A New Year Plan for Busy People

Mike Vardy


The holiday season is in full swing and to say you’re busy is an understatement, right? The new year is rapidly approaching. You want to finish the year strong, but this often means some other tasks and projects are left incomplete. And the thing is…it takes time to plan your year. And setting aside that time can be a real problem – especially if you follow the calendar to start your year.

As the calendar year comes to a close, the likelihood of focusing your energy on finishing the year strong can easily push plans for the next year further down the list. It’s as if the planning for the new year is abandoned because it takes up too much space in your schedule to do.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can create a simple plan for your new year that allows you to look beyond a vague (and often demanding) resolution. It’s time to give your intentions for the months ahead the attention they deserve.

Surely you’re worth that time… right? Of course you are.

Now if you’re ready to take a brief look at how this plan works, read on.

How The Plan Works

There are really 3 things you need to keep in mind when building a simple plan for your year:

  • Have a simple focal point that represents your entire year.
  • Have monthly pillars that you can look to at regular intervals throughout the year.
  • Have daily triggers that keep you from guessing and get you going every day.

When you intersect all three of these aspects in a simple yearly plan, you’ll have taken a huge step towards having the year you want anytime you want.

The best part? You can start that planning process right now. You just need to do the following:

Pick 3 Words for the year: I’m not a big proponent of New Year’s Resolutions, so instead I choose three words to help me propel the year to come to great heights. This idea came from Chris Brogan (and was introduced to me by my former podcasting partner and good friend Michael Schechter) a couple of years ago. Your Three Words should be chosen in a way that they act as driving forces for everything you do in the year to come.

You also need to revisit these words regularly so that you don’t lose sight of them. They need to be something you can build upon so that you can make great things happen for yourself and those around you. You need to make sure that they are getting the attention they deserve so that you can use them to help you with your intentions.

So no matter what words you choose for yourself, make sure you find a way to keep them in front of you so that you can be more resolute with them going forward.

Choose themes for each month of the year: Monthly themes are key because they keep you aware of the bigger picture on those occasions when you get caught up in the minutia of the day-to-day. Having a compass of that nature can really help you make the most of your energy, your time, and your year.

Choose themes for each day of the week: Every day has one so that it triggers your overarching focus for that particular day of the week. (Note: That doesn’t mean you only do that activity on that day, but that activity/type of work gets your overarching focus.)

Just by completing the steps above you’ll be well on your way to crafting the year you want to have.

A Different Kind of New Year

Now what if you're like me and you don't start your year in January? It's possible that the first day of the calendar year might not be the best first day for you to start something fresh and new. It depends on a variety of factors, most notably how the rest of your calendar takes shape.

Keep in mind that January 1 isn’t the first day of the year for a lot of people around the world. The most common example would be Chinese New Year. It can fall anytime between late January and late February in a given calendar year. Dig a little deeper into the internet and you’ll find many other examples of places and cultures where January 1 is observed as just a “regular” day of the year.

Maybe you’ve got kids. Wouldn’t lining up your year to match up with their school year make more sense? It’s how I’ve started my year for some time now and it works great as my best first day of the year. Maybe the first day of school for your kids should be your first day of the year too. After all, it’s their first day of the year…right? (By the way, I’m not alone in this. Gretchen Rubin does the same thing.)

What about your birthday? Since you began life on that day wouldn’t it be wise for you to mark that day as the start of a new year for you every year? Every year on my birthday I do something that comes close to making it my best first day of the year. Perhaps your birthday – depending on what day of the year it is – makes sense as your best first day of your year. (My midway mark between birthdays just so happens to land on January 1st, so New Year's Day does have a special place in my life beyond it being the start of a new calendar year.)

Just because a calendar or paper planner puts January 1 at the start of the year doesn’t mean it has to be the start of your year. It’s your calendar. It’s your planner. You decide when your year starts, not those tools.

Making that decision and owning it will put you one step closer to making your year work for you…no matter whether you start it on January 1st or any other day of the year.

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I'm Mike Vardy, better known as The Productivityist, and my goal is to offer ideas, insights, and information that will help you craft your time better and become more personally productive.


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