I am going to teach you how to plan your best year.
With the strategies listed below, you can implement planning your best year – every year. The key is to have a plan.
You can create a year that you remember for the rest of your life. You don’t have to squander another year. Life doesn’t have to be so hard. You don’t have to be in the same place next year. You can take advantage of the time you have now and make next year your best year yet.
I’m not suggesting you can control the outcome of your year. Things happen all the time in life that you can’t control. However, if you plan and set goals, you increase your odds of having the most spectacular year.
I quit my six-figure job, took a 50% pay cut, paid off over $100k in student loan debt, and I make $4k+/month blogging. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for focusing on self-improvement. It’s how I got started with everything.
Resources I use to plan my best year are:
To get started, grab your favorite resources from above so you can write all this stuff down. This way, you will actually do the steps and have something to keep you accountable.
Okay, let’s get started!
1. Reflect on the last year
“Experience teaches you nothing. Evaluated experience teaches you everything.” – Andy Stanley
The first step to planning your best year is to reflect on your last year. You need to look back at what you did last year and compare it to your goals and visions for your life.
Your experiences from last year can help you create your best year yet, but you have to evaluate those experiences so you know what worked and what didn’t. To do this, I recommend using John Maxwell’s strategy from The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.
In The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Maxwell writes about how, at the end of each year, during the week in between Christmas and New Years, he looks back through his calendar from the previous year and reflects on how he spent his time. He looks at his calendar – day-by-day, month-by-month – and takes inventory of what he did. Then, he compares his time spent to his goals and visions for his life. Doing this shows him the good, the bad, and the ugly from the last year. Then, he takes that information and plans the next year, aiming to make it his best year ever (each year is better because it’s planned intentionally).
To evaluate your last year, look at your calendar from last year and see how you spent your time each month, week, and day. Granted, the first time you’re doing this, you may not have as detailed of a calendar as you would have had if you knew you were doing this. But do your best. In the future, you’ll know the importance of keeping track of this stuff, so you can track what you do more meticulously on your calendar. I track everything from the activities I do, to the appointments I have, to when I’m sick.
Once you’ve taken a look back at your year, ask yourself some questions about last year:
- How did you do in each of the eight life categories last year?
- The eight life categories I use are: health, relationships, finance, career/business, personal/spiritual development, recreation/play, environment, and service/contribution.
- What are your overall feelings for the last year?
- What did you like about last year? What did you accomplish?
- What did you hate about last year? What disappointed you?
- If you could change anything about the last year, what would it be?
Write the answers to these questions down. But really – write them down! It’s so much more effective if you write down the answers because writing down words on a page forces you to organize and bring clarity to your thoughts.
Once you have taken inventory from the last year, it’s time to move on to step two.
2. Write down big visions for your life
Next, write down big visions you have for your life.
Think about your life from a very high level, and think about how you want to be remembered. Make sure you write them down – it’s not enough to think about what you think you would want to do.
Your list can include anything you want – this is a list of what you want to do, so make sure it reflects your deepest desires.
Examples of big visions you want for your life are:
- Have a family who you prioritize over everything else
- Become financially independent
- Work for yourself doing something you love
- Practice a life of generosity
- Make the world a better place
The reason it’s important to write down what you want to do before you die is because it gives you direction. Without knowing what you want, you’ll wander without intention, which can be dangerous. You could end up somewhere completely out of line with your values. The clearer you are about what you want, the more likely you are to live fulfilled, without regret.
3. Set goals
The third step is to set goals. If step two involves thinking of the big things that you want to accomplish, step three is the smaller stuff. Equally as important as step two – just different.
To set goals, use the SMART method. Under this method, goals should be:
S — Specific
M — Measurable
A — Achievable
R — Relevant
T — Timely
This means when you create goals, they should be narrow, in writing, achievable, related to your vision, and have a deadline. Write your goals down. Give them a deadline. Hold yourself accountable. Make sure they’re realistic.
Examples of two “bad” goals that aren’t specific, measurable, or timely are:
- Get on track financially this year.
- Be more careful with my credit card.
Examples of two “good” goals that follow the SMART method are:
- Save $5,000 by December by putting $417/month into a savings account.
