I never particularly felt New Year’s Day brought new possibilities and a fresh start while in school (since the beginning of the calendar year falls in the middle of the school year in the USA), but I’ve fully embraced the concept as an adult. I’m not sure if it’s my love of learning and personal development, or my ambitious desire to constantly level up as an adult, or my obsession with planning and stationary, but I anticipate the new year over any other holiday.
Trevor and I don’t have our household’s holiday traditions hashed out yet (even after six years of marriage), but one thing we love to do is begin each year with intention. One of the ways we do this is by curating and reviewing our home, which we’ll be talking about very soon! The other is by taking the time to create a roadmap, of sorts, for the year.
The process is a simple one and the evening it takes to accomplish is time well spent. Even if some of our plans and goals are loose and slightly ambiguous, I’ve found that Trevor and I have been able to squeeze more enjoyment and contentment out of a year we’ve taken the time to craft.
Looking back on the previous year I find myself thankful and maintaining a positive attitude, rather than focusing on the negative. I can proudly say I accomplished the things I’d set out to at the beginning of the year, because I prioritized them every month.
Select an Annual Theme
Before thinking about the things that need done throughout the year, events, or even personal goals, I like to set the tone for the year to come by choosing a theme for myself. Typically I do this by choosing a single word, which becomes the springboard for the year ahead. Typically it’s a broad goal I’ve got for myself to be working towards.
When choosing how to spend my free time, I consider the word that I’ve chosen for myself. If an activity isn’t in line with the theme for the year, I probably won’t do it. This means the majority of my free time is spent working towards the larger goal I’d wanted to accomplish for the year.
New year, overwhelming amount of possibilities! Stay focused by choosing an annual theme.
The year I started reviewing our possessions, the year we became minimalists, the word I’d chosen for myself was “minimize”. Trevor does this, too, for two years now. Last year our words were the same, “simplify (which had been our words for a few years!)”, while this year they’re different.
Trevor: My word for this year is “intent”. In years past I have let this mainly be a theme for the month and generally it slips out of mind, much like many peoples resolutions.
For this year, I would like to do everything with intent and a focus on it(the now) while doing it. Hopefully this will keep my theme more present, but also help me keep focused while on task and feel more involved in all the tasks I do on a daily basis.
My word this year is “active,” so I’ll push myself to live a more active lifestyle. In 2019 I’ll be focused on getting my body moving and focus less on activities that don’t require movement, like reading and gaming.
Utilize Goals and Get Things Done
While the overall theme for your new year should be broad to allow for flexibility, when it comes to setting goals its best to be as specific as possible with yourself. Maybe it has more to do with personality type than human nature, but I’ve found that if I set a loose goal for myself I’m more likely to do the bare minimum than meet the expectations I’d wanted to.
#Goals are the blueprint for turning wishes into reality.
My theme for the year may be “active,” but I’ve got specific goals I’d like to accomplish. Or rather, they’re habits. A good example would be to do 30-minutes of cardio daily for a healthy heart. Instead of setting a goal like “walk more,” I’ve got a clear outline of what I’d like to do, why, and how; all parameters have been set for me to work on completing my goal.
Something to keep in mind is that it’s best to be realistic with goals. Given my current physical health, climbing Mt. Everest is out of reach for me and training to do so would be setting me up for failure; 30-minutes of cardio is attainable for me.
Trevor: As my theme is intent, goals are a little more nebulous. That’s fine though because it’s pretty easy to tell when I am doing something with intent, or just going through the motions. Additionally, I plan on using my phones screen time feature to help me cut back on wasting time on my phone while I am trying to get things done. Also, setting up a calendar with personal projects and giving milestones is a way I can ensure the time I sit to work on these, they have a clear vision/puspose that I can make progress rather than jumping around and getting distracted with things that don’t matter in the now.
Grab A Calendar + Stay On-Track
Having a planner, be it digital, or physical, has made a big difference in my life. For starters, I no longer put pressure on my busy brain to remember birthdays, holidays, and places I need too be on top of everything else it already does for me. Relying on a calendar instead of my brain means I actually show up for these things, and on time.
Another big perk is that Trevor and I can share calendars and know the other’s schedule without having to ask (when we remember to check and update our weekly schedules). We use iCloud calendars for this, since we’re in the Apple ecosystem, and it’s worked really well. This year we did a little bit of an overhaul together to make things easier to understand, and I quite enjoy the system so far.
Because I have a love of stationary, I use a paper planner for myself and my own productivity, while the digital calendar is shared between us. This method has worked well for us a couple years, but it’s probably not for everyone.
Trevor: I am actually terrible at using a calendar. Ever since graduating from college and my schedule mainly consists of being at work, or not at work, I have let my own tasks slide into whenever they can be done. Mainly this was because I didn’t try to communicate what I wanted to schedule with Allyson much at all. Taking the easy way out of ‘floating’ my schedule with whatever filled the gaps.
For this year though, I do have a day planner and I have set up new iCloud calendars for my personal projects that I hope can help keep me on track. The big issue for me is that settings dates/times and tasks for myself is something I am struggling with. It’s easy to set these things while at work when projects have requirements and deadlines. But when you are running your own show its easy to get lazy, especially when it’s not your livelihood. I also only use this planner for my personal life, which makes it harder to use it as these things “don’t matter as much” and I would frequently let days come and go without bothering to try to stick to my schedule.
However, this is where my theme of intent comes in. I want to ensure that I reset expectations and do everything with intent so each item on my calendar is done with purpose. A calendar and schedule is useless if you don’t intend to use it. Writing it down isn’t enough, you need to fully believe in following through on the items and let those around you know as well.
