How to start the year right in 25 steps

By my calculation, everybody’s to do list has about 6,537 things on it this time of year. We’re all busy with planning on making this year the best year yet; goals, resolutions, the gym … you know the drill. While there’s nothing wrong with all that, just being busy at this time of the year means that many people start out the new year unprepared and scrambling, which is just a recipe for stress.

I say that it’s time to do better. Let’s start the year right by getting a great plan in place to make this year ROCK. Sometime in the next couple of days I want you to:

Look back

It’s really easy to forget how far you’ve come and all the things you’ve accomplished in a year if you don’t look back. And even worse, you could end up making the same mistakes over and over again. So ask yourself:

What was the best part of last year? If you could only keep one memory from the year, what would it be?

What was the low point? If you could go back in time and make something not happen, what would it be?

What was your goal for last year? What steps did you take to get there? What tripped you up?

What was your biggest regret last year? How are you going to avoid it happening again this year?

What was the biggest lesson you learned last year?

Now take a minute and congratulate yourself. You made it through a whole year of life! Seriously, I'm not joking. It's easy to beat ourselves up for not achieving everything we set our minds to, but rarely to we take the time to appreciate what we have achieved.

Look forward

Bearing all that in mind, let’s think about the coming year.

What is your “if nothing else” goal? What is the ONE thing you want to get done, even if you don’t accomplish anything else?

What are your other goals for this year? In your work? Life? Relationships? Spirituality? Health? Education?

Now I want you to take each of those goals and break them down into steps. What will each step of getting towards that goal look like? What equipment will you need, and what training will you need? Who can you form partnerships with to help you accomplish your goals faster or better? The more specific you get, the easier it will be to achieve the goal.

And now I want you to get even more specific, but just for the next 90 days. What are the steps you’re going to take to accomplish your goals?

Don’t try to get too specific beyond those 90 days — otherwise chances are that you’ll end up locking yourself into a plan that doesn’t work when your circumstances change. So absolutely have specific goals and steps, but only get super specific about what you’re going to do week to week for the next 90 days. Yow can download a 90 Day Calendar here:

Now step back for a minute. Bearing in mind that sometimes life happens and everything goes off track, what is the very tiniest thing you could do to get yourself closer to accomplishing those goals? That's where you start.

For instance, if your goal is to exercise regularly, then the very smallest thing you could do would be one sit up. If your goal is to start your own business, then you could read one sentence of a business book. Whatever it is, make it extremely doable.

This may seem really silly, but its been scientifically proven that by doing things like this, you’ll really increase the chances that you’ll actually accomplish your goal and build momentum. (More about that here.)

Review your working space

Whether you work from home, in an office, or out of the local coffee shop, you should review your work space to make sure that it’s supporting you.

Start out by auditing your equipment and assets. What kinds of things do you need to work at your best? Do you have all of those things, and are they all working properly? What do you need that you don’t have? What do you have that you could donate? Less is more.

What about your soft assets, like your training and experience? What training do you have now? What do you need to accomplish your work goals in the next year? What training could really help fast track your growth this year?

Similarly, what services do you need to invest in in the next year? A VA, a business coach, a web designer, a book keeper, a CV specialist? Remember, a good investment in a service is just that — an investment that pays off in time, money, or reduced hassle. So don’t skimp, especially on the stuff that will make a difference.

Get rid of all the clutter. Having a clean desk really does lead to better work. And this applies to your computer as well, so clean off your computer desktop, clear out your files, and then organize and back up everything that's left.

A few resources for doing this:





Google Drive

Get your email under control. Use to clean out your inbox, then set up filters to send emails into folders, and use programs to have important emails come back into your inbox later. If you're using Gmail, then try Boomerang.

Review and clean up your social media profiles. They make up your public face online, so make sure they’re showing you at your best. Update any biographies you need to, unfollow or unfriend people as appropriate, and review your privacy settings, because that stuff can get really weird really fast!

Say thanks. Make a list of three people who have helped you or done something nice for you in the past year in your work, and say thanks! It will make you feel good, and it's also great at genuine relationship-building.



Review your living space

Kill the clutter. Again. Having lots of clutter or disorganization raises stress levels, makes it harder to keep things clean, and generally looks bad. Remember the 80 / 20 rule — you get 80 percent of your use out of 20 percent of your things. This applies to clothes especially, but also cosmetics, kitchen equipment, and pretty much anything else in your home.

Another good rule of thumb to remember is the six months rule: if you haven’t used it in six months, you can probably donate it or throw it away. If you’re having a hard time with this, then start out with three boxes — a definite keep, definite trash, and maybe. Anything you’re not sure about goes into the maybe box, which you can put in storage. If you don’t find yourself opening it up, then after 6 months you should donate the things in it.

Now that you’ve cleaned everything out, what do you need to invest in for your living space? Do you need to update the decor to match your personality better, or do you need to repair some furniture? What about getting some some better lighting? Do you need to hire a decorator or a cleaner?

Sort out your finances and your budget. There are all kinds of budgeting tools and systems out there — you can use a good old Excel sheet, or something like Mint, or even the envelope system. Do what works for you, and make it as easy as possible so that you’ll actually end up doing it. (More on that here.)

Review your brain space

What do you really want to see and hear? The things we consume affect us more than we know, so think about what blogs, email lists, movies, magazines, TV shows, radio shows, podcasts, etc that you really want in your life. Remember, garbage in, garbage out.

What beliefs do you have that are holding you back? It really is incredibly how invisible beliefs can shape your behavior without you even thinking about it. As I’ve written about before here, I recently realized that I had the belief that you can’t make real money being creative. I don’t even know where it came from, but it was blocking my whole process of writing my second book! If you’re drawing blanks, ask a close friend — sometimes they can see what we can’t.

What is it time to let go of? This could be something small, like an old book, or it could be something bigger, like a relationship that just isn't working any more. What do you want to let go of as you start 2015?

Finally … eat your frogs.

We all have them — those things that you want to put off, but that you know will stick in the bottom of your stomach and ruin everything else until you get them done. Whatever those last little things are for you, now’s the time to get them done. You don’t want to have them hanging over your head going forward! So return that library book, close the business, start the business, say sorry to that person, or make that call to your gran, and do it now.

Now it’s your turn. I know that is an absolute ton of data, so I want to make it easy to start. All you have to do is comment below and tell me the very first thing you’re going to do.