Preparing for the New Year
We all feel it. The excitement and restlessness of the holidays. We plan for the holidays but we also look forward to slowing down and resting. Many of us also look forward to the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. In the back of our brains is this plan to set New Year’s resolutions and set new goals. We plan for the new year to be the year that we get it together.
Personally, I have sought to focus less on goals and more on intention setting. After re-reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I have focused even more on the person that I want to be. I am focused on implementing the habits that align with that identity.
It may be difficult to implement new habits in a busy season. But waiting until the New Year to start seems a bit arbitrary. I would argue that there shouldn’t be a day set aside to stop engaging in bad habits. Change is not a linear, one day event. You don’t just quit cold turkey one day, and never slip up. Successful change is a progression. It is a series of ups and downs, stops and starts, successes and failures. So why wouldn’t you want to practice implementing new habits? The current year is a perfect opportunity to improve upon the habits that you implement.
“The beginning of a great day starts the night before” Unknown
Most successful people will tell you that a successful morning routine starts the night before. The same rationale can apply for a new year. You can use this current year to implement and try things out, with the plan to improve upon what you have already established. You can avoid the headlong push into New Year’s resolutions, only to burn out in 6 weeks and beat yourself up for not accomplishing the goals.
If you want to jump on board and wrap up this year on a good note, then this post is ideal. I encourage you to enjoy the festivities of the holiday and the slowing down that happens at the end of the year. Rest and hibernation are important to help you reset and recharge. But you also want to set yourself up to make long-lasting change, without feeling like you have to run headfirst into change on January 1st.
In this article, I will offer ten things that you can do before the end of the year to set yourself up to make long-lasting changes. I want to help you make the job of transitioning into the New Year easier and more optimized. I often incorporate these steps in the week between Christmas and New Year’s when I have time to reflect and prepare. It helps me from getting overwhelmed during the first month of the New Year, because I am better able to focus on my new habits.
But you can do this all month and give yourself a long runway. This list will include a bit of planning, organization, self-care and productivity to help you prepare in a more holistic fashion.
Let’s do this!
10 Things You Should Do Before The New Year
1. Reflect On The Past Year
Before starting with the new, it’s important to take some time to reflect on your past.
This reflection can help you take key lessons from your past successes and failures. It can help you identify what habits you want to continue and what habits need improvement. Reflections also allow you to question why some habits were difficult to implement and sustain. Reflection allows you to become more mindful and intentional about your choices and how you can set yourself up for success.
Things to reflect upon:
What were the highlights, challenges, and lessons from the past year in your career, personal and professional development, your relationships, your health, your habits.
What did you accomplish? Are there things you wish you had done differently?
Write down your realizations in single sentences on a piece of paper or in your journal.
For me, this is what my reflection for 2023 is looking like so far:
Navigating life with the baby and the 4-year-old were harder than I thought. I forgot how difficult these newborn days were, but I loved being home with the baby. Most of my days had some routine that made me feel accomplished.
I did a great job asking for help with the baby. Not so much with finding care for the 4-year-old. I need to get better in leaving him with someone and/or helping him learn how to play by himself.
I did a great job implementing a consistent weekly routine with the blog and YouTube. This has not yet led to income but I am committed to being consistent and patient.
I have done a good job of creating content. But my system for working is terrible.
I have done a good job of limiting my time on social media. I’ve discovered some really inspirational content on YouTube and that has helped me shift my mindset.
My daily walks have been a lifesaver.
Reducing my client list to twice a week have been a game changer in the things that I am able to get done around the house and with the content creation.
I need to get better at doing my session notes right after the session and sending the superbill more consistently.
I have not been great at self-care but I need to give myself permission to take some time to just do nothing or regularly get a massage or get a pedicure.
Feel free to add more reflection points in your entry as you get closer to 2024.
This is a simple but powerful ritual. It will help you be more insightful and honest with yourself and others. It can give you accountability moving forward and help you make better decisions.
2. Decide On Your Goals And Resolutions
New Year’s resolutions are a common tradition, and they make the onset of a year more exciting.
You might think you already know what kind of resolutions you want to set for the New Year, but I would encourage you to focus on identifying who you want to become in this new year. How do you want to differentiate 2024 you from 2023 you?
If you have incorporated a journaling habit, and have done some reflection, you may have observed some common patterns. There may be things that continuously stress you out, or that you want to achieve.
