The Year AheadJan 25, 2023
On New Year’s Day, I opened up a new box of colored pencils. I listened to the sharpener grinding the once-blunt ends into perfect points. That’s when it occurred to me that my pencils— new, sharp, colorful— are the perfect metaphor for how I want my 2023 to go.
As we catapult (or tiptoe) into January, most of us want to leave behind uncertainties and disappointments from the past year. It’s time to start fresh and create a vision for the new year.
Is your vision for the next 12 months clear?
I begin every January the same way: with a blank journal and a box of fresh colored pencils. While I love technology and run a totally paperless business, my exception to the no-paper rule is my journal.
I use two tools— a journal and colored pencils— to plan out the year, quarter, month, week and day. Yes, I am that girl who writes down her goals, maps out the entire year in advance, and color-codes it on a weekly basis.
If this sounds tedious and unnecessary, I used to feel like you, too. For years, I’d read books and blogs about successful people writing down their goals, creating a vision for the future, and tracking activity on a daily basis. And I’d think, “How annoying. Does it matter that much? Writing it all down? Paying that much attention to the details? Doing that seems so time-consuming. And a little OCD.”
And then I’d easily talk myself out of the tedious project.
But after a close friend shared with me that this annual ritual of writing a vision every January for the upcoming year has made all the difference to him, to his business, to his family, and to his stress, I decided to try it.
He instructed me to take out a blank piece of paper and date it one year into the future. The assignment was to write down everything I wanted to have happen in the upcoming 12 months. The most important thing, he explained, is to write it all in the past tense as if it already happened.
As someone who loves to write, I was at least intrigued.
I sharpened my pencil, sat down with my journal, and wrote down what I hoped for: business achievements I had accomplished, health goals I crushed, new places I had vacationed, the extra time off I took in the summer, accomplishments our kids had, improvements Kim and I made in our marriage, and the breakthrough growth my team experienced— all of it written in the past tense like it already happened.
It was a surprisingly fun and creative exercise.
Psychologically, I found it to be much easier to write about things already achieved, rather than coming up with the more traditional, overwhelming to-do list of what’s in front of me. After writing down my one-year vision as if it already was reality, I became newly inspired to make all those things happen.
I’ve been doing this exercise now for almost 20 years. I write my vision on New Year’s Day for the upcoming year. Then I re-read it every morning with my coffee. The more I read it, the more I want it all to happen.
I also have learned to break down my 12-month vision into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily tasks. I put pencil to paper every Sunday night and plan out my intentions for the upcoming week. All of it: production, business activity, workouts, meditations, clean food, my Oura ring score— you name it, I track it.
This process is all about this simple concept: Inspect what you expect.
Track the activity and habits that matter. If you expect 20% growth in your revenue, track your activity— not the balance in your checking account. If you expect to drop 10lbs, track your food intake and your workouts— not what the scale currently says. Track the leading—not lagging— indicators if you want real change to happen.
Here’s the irony: what once seemed like a tedious project has become incredibly relaxing. The ritual of writing my tasks and goals down on Sundays in my journal, then checking off the list by the following Sunday, makes me happy, grounded and confident.
Writing things on paper also means that those thoughts no longer need to be stored in my brain— which frees me up to think more, do more, create more.
Is it a little OCD? Yes. But if you’re going to be compulsive about anything, why not be compulsive about things that are most important to you?
January in coming to a close next week. There is still time to sharpen your pencils, open your journal, and do something new this year that I promise will make a difference 12 months from now.