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How to Start your New Year: Implement Purposeful Planning

Summary. In a recent poll we carried in linkedin, we found that 100% of people achieve only part of their new year’s resolutions and objectives. 82% of them meet more than half of the objectives. The other 18% meet less than half of their objectives. No one in the cohort reported not achieving anything, and none achieved 100% of their goals. This shows that we have the tendency to be overly optimistic with our plans, we lose motivation down the line, or we do not adapt to change as we could be. So how can we manage our expectations of the new year in a realistically optimist way?

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A new year means a new fresh start for most of us. Time to get your life together, achieve your dreams, forget about any negative experience that might have happened in the passing year, and simply be happier. It is this positive outlook that keeps us going and looking forward in life. However, for most of us, it won’t take few weeks into the new year, for matters to get out of shape. There are many reasons why new year’s resolutions get derailed: getting busier, underestimated work load, change of circumstances, unforeseen responsibilities, stress with its impact on mental health, the list can go on. When this happens, we are left with feelings of un-satisfaction, disappointment – in self, in others, and in the universe, resentment and self-doubt, despair, all that can lead to a wave of negative feelings leading to an even more draining. But, it can all change. A new year is certainly a cause for celebration of all that is upcoming. But why not this year make it really count, make the gift of 365 blank days full of positivity and success. Invest your time right and reap the dividends. After all, your time is the most precious commodity in your life.

In this article we go through how to build a realistic and resilient plan for the new year, we walk you through details of writing smart winning objectives that you can follow through:


1. Identify your objectives:

The best way to organise and document your new year plan is to write it down, whether in a paper, notes application, or a spreadsheet, take your pick. I personally prefer spreadsheets, I find them easiest to structure and amend and easier to represent my thought and ideas:


  1. Rethink your purposeTake a deep breath and smile. Now, the first thing you should think about when writing your objectives is your purpose. Why are you in this planet? who are you? where are you going? And who do you want to be? These back-to-basics concepts will get you to drop the noise and fake obligations that come from society. With social media bombardment and social expectations of ‘what success is’ coming from every corner, it is very easy to desire doing what others are doing and forgetting about your own purpose, your own passions and values. When you rethink your purpose, you are creating a new and unique inspiration for yourself, and you are moving away from the shallow objectives of unconsciously wanting what others have. Also kindly remember, this is about you, not what your parents, boss, partner, friend, or anyone else’s expectations for you. Think about your strengths and how you can use them to achieve your purpose without compromising your passion or values. Think about how to integrate your passions to achieve this purpose, so you enjoy reaching your purpose and increase your potential to succeed in this ultimate goal. And if you have any weakness, what can you do to mitigate them, leverage them to your benefit, or adapt to living with them while you pursue your purpose. There are many tools such as Ikigai aimed at mapping out one’s purpose versus their passion that people often apply to career or personal change. The most important thing however, is that you think about all the questions we listed here on your own, think critically, deeply, and honestly. Take your time, this knowledge is worth all your resources as it makes the base for your life and all your future. Every moment of your time asset that you will invest going forward should ideally be dedicated to serve this purpose.


  1. Interpret purpose with granular objectives: Once you define your purpose, which is your ultimate life’s objective, now you can move on to break this down to what this means for example if your purpose is to be a good person (very vague I know) then you can break it down to good parent, financially independent, care about others, good to my body, well educated, more open to others or experiences. These can then translate to more concrete objectives for this year. For example, care about others could be volunteer for a charity, or visit grandmother once a month. Being a good parent might mean allocating a daily 30min to listen to your child or do something they like with them. Financially independent might mean not working for others and establishing a start-up company or working to get a raise to keep up with inflation and life demands. This on its own might mean change of career, self-promotion, or self-development through upskilling with a course and so on. Well educated might mean taking a class in art or reading a book every month. Good to your body could be reduce salt and sugar intake or starting yoga; and open to others might mean travel to a new country and learn about its people’s culture and values, or bunjee jump and vlog about it.


  1. Pull up that Bucket list: after you write all these granular objectives, think if there is any other passion you wanted to do, or a particular achievement you want to accomplish. Write it all, pull up that bucket list and add it to your objectives list provided it is still serving your purpose, passion, and values.


