7 Steps to Having the Best Year Ever

7 Steps to Having the Best Year Ever

Around this time every year, I take a few hours to begin my month-long+ process of reflecting on happenings and results that went right and wrong during the current calendar year.  Do I have the things I wanted to have?  Did I do the things I wanted to do?  Did I become or remain the person that I aimed to be?

The best way for me to evaluate this at the highest level is to review the top priorities I set for myself for the year.  Every year, I come up with a "theme" that is easy for me to write down and, more importantly, easy for me to recall on a regular basis.  In 2009, the theme was "The Year of the G" - girls (my wife and daughters), guitar and golf.  In 2012, the theme as been "Steep Trajectory" - quick improvements in my health, spiritual leadership in my family, personal finances and business development.

Step #1 - Creating a theme or strategy for the year is the starting point of defining and realizing your dreams.  Visualize yourself at the end of 2013 and try to capture as many details in this visualization as possible.  One great example and short exercise that is quick, simple and a lot of fun is to answer the following questions about how December 2013 looks in your dreams:

  • What do you look like in a year from now?  Are you better dressed, thinner, have that mole removed?
  • What daily habits - good and bad - will be different?  More days at at the gym that year?  Less time behind a computer?
  • Is your life more balanced than it is currently?
  • How much time and energy have you spent in helping others?
  • How active have you been in your child's life as a parent, volunteer, mentor and role model?

This morning, as I begin my visualization and commitments to 2013, I have started Step 1 by printing off an annual calendar with a monthly view.  Success in realizing your dreams is to break the dream down into actionable steps that can be taken daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly.  I often refer to this as a "Goal Converter".  See examples of how this can be applied to your organization in the Goal Converter blog from June 23, 2011 - http://cmsicharleston.com/2011/06/23/goal-converter from June 23, 2011.

Step #2 - Once you've defined the top 3-5 high level goals for 2013, print out this 2013 Calendar - Monthly View and write in the tactical steps needed to realize your goals.  Start with the simple stuff in order to gain momentum.  Here are some examples:

  • January 15th and July 15th - Schedule dentist appointments
  • Monthly budget review (pick the day that works best for you)
  • Schedule "Dude's Weekend" camping trip for the weekend after Labor Day
  • Document key birthdays, anniversaries and other events
  • Vacation planning - especially MANY MINI vacations throughout the year such as short hikes, camping, festivals, etc.

Step #3 - The next step is to keep this paper copy of the year's plan in front of you as an evergreen rough draft.  Pin it to the board near your desk or carry it in your laptop bag.  Once plans and specific dates are a bit more locked into place, enter these key events and tasks into your favorite electronic program.  I would personally recommend Google Apps in order to manage your calendar, task list, share invitations, organize email, etc.

Step #4 - Take 10-15 minutes every Friday afternoon and again on Sunday evenings to visualize the week ahead.  If you have not already, ensure you have moved all unfinished tasks to the following week.  Add new tasks to the list for the upcoming week.  By visualizing the week ahead and having a method to capture the never-ending number of to-do's, you will minimize the anxiety that can often be associated with the Sunday evening panic.

Step #5 - Take 10-15 minutes every morning to visualize your day.  I call this TWS or "Thoughts While Shaving".  Once you get into the office, or as you sit down for your money cup of coffee, ensure your daily tasks are captured and prioritized.  Make sure you include tasks outside of work such as picking up the kids, hitting the gym, picking up your dry cleaning or calling a friend.  NOTE:  Whatever you do, avoid starting your day off by checking email.  Sure, email is important.  But by starting you day with email, you allow the demands of others or irrelevant distractions to control your day.  Lock in your daily plan, begin working on critical tasks, then check emails.

Step #6 - Reward yourself for closure of individual tasks.  What works well for me is to create an empty box by each task.  Once that task is complete, I check it off.  I then go onto my Google Calendar and mark the electronic task box with a check.  I absolutely LOVE to check the box!

Step #7 - Take the time each week/month/year to go back and review all of the boxes that were checked - signifying the individual steps you took to realize your goals.  Too often (and I'm extremely bad about this), we focus on what we did NOT get done.  We do not take the time to appreciate what WAS done.  Imagine your parents doing this to you.  Don't do it to yourself.  Take the time to celebrate, study, learn and improve.

Thank you for reading this blog.  As a reward, here is a free download:  2013 Calendar - Monthly View (Editable Version)

All the best in the New Year!
-JRT

"Of all our human resources, the most precious is the desire to improve." - My latest fortune cookie