Here’s Exactly How You Can Do Better in 2020 Than You Did in 2019

Strategies on how to be more self-aware and plan a good year

Danny Forest
Dec 7, 2019 · 11 min read
Step 1. Realize where you stand in the things that matter to you
Step 2. Recall as much as you can about 2019
Step 3. Start reflecting about 2020
Step 4. Craft a rough plan for 2020

How was 2019 for you?

Did it go “according to plan”?

Was there even a plan?

Since 2018, I have thrived. And this isn’t because I got lucky. It’s because I was deliberate in my actions and desire to improve everything about myself.

How deliberate were you in your actions in 2019?

Prior to 2018, I was a completely different person. I was a shy guy who had a hard time connecting with people. The only thing I could do well was programming.

I’m telling you this because I’ve been chatting with many people over the past two years who tell me that they feel stuck (usually not that clearly) and I felt the same way before.

Do you feel stuck?

Do you feel that something is holding you back?

Deep down, do you feel that you can do better?

I managed to get rid of my limiting beliefs in 2018. If you read some of my previous articles, you know I like to end all my articles with “You can do this”, because the truth is, you really can. Screw “I can’t”! It’s time to think about “how can I…”, my friend!

However, no one — not a single person — can commit to a resolution for 365 days. Given that, in 2018, I set myself a fail-proof resolution:

Fail as much as I can.

I managed to keep that one! It was such a good resolution that I decided to use it again in 2019, and I’ll use it again in 2020.

Don’t see it as something pessimistic. Think of it more like: “I’m going to experiment on many aspects of my life”. Given the nature of experimentation, you will undoubtedly “fail.” That’s the point. Learn from experience.

In the following sections, we’re going to look into how you can make 2020 the year where you thrive more than you ever have. It’s an action plan that demands work, but if you stick to it, it will lead to incredible results.

Most importantly, you will be the creator of that plan because no one else knows you better than yourself.

Think of the following as a list of suggestions you can experiment with. Pick and choose what you think is going to work for you.

Now, grab pen & paper, a note-taking app, a word processor or this free template from YearCompass.com.

Are you ready?

Step 1. Realize where you stand in the things that matter to you

There are many different methods to do this. I have two favourites I want to share with you today:

1.1 The wheel of life

Analyze this for a second:

Image for post
Image for post
Source

Doesn’t this show a nice overview of how your life is doing? In your opinion, how do you fare in each of them at the moment you’re reading this?

And by the way, you can swap the eight themes for whatever matters most to you. You could use things like happiness, fun, philanthropy, etc.

What’s important here is that you capture a snapshot of your reality from today. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from someone close to you. You might even want to do it together. The hard part here is to be honest with yourself. It’s more difficult than you think! :)

1.2 Ikigai

Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “A reason for being”. In all honesty, I don’t know why they don’t teach it in schools in the Western world. Here’s what it looks like:

Image for post
Image for post
Source: Toronto Star

You can get so many insights from it. A lot of times when filling it out, you’ll realize some circles or intersections are easier to complete, while others are more challenging. Using Ikigai, I was able to align everything together.

For now, fill out a snapshot of today. It’s okay if you can’t complete it. By the end of this exercise, you should be able to create a vision for what you want to accomplish and the person you want to be in 2020.

Remember, however, that things change. It’s okay if what truly happens isn’t exactly what you set out to do.

Step 2. Recall as much as you can about 2019

One of the most impactful things I learned to do back in 2018 was journaling. I originally thought it would be a dumb exercise, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve never had so much clarity in my entire life.

If you are used to journaling, this exercise will be simpler for you. Nonetheless, start at 2.1:

2.1 Recall all your ups and downs. Don’t think about when they happened yet. Don’t refer to the notes you’ve taken.

Image for post
Image for post

Close your eyes and try to recall all the good and the bad things that happened to you this year. Try to go as deep as you can.

Write everything down.

Visualize it as vividly as possible. A lot of times, the context in which something happened is very valuable information. Answer these questions for each thing:

  • What is it?
  • Was it good? Was it bad?
  • Where were you?
  • How did I feel?
  • Were there any people involved? Did they help? Did they make things worse? Why?

Why these questions?

These help you with self-awareness, gratitude, critical thinking and more.

2.2 Compare what you recalled with what you recorded

Our brains are not perfect. We forget things. It’s just how we’re made. I like this exercise because this re-aligns what you think of yourself vs the “reality”.

Image for post
Image for post
What you can recall vs notes you took

You can be thorough or you can do a quick scan, that’s up to you.

To help you recall, look at your old emails, notebooks, journals, Git commits, Trello, your calendar, previous articles you wrote, etc.

I looked at my old journal from January-June a few days ago and I learned much about myself. Some things took me longer to accomplish than I had orginally projected. Some things I completely ignored. Some things I believed in, but don’t anymore.

It’s nice to see that evolution, good or bad. Scratch that, it’s not just nice, but invaluable in learning who you are. After all, you are whatever people say you are.

Aligning your self-perception with your actions will help you thrive in 2020 and beyond.

Step 3. Start reflecting about 2020

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions. Or at least not the “artificial” ones. I like bigger picture ideas. I like to answer:

Why do I do what I do?

It is the hardest question of all.

Back in December 2017/January 2018, I didn’t have a clear answer. Unsurprisingly, I set out to experiment in 2018 and 2019. I figured it out in 2018: I want to make this world a better place for everyone.

My “how” may change frequently, but my “why” remains.

But it’s more than a resolution, it’s a life mission.

3.1 Reflect on each of the bad things you noted in section 2.1

Image for post
Image for post

What could have been improved, in hindsight? A lot of things are surprisingly in our control once we stop blaming someone or something else.

This exercise is probably the most important one for your self-awareness, so please take it seriously.