  1. Beware of bad habits: a new year’s fresh start is a motivational opportunity to detox your life from a bad habit, get over an ex-partner, alcohol, drugs, lower the use of screen time, addiction to Netflix, social media, excessive shopping, the list can go on. If one of your objectives is to kick out a bad habit, then you need to find a way to persistently control it, and don’t be shy to ask for help on how to accomplish this.


  1. Mind your capital: everything you own is a capital and a resource, your time, your energy, your attention, emotional capacity, your health, your wealth, your network. So, while you are thinking of your bad habits, pay attention to the people in your network. Who are the people you are including in your year? And whom should you depart with. It is a question of reviewing your people capital and checking where to invest or divest? Who to keep or cut? We live in an age of pressure, and you can’t carry everyone on your expense, so choose the positive vibes, the people who are there for you, understanding you, supporting you to improve your life, and be ready to let go of the negative ones or at least reduce your exposure to them.


  1. Give back please: If you don’t give, you don’t get, it is as simple as that. It is always good to add an objective to try and help others even if it is few hours of your time a year. And while you think being giving back, do not forget about our dear planet, after all there is no planet B here. Maybe aim add a small objective to reduce letting the water tab run without use, grow a plant, use less energy, you pick what works for you. When you give, you feel good, and this is important to your mental health. Hence, eventually it is an investment for yourself that others can also enjoy.


  1. Beware of dependents and control: now that everything you want to do is listed, remember to also add any objectives you have for anyone who depends on you or whom you have control over and hence impact them achieving their objectives: an elderly relative, a child, or anyone you provide care for. Why you ask? because although this is about your personal objectives, care providing will consume your time and energy, so it is critical to list any obligations in order to plan properly and realistically. In addition to this, no matter how tempting, do not list anything out of your control, such as getting a girlfriend or having a child this year. You can instead aim to increase availability for dating, attempt pregnancy and learn about fertility, and so on. This will prevent stress and disappointment, as other outside factors share your control of achieving these objectives.


  1. Set up smart objectives: one of the aspects of a successful business operation and execution of strategy is for a company to set up its yearly objectives in January. These objectives that are usually circulated through the company and employees are requested to create their own yearly objectives that would progress their career while serving the company’s objectives. To ensure they are achieved, employees are requested to set up SMART objectives = specific, measurable, achievable, realistic (or relevant) and timely. If you apply this business concept to your personal life correctly, you will most likely also achieve your target objectives within the year. Therefore, for every granular objective you listed, think deeply on how SMART it is, and split it into more SMART chunks where needed.

Let’s take a deeper look into this ‘SMART objectives’ concept, and how to implement them:

  • Specific: Outline in a clear statement precisely what is required in each objective. Ambiguity leads to failure. Hence, know exactly what this objective means to you. For example: aiming to be a better partner is vague. What does ‘better’ really mean to you and to your partner? Does it mean to listen more often to them? Support them emotionally or financially so they feel more secure? Help them navigate a new job, or a family relationship? Do more for the kids so they have more TLC time for themselves? Decide what the objective mean.


  • Measurable: This makes the results more ‘tangible or binary, so that at the end of the year, you will know if you have met this objective or not. It is easier to use time, money, weights loss, or other concrete scales as a measure. In our last example, this would be how much time you are allocating to listen to your partner, or how much money you are supporting them with, and so on. Other goals such as happiness, might be harder to measure. Although some apps track your mood, sleep patterns, and other parameters to infer your inner peace or stress levels. Not that we suggest that you obsess about recording if you are happy or not daily. But if you have set up a specific objective, this will make it easier to set up a measure for it.


  • Achievable: You need to be able to achieve your objectives without tremendous support from the outside. For example, I will not aim to participate in the Olympics this year if I know that I am not willing to invest my time and energy in practice.  Moreover, if it is out of your control, then forget about it: factors such as the weather, inflation, other people’s agendas go on this category. You can achieve your part, and reduce reliability of your happiness on these elements through reducing your expectation. However, you might spend a life time attempting to manipulate such factors with no gain.


