Like a fresh carpet of snow, a new year is stretching out ahead of us. It's a great time to reset and recommit, but I find the framing of "New Year's resolutions" profoundly unhelpful. Here are three things that work much better for me and my coaching clients.
Plan a season, not a year
The problem with a year is that it's just really long:
- it's an overwhelming amount of time—it's scary to commit to something for "a whole year"
- it feels like I have "all the time in the world" so I can just start tomorrow, right? (but then I say this again tomorrow too)
- I can only pick a goal that's "big enough" to match a full year, which rules out a bunch of meaningful but smaller goals
In my opinion, a season (aka a quarter) is the perfect length for planning and reflection:
- seems more manageable, so it's easier to commit and start
- it doesn't feel like forever, so I better get moving!
- all goals are in play: I can pick from a much wider range of goals: smaller goals, OR I can carve off a quarter-sized piece of a large goal.
It even has a few more important perks!
- it's short enough that I'm more comfortable putting non-priority things in "maintenance mode" for a quarter. With fewer focus areas I move faster and feel calmer
- I get four "fresh snow feeling" opportunities per year! So no matter how disastrously this quarter goes, I can start over again real soon
- it helps me keep track of passing time since I'm in a climate with very subtle seasons (perhaps this one is specific to southern California)
Don't set resolutions, set a theme
If you still really want to do a year, try a theme instead of a resolution.
This also works great if you have a goal for a quarter/season that's structured like "I want to do more of X." Speak up more at work, listen better, talk to my parents more, read more, cook different food, spend more time with friends, etc.
What do I mean by "theme"? Here's the video that first introduced me to the idea of picking a theme. It's really great and it's less than seven minutes:
I love themes for so many reasons!
- I literally can't fail.
- It's easy to take the first step: exciting instead of intimidating.
- It helps me see the world differently.
- Feels like opportunity instead of work.
Get accountability and step-by-step guidance
Even after years of doing it, it's really, really easy for me to push off my quarterly reflection and planning in favor of more urgent things, especially urgent things for other people. The only way I get it done is with accountability—there's always someone who knows which day I plan to do it.
I also needed help getting started—specific steps and questions, since a blank page was way too hard. I got started years ago with a "year in review" worksheet I printed off the internet. It wasn't perfect but it got me started, and over the years I adapted it to my specific brain.
If you want a shortcut, I've turned my favorite process into a workshop: Plan Your Quarter with Me. It's based on the quarterly review & planning approach I've honed over dozens of times with myself, my direct reports, and my clients. It walks you through it one step at a time, and you'll come out feeling settled, energized, and less alone. And it happens only on specific dates so you can't put it off. Read more and see if tickets are currently on sale here. 🎟️