Let’s talk New Year’s resolutions.
Most people know me as a very goal-oriented person (and I suspect you might be, too, since you’re reading this blog), so it often surprises them that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
The truth is, with all the holiday craziness in December, I never felt like I have the time or space to do adequate reflection and planning for a new year. Maybe you can relate.
I did like having goals. I just needed to find a different way to set them.
Making Time for Reflection
For a while I tried to cram this introspective time in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (…with all their associated family and friend gatherings…). I don’t know what I was thinking. “Cramming” and “introspection” just don’t belong in the same sentence. Ever.
Instead of starting the year off strong, focused, and excited about my goals, I would already feel behind on January 2nd. Talk about demoralizing! It just wasn’t working for me.
So I threw out the notion that January 1 is the best day to start working toward new goals.
I decided that February 1 is the new January 1.
Now I spend the first weeks of January reflecting on the past year and imagining possibilities for the new year. That’s it. Just reflecting.
The actual planning and goal-setting part comes later. (I’ll get into that more in the next post.)
Why Spend Time Reflecting?
It’s so tempting for me to jump right into planning mode. (I love a good action list!) But the reflection part is SO valuable.
It’s the only way I know how to figure out what worked from last year, what was a flop, what was worthwhile, what seemed important at the time but really wasn’t, etc.
If you haven’t already taken some time to look back over the year, consider making a date with yourself this week to review. I’ve compiled some tips and questions to help you get started.
Tips for Effective Reflection
Give yourself time
This is the most important tip. When I sat down to do my review, I immediately started feeling guilty…like I should be writing a blog post or working on a presentation or working on a client’s website. It was really hard to focus.
Ultimately, I resorted to my favorite timer trick: I set a timer for 30 minutes and gave myself permission to ignore every other responsibility until the timer went off. And you know what? The world didn’t implode in those 30 minutes. My business didn’t even fall apart. In fact, when I came back to address those “urgent” responsibilities with my new post-reflection perspective, I realized that some of those things were actually not important or not my responsibility at all!
Use questions to spark thoughts
Having a list of question prepared in advance helped spark some thoughts and got me back on track when my attention wandered…
Resist the urge to plan
As I looked at the accomplishments from last year, new ideas kept popping into my head. It was super-challenging to not follow these rabbit trails immediately! Instead, I kept a separate notebook nearby to jot down the ideas to reference when it was goal-setting time.
Gather tools before getting started
Usually I’m a pen and paper girl for brainstorming sessions, but this one seemed BIGGER. Like, whiteboard BIG. But… I don’t own a whiteboard. So I took my markers and wrote all over a mirrored wall in my dining room. Classy! (But hard to take photos of when you’re finished…) Do whatever works for you. 😉
I also kept my laptop nearby because I wanted to grab stats (like income/expenses, web traffic, leads, etc.), but I put it away once I got the info I needed.
Prepare your space
Sometimes I like a change of scenery for these reviews, but I didn’t think the local coffee shop would let me write all over their windows, so I worked at home. I turned on my Energizing Instrumental Spotify playlist, lit a fragrant candle, brewed a warm beverage, and got to work!
Here are some questions I thought about as I reflected on my past year:
- What stats can I gather from last year? (top blog posts, sources for leads, website traffic, finances, social media engagement, etc.)
- What insights can I gather from these stats?
- What aspects of my work did I most enjoy last year?
- What tasks and projects did I least enjoy?
- What made me feel most accomplished?
- What did I struggle with?
- What was easier than I expected?
- What is the single biggest time waster in my business?
- What was a good use of time in the last year? (conference, groups, projects, etc.)
- What was an unexpected obstacle/hurdle this year?
- What did I want to do that didn’t get done?
- In what ways did I grow as an entrepreneur?
- What is one thing I am afraid to do or give up that is holding me back?
- What valuable relationships did I form this year?
- If I had to do 2017 over again, what is one thing I would say “no” to?