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4 Simple Planning Steps You Need to Take Before 2015 Starts

by Nathan Rohler

The big picture

The new year is upon us.  Where did 2014 go?!? As you turn the calendar, it's time to re-evaluate your life and career direction and be intentional about what you plan to achieve in 2015.  Especially if you're working for yourself or in a small business, it's easy to get bogged down in the details of everyday life and client demands.   The end of the year is a critical time to come up for air, look at the big picture, and be sure that you're actually going in the right direction.

Today, I want to give you some very simple and actionable steps to take before you hit the champagne and bid 2014 adieu. These steps are foundational for how I maintain my focus and get the most out of life. What I'm recommending isn't rocket science – it's common sense that should be a baseline for anyone who wants to actively improve their life.  The only hard part is actually doing it!

You should take these steps with a life perspective, not just a work perspective. Don't boil your life down to something that your boss can analyze in a performance review; you're human and should have higher-level and more meaningful goals, with work fitting into them – not vice versa.

Put It in Writing

Everything you consider today needs to be in writing. You must have a record that can be referred to.  I recommend using a Word document or similar to write out your initial thoughts; at the end, I'll have you identify the most important points and write them out by hand.

Step 1: What Did You Achieve and Fail At in 2014?

Look back on your year; flip through your calendar as well as your memory. What went well? What really didn't? What was fun, and what was majorly forgettable? Look at what you really spent most of your time on. Is this how you intended it to go, or did unmanaged demands from others/situations consume you? Did you have intentional goals going into the year? What happened with those?

Sketch out some bullet points for both successes and failures.  Take a moment to celebrate your achievements. You just spent 1/80th or so of your life on this, so enjoy what you've accomplished.  Be grateful for having had the ability to do what you did. Then, take a moment to analyze your failures. What went wrong? How are you going to avoid them in the future? What positive lessons can you take from each failure?  Don't rush this time; use detail.

Step 2: Review Life Goals

You've looked back. Now, it's time to start looking forward.

Why are you getting out of bed in the morning? Why are working? Why are you living where you are?

Is it for your kids? Is it for making a difference in the world? Is it for a beach house in Tahiti?

What do you really want out of life? What's the end game? When you die, what do you want to leave behind and be remembered for?

As you consider these big questions, it's time for a reality check. Are actively working toward achieving these goals, or have you become distracted and settled for something less? Have you become myopic? 

Be intentional about this step.  You only have X days left on this planet, so you better be sure you're making them count and that you actually know what you want. Just as directions are worthless if you have the wrong destination, goals are worthless if you don't know what you really want out of life.

Step 3: Plan 2015 Goals

Now that you've re-evaluated your overall direction from 35,000 feet, it's time to zoom in and consider how 2015 fits into that plan.

As you look at your life goals, what specific achievements toward those goals do you want to have accomplished by December 31, 2015?  What will you have to stop doing and give up to make this happen?  What will you have to start doing and learn to make this happen?  Whom will you have to connect with and work with?  After sketching out the broad answers to these questions, spend time fleshing out the HOW for each one.

Step 4: Post It!

Now that you have outlined your overall direction for 2015, you need to put your goals in a visible place. It's human nature to forget. If you don't regularly see your goals, busyness will cause you to lose focus and perspective; before you know it, you'll be staring 2016 in the face, wondering why déjà vu has made a return appearance.

I highly recommend you write out your life goals and big-picture 2015 goals by hand and post them on the wall behind your desk, or in some other highly-visible personal space – specifically, a place where you often feel frustrated. On the days when you're thinking, "I hate this!" or have lost sight of the forest for the trees, one glance is all it will take to remember, "Oh yeah, that's why I'm sitting here doing this."

Your goals are only as good as your application of them. At least monthly, take time to do a quick evaluation of where you are and whether you're on track or wasting time.

Share it

I hope these simple steps will help you get the most out of life in the upcoming year.  I'd love to hear what some of your goals are for 2015. What are you hoping to accomplish?  How do you plan to do it?  Do you have any other favorite tips for getting from point A to B without losing your way? Please share in the comments below!

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