  • Realistic: At the time of writing, I have twins on the autism spectrum who are under 5 years old. I know that the likelihood of me doing a month’s tour of south America this year is very slim no matter how much I want it. What I can aim for this year though, is to help my children get up to speed with their development, so maybe in few years we can all go together or leave them with a trusted carer while I travel, and they will be ok and self-dependent. Having realistic objective does not mean settling, being less ambitious, or being a pessimist. In fact, realistic optimism is a driver to success. Why? Because optimism with its positive vibes leads us to push boundaries, make dreams come true. After all, my personal mantra is: “If any other human on this planet can do it, then I can do it too”. Optimism lifts us up, it’s this ambition that makes businesses, start-ups, and world changers shine and succeed. Realistic optimism does not limit this, it adds an element of using our knowledge of our environment and what is out of our control to strategies, plan, manage, adapt, risk assess, reshape, adapt, and disrupt in a healthy way, so we compromise less of our energy, avoid disappointments, and maintain better mental health. In other terms ‘knowing what we are dealing with’ makes us better prepared to make our dreams come true.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement” Helen Keller

  • Timely: Now that you have a list of specific, achievable, realistic objectives that will meet your life’s purpose, passions, and values, the next step is to estimate and allocate how much time resources they each take, and to plan them around the time you have. Time is a finite resource that needs to be allocated wisely to optimise outcome. In a year, you usually have 365 days to allocate, it is difficult however to plan every day a year ahead. We don’t expect you to become a control freak or a forecasting guru. We can’t predict the future accurately, we can only plan and manage. Your objectives might be a mix of long term and short term, some will be as big as starting your own company, and some might be reading a small book, micro-learning on new skills, or attending an event. We suggest you do the below to manage mapping your objectives throughout the year:
    1. Budget your time: For each objective, specify the time it will take to complete, a week, a quarter, 5 months, 3 years, and so on. This is the budget you are allocating to each objective out of the 365 days you have.
    2. Create smaller milestones: For each objective that goes beyond a year, split it into smaller goals of 1 year or less. These will act as milestones for longer term objectives. You can always split your objectives into more granular ones until they each become a list of tasks that you can plan out weekly or even daily, but this level of management can be done at a later stage. Remember, shorter milestones mean more celebrations.
    3. Allow for contingency: This is another business concept from project management experts, who would recommend that you always add a contingency period to the timescale of your project. Contingency time is the extra time added to a schedule to take into account anticipated issues that may impact the schedule. This period is usually represented as a percentage of the project time, but can be reduced later. For example, 20% contingency means for every 100 days, allocate 20 days of doing nothing. This extra time will then be used to deal with the impacts of certain risks and avoid missed deadlines. Myself, I allow 1 week of contingency for every 4 weeks (a month). This means, every year which is equivalent to 52 weeks, I distribute my objectives on 40 weeks, and allocate 10 weeks to contingency. The left 2 weeks, I also add as contingency. This means, I am giving myself 3 months of contingency every year. It might seem like a lot of dead time but it is necessary, given we all over-estimate our time and energy (100% of people achieve less than 82% of their objectives and new year’s resolutions). Contingency can be used when you fall sick, burn-out, face economic difficulty or disruption, have family emergency or deal with any other unanticipated event that would derail your objectives’ progress. It’s a protection technique, and it reduces stress, metigate the risk of failure, and sets realistic expectations. It is basically banking some peace of mind for the bad days. If you end up not using your contingency time, then great! You can use it for more play or get ahead and pull more objectives that would have been otherwise planned for next year. You can do this differently by allocating different contingency windows within each objective timescale.
    4. Review strategy: Think how you want to plan and review your objectives later. Large business usually plan quarterly, this is long enough to accomplish something, and short enough to review it, detect defects and delays, and stay on top of the delivery. You can also do monthly objectives, or weekly. It depends on what would work for you. Ongoing objectives that need to be applied everyday, such as eating healthier, can be mapped across the full year, but still need to be reviewed more frequently.

“Time is a finite resource that needs to be allocated appropriately and accurately to optimise outcome”

Now that you have your list of SMART objectives, you are ready to move on to the next step.


2. Prioritise your objectives

None of us has the luxury to do everything they want in one go. There is a limited amount of you and your resources to spend daily. Allocating your time, energy, and attention resources wisely is a must, given these are the most valuable resources we have. For example, if you consistently allocate extra time at work, instead of spending time with your family, this may lead to professional success, but it will most likely result in strained family relationships. This is why understanding the priorities of every objective is critical:

  • Understand the urgency of each objective: Short-term objectives should be in service to your long-term objectives, but they are the objectives that need to be fulfilled now due to a tight time constraint. Organise these by urgency, assigning the most urgent ones to the nearest future, for example the first quarter.