Trevor and I started out using a large glass photo frame and a whiteboard marker as a calendar when we’d first married, but I believe a shared digital calendar would be a better place to start these days. Every household member can have their own calendar with a unique color, which makes it easy to see who needs to be where at-a-glance. You can make calendars for individual hobbies and interests as well.
Digital calendars also have the added bonuses of a reminder feature and automation. Reoccurring events can be set up with a few clicks, rather than spending an afternoon handwriting them on a paper calendar only to endure attempting to read sloppy writing and hand cramps. Several reminder phases can keep you prepared a week before an event, a day before, an hour before, when it’s time to leave…
Calendars, even humans in the Neolithic had one!
While mixing mediums has proven beneficial to me, it’s a lot of upkeep. I must update the digital calendar Trevor and I share, as well as my planner. That’s definitely not for everyone. But since it’s sort of a hobby, I don’t mind too much and get a lot of enjoyment out of updating the two calendars. However, I do rely heavily on our digital calendar and don’t believe the dual-system is very practical. Choosing one is best to begin with, just go with what interests you the most.
Tempus fugit (That’s ‘time flies’ in latin), and the last thing I want is to wonder what I did with the year I’d just lived. Utilizing a calendar (and maybe keeping a journal of some sort, if you’re into that) is the visual representation of how I’d spent my time. I’ll admit, part of me just loves seeing all our events in candy-colored blocks of time. But being able to manage my time in an instant is priceless.
Plan The Entire Year
The title of this section may seem a little intimidating, and the idea of planning a year in advance in one sitting might sound like a lot, but I promise you it’s simple. I found the concept on Fun Cheap or Free last year and had big success with it. Of course, I did it again this year. If you work a job with irregular scheduling this process works the same, you’ll just have to be more flexible and lenient.
If the Mayans made a calendar that ran until 2012, it’s possible to plan 2019 in one evening.
A wonderful place to start is last year’s calendar to grab reoccurring events. Holidays you like, birthdays of the people you care about, annual sales and annual parties you attended, things like that which fall on (or around) the same time annually. Add these things to your current calendar.
If you have children, utilize the school’s available calendar and mark events your children have as well. Plays, sport events, days off, testing days, and the like. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, check your local area’s events calendar and add the things your interested in to your own. Maybe you’ll find something the family can go to, or a new idea for a date night.
Trevor: When planning your year in advance, you should ask your spouse or significant other to disable notifications for any shared (digital) calendar in use. Trust me, this is first hand experience. I got notifications sent to my phone for every event creation, rename, location change, and time change. It buzzed almost an hour straight! So do everyone a favor and ensure that notifications are temporarily disabled to save a headache. Or if you are creating a new calendar to share, populate it completely, then share it.
Next up are things that reoccur you’re in control of. Think healthcare, pet care, car care, and parties. If you don’t have specific dates, make a note for the month you’d like the event to occur in. If you have an irregular work schedule, planning these things far in advance means you’re prepared to request time off, or trade your work day with someone else, when appropriate. Wanna throw a summer BBQ? Wanna go on a trip with your partner, or family? Sit down with your family and choose a date now, you know when you’re free (since reoccurring events are already on your calendar)!
Doing this takes an evening, but it honestly sets the year up for success. The years I’ve set my intention and planned ahead, I’m much more put-together and prepared for the events I need to go to. A side effect is that Trevor and I can plan our budget according to the things we have to do, like setting money aside to pay our car insurance, or delegating money to party food, or for a trip we know we want to take. We’re really ready for anything.
A couple years ago, Trevor and I started looking at time as a resource; it’s been a game-changer. It’s something none of us can never get back, it’s precious, but we spend it without thinking the majority of the time.
I had an accident a few years back which brought about a revelation: existence guarantees nothing, not even tomorrow. So we started living our life in a very present way, treating each day as having a beginning and end; it’s own complete and separate thing.
This isn’t to say we don’t make future commitments, of course we do. We also procrastinate and defer as well as anyone else can. But we’re fully aware that time as a limited resource and we have to do the best we can each and every day to make our time worth while. As a result, how we spend our downtime has greatly altered.
Time is a finite resource: prioritize it!
To be clear, the things we’ll be discussing in a moment aren’t planned out on a yearly basis because even I have my limits. I like to think monthly for the following things, and let life be a little spontaneous… and life-like? Sometimes, especially if its a busy/hectic week, I’ll take things on a week-by-week basis. However it needs to go.
Hobbies, much like chocolate vitamins, are great for us while being disguised in a disgustingly sweet chewy layer. They keep us learning new things while smiling all the way! As such, I think they deserve a heck of a lot more forethought when it comes to prioritizing our time. Dare I say as much as reoccurring events and birthdays? Setting the time aside to do a hobby you already love, or start a new one, is a friendly reminder to yourself that your personal development matters more than the little things that pop-up throughout the year; they can find another time slot on your schedule.
Fun, time with loved ones, personal development and self-care, in my opinion, work the same way. Making time for ourselves is important and matters just as much, if not more, as blocking off time for appointments and events.
Make 2019 Better
Honestly, attitude is a huge piece required to have a good year. Choosing to be more positive in 2019 will greatly influence how the year goes. If remembering to stay positive throughout the year seems difficult, add calendar reminders to keep it up, or positive reminders around the home on notes. Do whatever it takes!
Following through is the other major component. Like Trevor said, you can plan out as much as you want, but if you don’t hold yourself accountable nothing will change. Stick with it and stay focused, give the best you can to yourself. No one else can!