Take note of :

  • the mindset changes that need to happen;
  • the skills that you need to learn;
  • the habits that you need to change;
  • the connections you need to make or break; and
  • anything else you can think of.

3.2 Reflect on each of the good things you noted above

Image for post
Image for post

How do you go from good to great?

Note that there’s nothing wrong with remaining good in many of the things we do. I’m a prime example of that, by having learned 42 skills in the last year alone. Most of these skills, I’m good at them, and I’m perfectly fine with my imperfection.

But it never hurts to imagine the “what if”.

With most of the things I do, I try to see how I can bring it to the next level. Most people don’t. What’s good about doing that is that you open yourself up to imagining what you’re capable of and you also get to figure out your priorities.

The reflection, it turns out, is the same as above. Take note of :

  • the mindset changes that need to happen;
  • the skills that you need to learn;
  • the habits that you need to change;
  • the connections you need to make or break; and
  • anything else you can think of.

3.3 Identify patterns

Can you find out, from the previous reflection, similarities in what you need to do? Think “two birds, one stone”.

For example, if I stop this habit, I’ll be healthier, I’ll be a better husband/wife/parent/friend, I’ll have more time, etc. You can use this tool I built to help you keep track of habits.

3.4 Project your end-of-year Wheel of Life and Ikigai

Remember the exercise in 1.1 and 1.2? Now, you want to project where you want to be by the end of 2020.

For the Wheel of Life, each slice has a scale of 0–10, where 10 means you’re doing perfectly in the category (does that even exist?). Where do you want to be in 2020 in each of them?

For example, I scored poorly on Finances and Family in 2019. I scored okay in Health. I was pretty satisfied with the rest. In 2020, I’ll need to start focusing more on finances.

A friend who’s been doing it for 3 years recommends focusing on very few slices at a time, aiming to gain about 3 “points” per 2 months. If we’re talking about a year-long, I’d say to aim for about 6–8 points for the whole year.

Use this template to get started:

Image for post
Image for post

For Ikigai, project where you want to be in 2020. This is what people who call your “dream” — your ideal situation. This will be your guide to make your actions matter.

Refer to section 1.2 to fill out this template:

Image for post
Image for post

3.5 Maximize improvements

Image for post
Image for post
Image adapted from: interaction-design.org

Now that you’re aware of every area of improvement in your life and what the patterns are, it’s time to go through all of them and brainstorm what are the 20% of the actions that will lead to 80% of the results.

Here are common 80/20 patterns you are aware of but neglect anyway:

  • Eating better food;
  • Being physically active;
  • Being grateful and positive;
  • Being mentally healthy;
  • and more.

I want you to UNDERSTAND them, not just be aware of them. Create your patterns and define the percentages. Define what 80% of the results mean for you.

You defined what you stand for at the beginning of this step, what’s 80% of the results towards that?

Of the patterns you identified, which 20% contribute to that?

Step 4. Craft a rough plan for 2020

Nothing is ever set in stone. Being adaptable is a skill I considered the second most important skill of all to thrive in 2019. So whenever things don’t go according to plan, find ways to adapt.

That being said, having a sense of direction is an incredible motivator to action. What constitutes a good plan? Actions and Milestones!

  • A milestone is an expected result to be achieved at a certain date and time.
  • An action is, well, something you do.

I know it doesn’t sound that exciting, but all highly motivated people do it, so maybe it’s a pattern? Right, let’s get to it.

You’ve already defined your actions and your results, so all that’s left to do is put them on a calendar. When are you going to do something, and when is the deadline for the result?

Be specific and realistic.

Image for post
Image for post
Image Source: www.process.st

You won’t be doing 20 actions in one day. Space it out. Whatever you think you can do in one week, divide it by half. We’re all unrealistic about our ability to do many things in a short timeframe.

The same applies to deadlines. Whatever result you think you can accomplish in a given timeframe, double it. If you think you can achieve something in a month, make it two months.

If you think you have a track record of meeting your deadlines and you thrive on hard challenges, by all means, keep your estimates. I work like that too, but I found that most people don’t.

Examples:

  • I will have lost 3% body fat by February 28th.
  • I will have made $50,000 by April 1st.
  • I will be a better <husband/wife/parent/friend> for <insert name here> by January 31st.
  • I will have started <insert project name here> by April 30th.
  • Etc.

Don’t forget to put those in a calendar you refer to frequently!

Also, notice how I worded them? “I will”. It’s definitive! Simply doing that improves your belief that you will achieve it.

Conclusion

I hope this helps you gain some awareness and helps you craft a solid plan (even though rough) to make 2020 your best year yet. I made sure to not tell you exactly what to write because it’s a personal exercise. Self-awareness is the only true way to get better.

Start with figuring out your current Wheel of Life and Ikigai. Recall your ups and downs from last year. Reflect on how differently you’d like things to go in 2020. Identify pattens that worked and didn’t work. Improve upon them. From there, use the 80/20 rule. When ready, create a draft of a plan and put actions and milestones in your timeline or calendar.

The awareness you’ll get from doing this exercise will put you in the right mindset for 2020. What are you waiting for?

You can do this!

For extra help with self improvement and more, check out dannyforest.com.

SkillUp Ed

Learn Better

Sign up for SkillUp Mastermind

By SkillUp Ed

Insightful resources about skill development, learning how to learn, and improved education. Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Thanks to Michael Thompson, Nico Ryan, and Jordan Gross

Danny Forest

Written by

dannyforest.com <- my new home. I don’t write on Medium anymore.

SkillUp Ed

Learn Better — Quality Stories about Skill Development

Danny Forest

Written by

dannyforest.com <- my new home. I don’t write on Medium anymore.

SkillUp Ed

Learn Better — Quality Stories about Skill Development

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store