Making New Year Action Plans That Stick
The end of each year is a rollercoaster of events and emotions. And as cliche as it sounds, I still can’t believe how quickly 2017 came and went. I look back on the last 12 months and I can’t help but feel consumed by the thought that no matter how imperceptible it feels while we’re going about our day-to-day, when I look at the whole beyond the sum of its parts, it’s insane just how fast time passes by without us even noticing it until it’s long gone. I’m not trying to be depressing, but it definitely is a bit of a reality check to look back on each passing year once New Year rolls around.
2017 was a year of pursuit and grit for me. I don’t think I’ve ever pushed myself so hard, worked such long hours, or hungered as much as I did to keep on bettering myself (besides when I was in college). 2018 is going to be another year of growth, dedication, and drive. For the next 12 months, you too might have similar goals–to work a little harder, learn a little more, persevere a little longer. You get the picture. But with all this the effort, it’s just as important (and I say this as a reminder to myself too because I am terrible at this) to focus on something else: sustainability. Over the past 12 months, I noticed–frequently–that I have a tendency to get extremely stressed, burnt out, and self-critical when deadlines, to-do lists, and other things build up. There’s no in-between for me. I’m either pounding the pavement and at my A-game or stressing out and scrutinizing over every little detail about my life. Sure, it’s normal to feel stressed, and sure, you may still manage to get everything done. But the work you are passionate about shouldn’t feel like a million 100-meter sprints that end with you crashing to the ground at the finish line. If you’re in it for the long haul, resolve this year to do some marathon training instead, and figure out how to make work, life, and rest feel more sustainable.
But, instead of simply making some lofty “New Year’s Resolution” that sounds eloquent but doesn’t actually stick, focus instead on making New Year’s action plans. At the beginning of each year, it’s important to be honest with yourself, ask where you envision yourself 12 months from now, and create a game plan to get yourself there. It’s always easier said than done to establish, and follow through on, resolutions, but hey–no one ever said marathons were easy.
5 Ways to Make New Year Action Plans That Stick
1. Don’t try to go from 0 to 100
If your New Year’s resolution is to work out every day, but you haven’t been to a gym in 6 months, you’re practically begging to fail. Be realistic, and set a goal that you know you’ll be able to achieve, even if it only requires 10-20% extra effort than you’re already putting in now. Instead of resolving to work out every day, ease into it. Plan to start going on 30 minute walks during your lunch break every day (and block it off on your calendar!), or join a fun fitness class with your best friend and plan to start going once a week. I remember when I was in high school and I resolved to be able to do the splits and read 1 book a week for a year straight. At the time, I could barely touch my toes and I hardly even found time to read 1 book a month. Do you think either resolution ended up happening? Yeah, no.
2. Set a due date
Whenever I think of something I want to do or accomplish, I always schedule it in my calendar. Giving yourself a “due date” acts as a reminder to stop pushing it off and thinking you’ll “get to it tomorrow.” If you don’t schedule the work, other things will get in the way and prevent you from doing them 100% of the time. You’ll find excuses, life will happen, and suddenly, it’ll be December 31, 2018. Don’t let that happen.
3. Identify the steps that are needed to get there
Instead of trying to jump from A to Z, break your goals down into stepping stones. Remember that 10-20% extra effort I talked about earlier? What has to happen for you to get to 2%? Or 5%? I personally want to open a high-yield online savings account this year. I've been putting it off for way too long now, so 2018 is going to be the year I finally just get it over with. The steps–and due dates–I’m taking to get there include finishing I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi (by March 2018), reaching $X of savings in my regular savings account (by September 2018), researching the right savings account and online bank to turn to, and then taking the plunge.
4. Do not create goals that are out of your control
Do not hold yourself accountable for the things that are not 100% in your hands. Don’t make 2018 the year you get a boyfriend, or the year you patch things up with a friend that you had a falling out with. Instead, make 2018 the year you start going on dates again, or the year you reach out to the friend you haven’t spoken to in months in an effort to make things right. Putting yourself back in the driver’s seat, regardless of someone else’s response or actions, makes your goals easier to control and achieve.
5. Be flexible
Of course, life happens, and more often than not, it’s unpredictable. Forgive yourself if you need to move your plans around, but know that the key to being flexible is to bounce back after you bend around all of life’s crazy obstacles. If something sets you back, adjust your plan and your due dates accordingly, but don’t throw in the towel and give up.
My New Year's Action Plans for 2018:
To hold myself accountable (both to you and myself), here are my own personal goals for 2018. Although I have due dates and steps for each of these goals, I'm not going to list them out below (otherwise this list would be insanely long and dense!), but if you have questions about how I am planning to achieve any of the items on my list, ask me in the comments and I'd be more than happy to share extra details.
Open a High-Yield Online Savings Account
Prioritize Travel, and Do it As Often As Possible (without breaking the bank)
Be a More Active Advocator For My Peers + Work on Growing my Professional Network
Focus on Freelancing and Generating a Side Income
Spend More Time With My Family
Find More Time for Yoga and Work on Being Able to Do Handstand Variations without the Safety of Being Next to a Wall
Be more Patient with the Things I do not Understand, and Take more Time to Find the Answers Without Getting Frustrated
Challenge my Writing and Photography, Both on My Own Blog and in Contributions to Other Brands