AKA — How to be happy and get sh*t done next year without losing your mind
We made it.
Here we are in December, looking forward to the New Year and all the promise that comes with it. This is the time of year when we get focused on our routines, and prepare to take on the new year armed with vision and a fist-full of resolutions.
And come February, most of those resolutions will have fallen by the wayside. It takes more than a New Year’s resolution to create change in our lives. It also takes willpower and intention.
What the heck is intentional planning?
Intentional planning is the act of curating a plan for yourself and your life that centers on who you are as a person and your core goals.
I truly believe that in order to carry a plan through to execution, you must be intentional with your planning.
And the truth is, most resolutions you make at the end of the year are doomed to failure because they are not well planned out. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
This maxim may be tired and overused, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
New Year’s resolutions fail most of the time because there is no actionable plan attached to them.
You’re pretty much just crossing your finger as the ball drops and hoping for the best. The intentional part of intentional planning comes from utilizing a process that will help turn any wishes you may have for the new year into a fully fleshed out goal with a plan for achievement.
Did someone say planning process?
I do the majority of my life planning and scheduling in a physical planner, however, the process I am going to lay out here can be used to plan ANY project, at ANY scale, and in ANY medium (paper planner, digital calendar, plain old notebook, project management software, or some hybrid of these). Think of this as a framework on HOW to plan your goals.
Step 1 — ASSESSMENT
The first step of any good plan starts with an assessment. The purpose of doing an assessment is to ensure that the goals you set actually matter, and that the plan you craft to achieve them is likely to actually work.
Before I buy my new planner for the year, I take an afternoon and recap the previous year in my journal. This is the way I assess myself and last year’s plan. I ask myself the same questions every year:
- What do I want? — I have a personal mission statement that I wrote for myself that encapsulates the answer to this question, and each year I use December to recheck my mission statement and make sure it still feels authentic and in line with who I am as a person. If you don’t have a personal mission statement, just reflect on what you want. Truly want. What are your core desires for your life? What do you want your family, friends, coworkers, and community members to say about you at your funeral (Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests we answer this question to figure out what really drives us)? What do you want to be remembered for? Knowing what you want is as close as you can come to knowing everything.
- What worked for me last year? — This can be as simple as “setting my alarm an hour earlier than I need to wake up” (this is an actual tidbit I wrote down a few years ago that has single handedly revitalized my mornings. I feel like I have learned to cheat my alarm clock.) or as profound as “investing in Bitcoin”.
- What totally failed? — Similar to the previous question, taking the time to reflect on what did not work the year before helps draw attention to behaviors and situations that didn’t serve you. Knowing this can help you avoid similar situations in the year ahead.
- What happened or didn’t happen last year? — At first glance, it is easy to think that this question is just a repeat of the first two, but it isn’t. Reflecting on the happenings of the year before get you into thinking about your accomplishments. Reflecting on what happened to you is also slightly different than reflecting on what you did. This question forces you to think about some of the things that were outside of your control.
- How much more do I love myself? Why? — This is always the most profound response in my journal. I’ve begun asking myself this question every night before I go to bed. It’s that good. Setting goals is moot if achieving them doesn’t bring you closer to your true self. I really believe that self love is the highest barometer of success.
- What was last year’s “Big Lesson”? — This question always turns into my intention for the next year. For example, my “Big Lesson” in 2016 was that I had the power to change my own life. That was what I learned during the most tumultuous year of my life, and I took that lesson into 2017 and set it as my intention for the year and used that intention of personal power to drive all my actions in 2017. I’m a much happier, healthier, and wealthier person this December.
Step 2 — DETERMINE CORE GOALS
Once you’ve done a thorough assessment, it’s time to set those goals. (This is the part where you decide what New Year’s resolution you want to attack in the coming year.)
The goals you set should be entirely based on the insight from your assessment.
If you have ascertained that you want to have more time with your family, it makes more sense to make that your resolution than losing 30 pounds.
I like to set one BIG goal in each of the four areas of life:
- Spiritual — getting more aligned with self and the higher powers of the Universe (whatever that means to you)
- Communal— the relationships between yourself and others (your community, spouses, coworkers, friends, etc.)
- Mental — learning new skills and relevant information (because being a lifelong learner is important)
- Physical — the way the body feels and functions (including diet, exercise, doctor visits, medication, amount of sleep, hair growth, etc.)
You will note that there is no “financial” bucket here. That’s just because for me, personally, I have found that money comes when my mind, body, relationships, and spirit are aligned. You don’t have to set 4 goals in these buckets as long as the goals you set are based on what you have decided is important during your assessment.
Step 3 — BREAKDOWN YOUR KPI’S
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators and basically, what I mean here is that you should break your goal(s) down into bite sized pieces.
The question to ask yourself is “How do I know if I’m making progress?”
For example, if one of your goals is to successfully launch your online brand, how will you know if you are making relevant strides toward that goal?
You would have to focus on things like publishing content consistently, setting up and maintaining an email list, creating a product to sell, and expanding your network. Each of these is a key performance indicator.
Your KPI’s should be S.M.A.R.T. (another acronym I’m sure you’ve heard of that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).
Step 4 — SYSTEMATIZE
The thing that takes your New Year’s resolution from being a wish and turns it into a goal is a plan, and the way you maintain that plan over time is a system.
It doesn’t matter how many planners you buy if you don’t have a system in place to bring those plans off the page.
You need to have a central hub where your goals, your KPI’s, and your daily tasks live. This can be in a paper planner, a project planning software like Asana or Trello, in your online calendar, or even in a series of post it notes pasted across your work station.
The key is to have a place where your goals and tasks live, and to check it often for feedback.
What’s the final word on intentional planning?
Using this method to determine your New Year’s resolution and I can guarantee you with 100% certainty that you will 10x your results.
Tell me in the comments below what your resolution for the new year will be, and if you plan to tackle that resolution with this intentional planning method.
Here’s to 2018!