- Pay off $2,400 of credit card debt by December by putting an additional $200 every month onto my bill (and stop using the credit card for everything except groceries to avoid overspending).
The “good” goals are specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and timely. The “bad goals are vague, don’t have a time line, and aren’t measurable.
A good way to know whether you’re setting appropriate goals is whether you are 1) staying inside your comfort zone (bad), 2) getting outside your comfort zone (good), or 3) being delusional (bad). You want to set goals that stretch you outside your comfort zone (i.e. that are a reach for you), but not so far of a reach that they’re delusional.
Here are my best goal-setting blog posts:
- How To Set Goals For Beginners
- How To Achieve Goals (My 8 Step Process)
- 10 Goal Setting Mistakes You’re Making
4. Find your why
The fourth step is to find your “why”. This may sound a little hokey but this is realllllly important.
Finding your “why” means that you need to know why it is you want what you want. Think about all the things you listed above that you want to do before you die and ask yourself why. Think about your goals that you want to accomplish and think about why you want them. Sounds easy, but the reality is that you likely don’t know your real why. Usually, your real why isn’t the first answer to that question. Instead, it’s much deeper than that. But it’s so important that you find it because without it, it will be really hard for your to accomplish your goals – your reasons won’t be strong enough.
So, to find your why, ask yourself why it is you want what you want from steps two and three. Continue to ask yourself why over and over – seven times at least – in order to peel back the layers and find your real why.
This step is so important that I recommend listening to this podcast episode with Dean Graziosi, where he discusses how to do this in detail (it’s at the end of the episode so listen to the whole thing).
As an example of what I mean, take what Graziosi says in the podcast. He has to work for himself. His why isn’t because he wants financial freedom or to build a business for his kids. His why is because his parents did such a bad job raising him that he can’t stand the thought of not being in control of his own income and work. He can’t work for other people because he has to be in control. Realizing this makes his focus and commitment greater than if he never knew his real why. It keeps him going.
Knowing your why propels you forward – it keeps you going when things get tough.
Once you find your real why, nothing will stop you from living your best year (and life) ever.
5. Set up systems to implement your best year ever
Finally, you need to set up systems to implement your best year ever. You’ve done all of the substantive work in steps one through four, and now you need to implement your plan.
If you have systems in place that you know will keep you on track, use them. Otherwise, here are a few ways that I use.
- Create a digital calendar, if you don’t already use one. It’s critical that it’s digital because you need to be able to move tasks and appointments around constantly. I use gCalendar for this.
- Put deadlines on your calendar to accomplish your goals. Include lots of deadlines with mini-goals.
- Use the Productivity Planner to track your tasks and increase your productivity. This is a planner designed to help your reach your goals and stay on track each and every day (I’m obsessed with it).
- Use Dream Year to plan your next year so you design it intentionally. I use this and love it.
- Use a productivity app that will help you stay accountable. I use: 1) Evernote, 2) Trello, 3) Day One Journal, 4) the Reminders app, and 5) HabitMinder.
Find tools that work for you and use them.
A Final Note!
I believe you can make next year your best year ever. Like a said above, life doesn’t have to be so hard, and you don’t have to be bored. You can make next year your best year yet.
Follow these steps to create your best year ever:
- Reflect on last year by reviewing your calendar
- Write down big visions for your life
- Set goals
- Find your why
- Set up supportive systems
Like this year, at the end of next year, review what you’ve done during the previous year and start the process over.
You can do this every year and make your next year your best yet. It’s all about living intentionally and to do that, you need to follow these steps.
*Bonus tools for your best year ever*
I recommend reading at least one book each month throughout the year. This will help you learn and grow as a person. You’ll be more equipped to know what you want and how to be your best self.
Below are three books below that will help you understand what it means to live with purpose, which is part of living intentionally and making every year your best yet. Three books to get your started living your best year ever:
- High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
- The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell
- The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olsen
Here are more posts to help you have your best year!
- How To Set Goals For Beginners
- 100 Personal Development Tips
- How To Create A Life Plan
- How To Adopt A Mindset For Achieving Goals
- 11 Habits You Need To Stop
- How To Plan Your Best Year Ever
- 21 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself To Have Your Best Year
Cheers to living your best life ever!