Reflection and Looking Ahead for the New Year

I have a Google doc with a 1 year plan, a 5 year plan, and a list of everything I want to do in life. Yes. I’m a HUGE dork. It’s something that I started doing a few years ago to organize my thoughts and get ready for a new year. As someone whose wheels are constantly turning, it helps to write things down – to have a plan. Plans certainly change throughout the year, but going through an exercise of reflection and planning for the year ahead is a nice jumping off point – it refocuses where I want to be in the future and allows me to outline steps I can take to help me get there.

There are plenty of “New Years Resolution” planning tools out there and you should certainly find what works best for you. Over the years, I’ve pulled from various sources and customized an exercise that feels good to me. I’m going to share what I like to do at the end of each year, but you should keep what speaks to you and leave what doesn’t.

I like to sit down with old fashioned pen and paper for this activity. After finishing the exercise, I go back and re-organize my thoughts in a Google Doc. I also like to cozy up with my husband and share, so we can support each other and talk about what we envision for the future of our family. If you prefer to keep it private, totally fine! I’ve found that sharing with friends, family, or a partner can give you a support system to help you meet your goals and a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas.

What you need:

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • 2 different colored highlighters
  • Timer (I use my phone)

What to do: 

  1. Carve out 30-45 minutes of time to sit down in a quiet space without any distractions.
  2. Spend 5 minutes reflecting on the past year. Write down at least 3 things you are proud of. This can be anything! Finishing a half marathon, reconnecting with an old friend, getting into grad school, writing an e-book, learning to meditate, forgiving someone…anything.
  3. Now, set a timer for 10 minutes. Write down everything you want to accomplish in your lifetime. It doesn’t matter how crazy or far-fetched or totally out there…if it crosses your mind, write it down.
  4. Once you have a nice list, read through it. Grab one of your highlighters and mark every item on that list that you would regret if you didn’t do in the next year. Then, use the other color to mark everything you would regret not doing in the next 5 years. Remember to be realistic with the timeline. For example, if you’ve never hiked before in your life, the chances of climbing Everest in the next year are pretty slim. For the items that don’t fall into a 1-year or 5-year category, leave them there to reflect on the following year.
  5. Take a look at the list of things you’d like to do in the next year and see if there are any patterns or themes. See if you can divide them up into categories or organize them into steps. Now make a one-year “plan” to accomplish these goals. Be specific with the steps it will take to accomplish them. For example, if you want to run a half marathon in under 2 hours, write down what race you’d like to run and the kinds of workouts you can do to become a faster runner.
  6. Now, list the items you highlighted as part of your 5-year plan. See if there are any themes or patterns. There’s no need to go into specific detail here, but it’s nice to have a general direction of what you’d like to accomplish in the near future.
  7. Organize your thoughts and save in a place where you can refer to it regularly throughout the year and reflect at the year’s end.

I’d love to know if this exercise is as helpful for you as it is for me. Please share your thoughts below!

Category: Goals, Life

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