How To Finish Your Year Strong
There’s still time to make this your best year yet
Where does the time go?
It seems like only yesterday November was here. In fact, it seems like only yesterday I did my big cross-country move. Flash forward, and I’ve been in my new place for over a month now.
In just thirty-one days, not only this year but this entire decade will come to a close. Really puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?
At the beginning of each month, I like to take some time to reflect on the previous month and set goals for the coming one. This month is even more important because it’s my last chance to get things “right” before the calendar ticks over to 2020.
You can do this at the beginning of each month or at the end, but the important part is that you do it. Here are the steps I take to make sure each month is as happy, productive, and successful as possible:
- Reflect on the past month
- Celebrate wins
- Calibrate for failures
- Review long term goals and allocate projects for the next month
Reflect on the past month
Life moves at such a fast pace these days. We’re always in a rush, always running from place to place, always reacting to one thing or another. Our phones and computers constantly light up with notifications and the people around us demand our attention. How do we get anything done at all?
The answer isn’t to move even faster. It is, in fact, to slow down. This period of reflection and rest can allow you to catch patterns in your behavior and change them for the better. You can apply things that you’ve learned, instead of just repeating the same old habits.
Here’s a little bit of my reflection on November:
Last month was a tumultuous one for me. I didn’t get a lot of writing done, and I hardly published anything on Medium at all. That’s okay. Awareness is the first step. I had a lot going on, and I did make some big moves (both literally and figuratively) in other areas of my life.
I’m a big fan of journaling, so I looked back over my pages from the last month or so and picked out some particularly good moments and some things that I learned. Even if you don’t have a detailed log, you can take a few moments to think over your experiences.
These next two rules are really sub-steps of Rule #1. When you’re reflecting on your past month, it’s important not to get tunnel vision about one particular thing. Too often, we focus on everything that went wrong and fail to notice all the things that went right.
I’ve written before about the importance of gratitude, and your monthly review is a perfect time to deploy it. Think back over all the things that you did. All the people you interacted with. All the things you created, all the places that you visited. It doesn’t even have to be some big life-changing moment. What are a few things that made you happy this month? What are a few things that you’re proud of?
Here are a few of mine:
- I started a project (fantasy novel) that I’ve been wanting to write for a very long time
- I got settled in at my new place
- My sister sent me a ridiculously cute stuffed corgi
- I got approved for health insurance (yay adulting!)
Write those down. Keep them close. They’ll steel your resolve for the month to come.
Calibrate for failures
Of course, life wouldn’t be complete without those little (or big) screw-ups. No matter how well you prepare and try to think of every possible contingency, sh*t happens.
No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. — Helmuth van Moltke
Who’s your enemy in this situation? It could be any number of things, but if you’re anything like me, the enemy is often…yourself.
We’re all our own worst critics, right?
So whatever happened this past month, understand that you have the power to change things for the better. If not to change things, then you certainly have the power to change how you react to them. A small change to your environment might be in order.
If you’ve injured your hands, you could try dictating your posts into a voice recorder.
If you are having trouble coming up with post ideas, you could spend one day a month brainstorming and creating a big list of titles to pick from.
If you’re having trouble finding the time to write, now might be a good time to audit your schedule and find out what you can alter. Even 5 minutes is enough to get you started.
Review long term goals and allocate projects for the next month
Now that you’ve seen what went right and what went, well, not as planned, you can adjust your goals for the coming month. Keep in mind that this is often a busy month for many people. You may not be able to work at your “full capacity” every day. Before you make any decisions, consult the calendar and see how many days you actually do have free. Take into account things like travel time and family gatherings.
There’s a fine line to walk here between being realistic and pushing yourself, but I tend to err on the side of ambition. If I set a low goal for myself and achieve it, my brain decides it’s “done” and refuses to work any further. Instead, I set goals that will challenge me to become a better version of myself. I may not reach them, but that’s not what matters.
It’s the process of learning and striving toward them that makes all the difference. You can learn more about my goal setting strategy here:
Ideally, your goal for the month of December should play into your long-term goals as well. For me, I am building my writing business in both the fiction and blogging arenas so that I can tell stories that make people smile and encourage others to do the same.
What can I do in the span of one month that will move me forward in those areas?
- Fiction: Research and set up the platforms necessary to start sharing my fantasy novel
- Blogging: publish twenty new stories this month
What you do this month and heading into the new year will either drive you closer to or farther away from the life you want. There’s no need to wait for January 1st to change your life — you can start right now.
Which will you choose?