They never started with a theme.
At this point, I don’t even necessarily map out every detail of the next 12 months in my business — and I’ll get to why in just a second.
Don’t get me wrong, having dreams and hopes for the year ahead is a wonderful thing. But unfortunately, dreams and hopes aren’t enough to guarantee that you’ll be exactly where you want to be on December 31, 2017.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve had to find ways to produce more in a few months than most do in a year, and it’s taught me an incredibly valuable lesson: Achieving your goals isn’t ever really a matter of thinking bigger; it’s actually usually a matter of thinking smaller.
You don’t need a resolution, a theme or a vision. You just need a plan.
And I’ll teach you how to create one.
1. Don’t just focus on the “full picture” — zoom in further
Setting yourself up for a year of amazing growth and success requires a step-by-step game plan. You have to get into the minutia of it. You have to figure out what needs to get done, by who, why, and how to make those dreamy goals come to life.
So, if you have a huge goal you want to cross off our list in the new year do a brain dump of all the tasks that go into it. Get a clear picture of what it’s really going to take to make it happen and then get to work.
2. Focus on 12 weeks at a time
Pick one or two big goals, and work exclusively on those in a 12-week sprint. A sprint starts with a brain dump of all the associated tasks, as I mentioned in my previous point, and then you’ll want to get those tasks scheduled in a project management system. After trying a lot of different systems, I found that Asana worked best for me.
Twelve weeks is ideal because that’s the longest time frame you have the most control over. A lot can change in three months. So, placing this limit on yourself ensures that after this time has passed, you can set a new goal that aligns with any priorities that may have shifted.
Remember the point I made earlier about never planning my full 12 months? This is why. Business is always evolving. It’s a fact you have to prepare for. For example, I had a huge opportunity come to me at the end of this year that I could not have even fathomed earlier in the year, and now it’s taking up a huge amount of my time.
These kinds of unanticipated opportunities are part of business and life, so you have to be willing to make room.
3. Create new habits
Our habits tend to define us, but choosing new habits for a new year is a great way to spark long-term positive change.
But there’s no need to rush habit forming, either. For example, if you want to start a meditation practice, it would be pretty difficult to jump right into spending hours in the lotus position. Take it slow. Download a meditation app, and dedicate yourself to your practice for two minutes a day and then build from there.
Habit development helps to reprogram your mind, which also makes it a great tool for beating bad habits from previous years. One I’m trying to kick right now is not checking my phone when I wake up, and specifically, not checking my phone for the first hour I’m awake.
4. Remember: It’s not all about career and work.
Deliberately plan for time off. Plan for vacations. Plan for time doing activities you love. Plan for changes you want to make in your health and relationships.
I’m a firm believer in “balanced ambition.” It’s always built into my plans, and I’ve even created a structure for it that any entrepreneur can access in my Conquer Your Year planner. So while you’re laying out your calendar for 2017, don’t forget to book time to unwind, and spend time on the things that matter to you personally.
5. Take it one step at a time
Instead of declaring your New Year’s resolution on Facebook this year, or spending hours developing your new vision board, hone in. Get clear. Prioritize your biggest goals — in both your work, and your life — and break down what it’s going to take to achieve them in 12 weeks or less (or whatever time frame that works best for you.)
After all: You can’t hit a target you can’t clearly see. Get crystal clear on what’s ahead and take aim.
Natalie MacNeil is an Emmy Award-winning media entrepreneur, founder of SheTakesOnTheWorld.com, and the creator of the Conquer Your Year planner.