining in up with my intentions.
  2. Reflect on the previous year – The only way we get smarter in life is by figuring out which lessons we’ve learned from our failures and successes. I like to be a bit formal about this so I have a higher chance of not repeating past mistakes as well as replicating what I’ve done right. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or wordy. I like to call it my “20/20” List (as in ‘Hindsight is 20/20). Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. Rapid-fire make a list of 20 things you wish you’d done differently and 20 things that worked out well for you. See if there’s any themes you should pay attention to.
  3. Enjoy some quiet time – Self care is always important, but during this time of high-pressure events and emotional rollar-coasters it’s especially crucial. Taking time for yourself is NOT selfish (at least not in the negative sense) so make sure you block in some times to just…be. Make a cup of tea and put your phone away for 15 minutes. Let your mind wander and your imagination play.
  4. Pick one major goal – “I’m going to get healthier, definitely more yoga. And make more money. Plus I want to be more romantic with my partner. And, and, and…” This is all of us. Every year. So this year, let’s pick one big goal, and let’s get specific. Rather than “I’m going to make more money this year”, instead “I’m going to ask for a 5% raise by August, and until then I’m going to document why I deserve to get it.”
  5.  Send 3 ‘Gratitude’ emails – Don’t overthink this one, or spend any time agonizing over it. Again, these don’t have to be some long flowery letter of admiration. Choose people who have inspired or helped you this year, whether knowingly or as a role-model from afar. Keep it simple and to the point, but share your appreciation for them in a specific way (such as, “I am often blown away by your ability to share criticisms kindly”)
  6. Start a 5 Year Diary – I started my first 5 year diary in 2010 and it has been one of the most helpful types of journaling for me. Essentially, a 5 year diary will have a space for a few sentences each day so that you can see what you were doing/feeling on the same day of each of the 5 years. It only takes a few moments each day but gives a wonderful snapshot of your daily life. It makes it easier to find trends in our well-being, to see if there are season factors in our moods for instance.

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