Think about what you want to achieve in the coming year, both personally and professionally. Ask yourself what habits will you have to implement and/or abandon in order to become 2024 you.
There is an interesting trend out there now that encourages you to become 10X. You stop setting small goals, and instead focus on scary goals. By focusing on scary goals, you force your mind to leave behind pointless and menial tasks, and instead focus on learning and implementing things that can be life changing.
If there were any resolutions from 2023 that were not accomplished, ask yourself why and whether they are truly important to you. If yes, allow yourself to reset. In saying yes to trying again, ask yourself if you need to change your approach, your mindset or your circumstances so that you are more successful this time.
For example, maybe you wanted to get out of debt, but you weren’t successful.
So, instead of promising to get out of debt, you may choose to get a part-time job, cut up your credit cards, set up a savings account with automatic withdrawals, unsubscribe from the sales emails or set up a weekly review. There are various ways to look at accomplishing your goals, but you have to be open to implementing them.
One of the ways that I use to come up with goals is to use a vision board. A vision board is a visual representation of the goals I want to achieve, and it helps me to see the future I want, which is more powerful than just writing things down.
3. Create A New Year Bucket List
What is something that you have always wanted to do? What do you want to look forward to? Use 2023 to think about experiences that you want to have, places you want to explore, things that you want to do. Maybe you don’t have anything specific in mind, but can you begin to contemplate some things?
I don’t yet have anything specific in mind, however, I know that I will be out of the baby phase, so I know that I can look forward to having experiences with older children. That might mean a plane ride somewhere or a road trip.
It’s fun to list down things that you want to do before the end of a year.
Studies have shown that planning for a vacation or event are actually more enjoyable than the event itself because of the anticipatory nature of planning. And if you dream about fun goals, you are more likely to actually live the life that you’re dreaming of in your head, because you’ve planned for them.
Here are some cool bucket list ideas for the new year:
Discover a new park where you can go hiking
Try out a restaurant that you’ve wanted to eat at
Take a cooking class or sign up for lessons to learn a musical instrument.
Find a hobby (i.e. writing, painting, skateboarding)
Explore a new destination.
Read X number of books.
It has been said time and again that journaling is a great tool for your overall mental health and for helping to make change. Journaling helps you see on paper the thoughts that are ruminating in your mind. Writing things down can offer you an opportunity to relieve stress because you are not trying to remember everything or keep your thoughts straight. Journaling is a crucial habit to helping you accomplish things.
If for some reason, you’ve not been journaling so far, then let 2024 be the year when you finally start. Journaling should not be seen as a chore or a stressful new addition to your routine, but rather an opportunity to help you find purpose. Now, I will warn you that in the beginning you have to make time and space for journaling. Whether it’s a few minutes before bed or waking up a few minutes early to write, you have to commit to making time to journal.
You could doodle and draw stick figures, express gratitude, write bullet points of things you want to do, do a brain dump of your thoughts to declutter your mind, write down affirmations, or use journal prompts to discover yourself one entry at a time.
Take it easy, write in it when you want to, and adopt your own unique system for writing down your thoughts.
I would also suggest buying a new planner at the same time. Having a planner can help you create a routine for daily planning or bucket list planning.
5. Update Your Calendar
I love planners and calendars.
Having a calendar can inspire you to plan for your upcoming months and manage your days better. A calendar also helps you to remember important dates that occur every year, like birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones. Having a calendar can also help you set you up to achieve your goals.
Let’s say for example that you decide that you want to run a marathon. If you look up which marathon you want to run in, you can see that you have so many weeks to prepare for the race. You can then find a coach or program that will allow you to best prepare and actually achieve the goal.
By looking at a calendar, you can more realistically see how long something takes to accomplish, or you can set aside the time you need to accomplish your personal and professional goals.
6. Find a coach or expert for professional or personal development
As a therapist, my phone starts to ring off the hook with people who want to start therapy in the New Year. People have decided that they finally want to tackle their problems, or the holidays brought to light all of the ways in which their problems are hurting them. The problem is that by the third week in January, I am booked and cannot see any clients for at least 3 months.
It’s one thing to think about getting professional help, but it’s another to actually find it when you want it or need it. Many people seek out help from an expert (i.e. coach, mentor, therapist, etc.) after they have decided on their goals, yet many professionals spend the end of the year booking out clients for the next year and do not have any availability for new clients right away. If you are considering getting help for personal or professional growth, this is the time to research and book an appointment. You may decide to start in the new year, however you have committed to the process of self-improvement by finding an expert and booking their services.
