We have entered that limbo week between Christmas and New Years’ where you are never quite sure what day it is. If you can be off work, enjoy the rest and take some time to contemplate the upcoming year. Which habits do you want to continue and which changes do you want to make?
The cold January can leave a lot to be desired, but one joy of the gray month is the chance to have a fresh start. Although nothing magical happens between December 31st and January 1st, the new year gives us all an opportunity to take a deep breath, shake off the mental clutter of the previous year, and embrace the blank slate of a brand new calendar year.
Speaking of calendars, do you not love a fresh new calendar with empty white boxes just waiting to be filled? I do appreciate new calendars, but the love affair wears off quickly. I just recently noticed a calendar hanging in my house still open to last January. This year, I want to do more than let my calendars hang. I want to make plans and fulfill them rather than another year passing by in a foggy flash.
Let’s be intentional about planning for the year to come by first setting the mood:
- Buy a new calendar or planner (or both!). Or, open the one your aunt got you for Christmas and get ready for business!
- Buy or find a new notebook and open it to the first glorious blank page.
- Find your favorite pen or markers (or buy new favorites).
- Clean off your kitchen table or desk. Take off the clutter, wipe it down, dry it off, and get it ready for action.
- Fix your favorite beverage(s).
- Create a comfortable working space such as a seat cushion, placing flowers nearby, and/or (my personal favorite) a heating pad on the back of the chair.
- Dress in your comfiest pajamas or sweatpants (or whatever makes you feel the coziest).
- Sit down with your paper, writing utensils, warm drink, and cheerful surroundings, and bow your head to pray. Ask God for guidance in helping you plan for a productive and joyful year.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV)
Now that we are ready be organized, we can start making some plans. And, of course, plans can change, but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Another variation to this quote is: a failure to plan is a plan to let life pass you by with little to show for it.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16, ESV)
- Open your notebook and pick three or four of the following categories: Spiritual, Health, Career, Finances, Relationship, Family, Friends, Fun/Recreation, Physical Environment, and If you love colors like me, use different colored pencils or markers for each category.
- Under each category, create as many sub-categories as you want. (e.g., Scripture memory, church attendance, debt, savings, continuing education, dating, friendship, etc.)
- From there, write out goals you would like to complete. Just splash them down on paper without evaluation. Don’t worry about going in a ton of depth and detail yet because, right now, we are brainstorming. Do your best not to skimp on this stage of the process. Take breaks if you need to and come back to it to create a full list. Even go to bed and return the next day if you need to rest your mind and continue.
- Next, look at your unvetted goals with fresh eyes. If you feel half-hearted about a goal on your list, cross it out; or, you can tweak the goal or idea. Combine several goals into one if there are similarities.
- Wittle your list of goals – three for each main category. These are enough goals to be a challenge and to make a significant difference to your life, but not so many that it is impossible to execute.
- Define your goals. Take your goals and write them out in succinct sentences to make sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based (SMART). (e.g., I will walk 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week for every week I am not sick or traveling, etc.)
- Give your goals action steps. Now, we get into some detail. Goals without plans are nice ideas, but goals with action plans often result in completion! Write some planned tasks beside your SMART goals to record what you will need to do to plan to meet each goal.
- I will find friends who want to walk with me and create a walking group, so I have company and accountability.
- Before the end of the week, I will buy a new pair of walking shoes based on the best reviews I can find and friends’ recommendations.
- I will keep a basket by my back door filled with items I need when I walk, such as tissues, lip balm, gloves, a water bottle, keys, etc.
- Now that the notebook is colorful and filled with ideas and goals, we can start filling up the calendar and planner. If you prefer a computer-based calendar/planning system, that is fine. Some find more value in writing their plans on a paper calendar by hand. Whichever is more likely to keep you organized and on track is what you should use. If one of your personal goals is to have company over twice a month, start making plans with people and fill in your calendar. If one of your financial goals is to pay off debt, write out (realistic!) debt repayment goals, and fill them in the calendar.
- Start each week by looking over and filling in your calendar/planner. On Sunday evenings, look over your goals and plans for the following week. Make updates to reflect any necessary changes. Contact people you need to contact. Pull out items you need to complete your weekly goals. Wash what needs washing. Prep what needs prepping.
- Remember to celebrate. If you respond well to rewards (as I do!), then set up rewards for completing your tasks. If not, we still recommend creating and celebrating milestones. A milestone can simply be following through on your goals for a full month. In addition to accomplishing what we set out to do, we also need to let our hair down and enjoy life. In fact, some of our goals could center around enjoying life more! However you set up your calendar, be sure there is room for fun and celebration. What is the point of crushing goals if we are miserable? Which brings us to…
- Stay balanced. The excitement of a new year can create an inflated sense of motivation where we become gung-ho and overfill our calendars. Much like at the start of a new diet, we push hard and set goals based on our current level of motivation which almost always wanes once a few weeks pass. While you are planning for growth this year, plan for rest When making your goals, think about March 3rd, June 10th, September 24th. Which safety measures can you put in place to ensure ongoing progress throughout the year? Balance is an important ingredient in success.
We hope you spend some time this week making great goals for next year. If nine to twelve is too many, start with three. The ultimate goals are to finish out next year with tangible and intentional wins and personal growth. We at PreEngaged wish you all a very Happy New Year and pray it is one of the best years of your life!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)
How will you be intentional in the new year?
Did you enjoy the theme of being intentional this year? Stay tuned next week for next year’s theme! ?