Planning for the year ahead

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t made any for the last few years, and I failed to keep most of the ones I made before that.

Instead, I prefer to be thinking about this stuff in a different, and ongoing way (more about that at the end of this post).

That said, there is something about one year coming to a close, and another starting. It feels like a good time to take stock of where you’re at. 

I’ve been doing that for the last couple of days, and wanted to share the process I’ve been going through.

First of all, credit where it’s due. I stole most of the format from James Clear’s annual review. However, I did add in a fourth question, and I have some further tips for how to go about it.

I’ve tried to answer these four questions for 2018:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What did I learn?
  4. What are some high level focuses for 2019?

Because I think about this stuff quite a lot throughout the year, it was easy for me to do this. If you don’t, something like this might take a few hours, over a few sessions to complete. But, it’s well worth it.

In the first session, I jotted down ideas in a notepad. I started by writing down the big areas that bubbled up to me with each question. Immediately after, I expanded on each one with further thoughts.

What went well and didn’t go so well – some examples:

For each of the first two questions (What went well and what didn’t go so well?), I settled on a handful of things.

One of the big areas that went well for me in 2018, was my health. I’ve settled into an eating pattern that works really well for me (paleo + intermittent fasting ~ 80% of the time). I’m able to stick to it pretty consistently. I’m being much smarter about my training and enjoying it more (a lot of that is down to this guy). I’ve been able to easily keep my weight around 80 KG’s (175 lbs). My motivation has been in a pretty good place throughout the year too. This is mostly because I’ve shifted to a focus of well being and health, instead of specific fitness goals. In general, I’m in a great position to build from where I am, and make great progress in 2019.

Another example of one of the big areas that didn’t go so well for me in 2018, was adventure. My default mode is to be a creature of habit and avoid new things. I rarely get out of my comfort zone. I really wanted to change that, so I can live a fuller life.

I had some good ideas for how to go about it:

  • Commit and put things in the calendar
  • Get around more adventurous people
  • Come up with one small thing per week that will push me out of my comfort zone

I did have a few flashes of adventurous activities. But. for the most part I didn’t make much traction with it. It’s definitely something I want to do better at in 2019.

What did I learn? – some examples:

This question can take a bit more time. I started by looking at my answers to the first two questions. Did I learn anything significant from them? That got me a few ideas.

Then I looked back on the things I wrote about this year, which got me a few more. And then I just spend some time pondering the year, and a few other things jumped out at me.

As with the first two questions, I spent a bit of time fleshing each one out.

An example of something I learned was that I don’t need social media. It was a massive thing to finally realise. I now restrict it one session per week, lasting about an hour. I mostly consume, and rarely post (only if I have something strong to say, or to share something I wrote).

I just don’t need it. I don’t miss using it every day. I got back a whole load of time and it made me feel so much better. I should have done it ages ago.

Another example of something I learnt, was how important it is to be happy with the small things.

I’m an ambitious person and I expect a lot of myself. I jump quickly to thinking a few steps ahead. It’s super easy for me to get caught up thinking about the future, or how to be better at stuff.

It takes a hell of a lot of self awareness for me to notice when that’s happening. But when I do, I can slow things down and enjoy what’s in front of me. Going swimming with my daughter Fearne. Date night with Ella. A glass of wine with a friend. A great workout. A walk with the dogs.

Whilst some of these may be little, they are actually the most important things. It’s where happiness comes from. They ARE the big things.

What are some high level focuses or thoughts for 2019? – some examples:

Again, it’s useful to look back at some of the previous answers for clues about what you may want to focus on next year.

One of the big things for me, was my relationship with technology. I know I think and do more about this than most people. But, I think there’s still a huge amount of value in doing more. I want to build better habits around using do not disturb and leaving my phone in another room whilst I work. I want to leave my phone at home more often when I go out. I want to do regular digital sabbaths. And I want to switch my phone off more when I’m with my Fearne.

Another example for something I want to focus on in 2019 is our house. We moved into it a year ago, and it needs modernising. It’s been slow going preparing the plans and getting our ideas straight for what we want to do. But, we’re finally in a position to start getting stuff done and I want to make a big dent in things next year.

How to go about the process of Yearly Planning:

Here are a few things I’ve found useful when going through the process:

  • Find a quiet space, where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Write out the answers to the questions (I used google docs). The process of writing will help you think deeper about each one.
  • Don’t overthink it. There’s no right or wrong answers – just let your ideas flow. Remember, most of the value is in actually spending the time to reflect and look forward. Ultimately it’s to build self awareness. So, don’t stress over the exact answers or words.
  • It’s probably best to do it over a few sessions. Personally, I spent 2 hours, over 3 sessions. Start with a brainstorm for each question. Then take a break. Come back to it with a fresh set of eyes a couple of times, and tighten everything up.

A different way to think about this stuff

As I said at the beginning of this post, I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. I also don’t have specific goals.

Instead, I’m very in tune with the type of person I want to be (i.e values). I know the broad direction I want to push in (a handful of short term focuses). I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these things, and I take time each week to connect with them.

I have a very specific process for planning my weeks and days to make good progress on what’s important to me. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. One week, and one day at a time. It’s working. I’m getting more done and am so much happier.

If you want to find out more about my ideas, these two posts are a good place to start:

I’ve been working on pulling together my ideas and approach into a coaching course. It’s slow going, but it’s also one of my focuses in 2019!

If you have any questions about any of this – as always, get in touch.

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