  • Understand the importance of each objective: anything to do with the basics necessicities should be a priority, for example, your physical and mental health, income to sustain financial freedom, housing, and so on.


  • Multitask and leverage where you can: As mentioned before, there is a limited amount of you, of your time, your energy, your resources. If you give 8 hours to your job in exchange for an amount of money to live, then you have 16 hours left to do everything else (including your sleep time). These 8 hours of work also tend to be at the peak of your energy during day, so when you start your other 16 hours, you are in energy deficit, and possibly attention deficit too. You can save some of your resources by multi-tasking, but this doesn’t come easy to everyone, some of us might be better or worse at it, some get better with practice, but some prefer to dedicate 100% of themselves at a time. What I found is more efficient and productive to do though, is to integrate some of your personal targets within your 8 hours work-day by leveraging the dead time in between. For example, I used my 10 min coffee breaks to offload a bit of stress and practice mindfulness by listening to the Calm app or an audio book. If not, I will use that 10min to socialise with a colleague or text my friends to keep my network close, or post on linkedin to invest in my professional reputation (a useful capital in career progression). I used my lunch hour 3 times a week to attend Zumba, yoga, or fitness class. And I used my afternoon breaks often for a quick shopping therapy or do small errands such as going to the bank or post office.


3. Map your objectives

Now it is time to start allocating your prioritised objectives against the year’s timeframe, creating a schedule. Whether you decided to allocate them by quarter, month, or even week, the more granular, the more likely you will stay on top of it and succeed, but we understand that at this point, it might be too early to go beyond quarterly or monthly objectives.

  • Habits first: Put the ongoing objectives on top, such as eating healthy, as they need to become habits into your routine and must be reviewed frequently. Some of these objectives might start as timed but change to be perpetual once you reach them. For example, if your objective is to lose 3kg of weight by the start of the summer (21st of June), then after you reach your goal, you might want to keep that weight off, which means, you need this objective to evolve into a habit.


  • Schedule your objectives: Allocate each other objective to the quarter you see fit based on its priority, urgency, and time it would take to achieve. Factor in the contingency, and be as realistic as possible in your mapping. If you are a procrastinator, then try to ease yourself into the new year, maybe put one of the quick wins on the first month. Not all your objectives will consume the same amount of time and energy, and there is no shame in starting with baby steps: in this case the small or medium goals.


  • Add any significant dates or events in your calendar: such as doctor appointments, tax reporting, or a conference you are attending. You can use these dates as deadlines to your objectives, for example I will lower my cholesterol by the doctor’s appointment date, or I will finalise my start-up PR strategy by this conference date.


  • Pay attention to time lapses and seasons: Some events can span a larger time period that would engage a different routine to the remainder of the year. For example, if you do the Ramadan fasting, then you might put some of your objectives on hold for the duration of the month, in favour of the seasonal objectives that might revolve around spirituality, charity work, and so on. Furthermore, if you have not added vacation as an objective already, then remember to factor in vacation time.


  • Add some small milestones in the mix: feeling good about yourself and that you are on track is extremely critical to succeeding in achieving your objectives. Most people give up on following up with new year’s resolutions and yearly objectives when they get overwhelmed with too much to do, if what they have to do is dry and feels more of a chore, or if the wait to see results is long. To prevent yourself from losing motivation and keep being fired up as if it was the 1st day of the year, inject few satisfaction boosters into your schedule. These are small objectives that are quick wins such as finishing a small book, going to a restaurant from the bucket list, rebranding yourself in linkedin, and so on.


  • Cut down the list: you can only do what’s within your capacity and within your time and energy capital. In a recent survey we did on linkedin, we found that 82% of people achieve part of their objectives only, where part mean more that 50%. No one achieved all their goals. This is because in that rush of ‘turning a new leaf’ optimism we experience in the new year, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a year’s period, and underestimate time, resources, risks, and change.


Now that you allocated the priority objectives within the year, you will end up with left over ones in your list. Do not jam them in. Leave them aside ordered by priority, and should you have any contingency time left, you can allocate them, otherwise, they will make your life easier the year after, should your circumstances and priorities stay the same. Or at least, they will form a base for the following year.

If you liked this article, why not continue reading on the next step in this serial. You can also find the full guide here.

Disclaimer: The content of all our articles is protected by the Terms & Conditions policy. For license of content, please reach out to us directly, our information are on the contact us page.

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