And if you don’t want to work live with a person, you can still research signing up for courses or a Masterclass to learn a skill and try something new.
7. Declutter And Organize
Decluttering can help you start the new year with a fresh and organized mindset. Clutter has been shown to negatively impact our mental health and contributes to astronomical rates of anxiety and depression.
Who wants to enter a new year with their environment full of clutter, anyway?
As you begin to clear out holiday decorations and bring in new gifts, take the time to get rid of things that you don’t enjoy or that are broken. Focus on the why and ask yourself how holding on items serves you and your goals. Donate or discard items you no longer need or want. Look to keep items that align with who you want to be and begin to organize your belongings, with an eye on everything having a home.
Allow yourself to tackle spaces one at a time and for a few minutes at a time. You don’t want to come into the new year overwhelmed and stressed. Commit to looking into a decluttering and/or organizing system and work daily to accomplish this goal. And remember that decluttering requires maintenance and upkeep, so do not get discouraged if it takes you a long time to get organized. The point is to start. Grab your free decluttering guide below.
8. Curate Your Social Media Feeds
This is a bit challenging. On the one hand, having a social media presence is important for my business and for connecting with others. On the other hand, social media has become a place for negativity and doom scrolling. Even when I try to follow inspirational content, I am flooded with sponsored content and commercials. It is trying to prompt me to purchase things that I don’t need.
As a result, I have chosen to limit the amount of social media apps that I consume. I have never signed up for apps like Twitter (now X) or TikTok. I have Instagram and Facebook, but even then I limit my use to once a day, if even that. In many ways I may be losing out on learning things. I may be missing out on following creators that can genuinely add value to my life. But the trade-off for my time, my money and my mental health are worth it. The time spent instead is on learning a new skill or figuring out how to improve my life.
Think about how your social media use is impacting your mental health. Curate your feed to either hide ads or unfollow people that don’t encourage you to live your best life. They say that you become like the 5 people who you spend your time with. Consider that with your social media use as well. Choose to start the new year with positive consumption.
9. Review Your Finances
This post would be incomplete if I didn’t suggest you do a quick budget review of 2023. Planning your finances ahead for the next year is important. As we hear about the possibility of a recession, it becomes important to assess where you are and where you want to be financially.
Before the new year sets in, take a look at your financial situation. Do an audit of your expenses. Explore any money leaks like unused subscriptions. You don’t have to dive in too deep, but you may just want to have a vision for the future or financial goals.
Statistics indicate that the number one stressor in relationships is money. If you are in a relationship, take the time to review your financial goals. Make sure that you are on the same page an in alignment with your goals.
Create a budget plan. Set savings goals. Open up savings and/or investment accounts. Meet with a financial advisor. Read books on money. Begin to develop a plan. Once you feel good about money, you alleviate any underlying fears or tensions that may exist.
10. Have A Self-Care Day
No post on New Year’s preparation would ever be complete without the mention of self-care.
As a mom of two young kids, a wife and a therapist, my life is in the service of helping others. It is challenging to think about myself when I know that my son needs water or my daughter needs a diaper change. But time and again we all know that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Part guilt, part not having enough hours in the day, finding time for self-care is challenging.
But here’s the thing, you cannot achieve all of the things that you want to accomplish if you don’t take time to take care of yourself. All of the bucket list items or goals can’t be achieved without you taking care of yourself. And self-care is really boundary care. People have to know that you have limits and that you are important. No one is going to give that to you if you don’t ask it of yourself. If you feel guilt, that is something to reflect upon and work through.
Most people will look at self-care as a bubble bath or a pedicure, but I encourage you to look at the bubble bath or the pedicure as a moment to hear yourself think. It’s a moment to prioritize what things in your life, household, relationship are important.
Self-care will allow you the space to consider how you will implement the changes that you want to see happen in the New Year.
Bring The New Year In On a Good Note
Remember that the new year is an opportunity for a reset and a fresh start, but you can work towards your goals at any time.
It’s okay for you to just rest and relax and navigate the busy holiday season.
But it is also ok to start contemplating, planning and organizing to help you start the New Year inspired and prepared.
organizing and planning part of this post is inspiring you to get into your new year groove, then go ahead and get started.
I wish you a happy new year ahead. Let me know how you are planning to bring in the New Year.