For most people, the holiday season tends to be the most reflective time of their year. New Years is coming up, which can only mean it’s time to take stock of everything that’s happened over the course of another calendar year, and set intentions for the New Year.
We need this reset button. It’s nice to have a set time of the year where these things are top-of-mind, where reflection and goal-setting is encouraged. That doesn’t mean you can’t do those things any other time of the year. But it’s helpful to have at least the metaphorical turning-of-the-page to get you in the right state of mind.
Writing can be your most important tool during this reflective time. It can help you both take stock of your year — all the good and the bad, the accomplishments and failures — and set intentions for the New Year.
In terms of plotting your year, writing is maybe the most crucial thing you can do if you want to achieve your goals. Studies have shown that you’re about 42% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down. The simple act of putting pen to paper, and of seeing a goal written out in front of you can be a catalyst for the work required to accomplish it.
So how do you actually use writing to take stock of your 2019 and plan your 2020? Those are broad subjects to dive into, which can feel overwhelming.
First, write about what went right for you this year.
Get out your old calendar from this year, or look through photos on your social media pages. List out all your wins from 2019. What were your favorite memories? Your biggest accomplishments? Your career victories? New friendships made? Your favorite music of the year? This list can be absolutely anything, and is designed to just get your brain firing about your year. Goal-setting is not as meaningful if you don’t also celebrate your wins.
Next, dive into what didn’t go so hot in 2019.
Where did you struggle this year? Were there certain conflicts you had to deal with, or stressors that just wouldn’t seem to go away? Did you have to grieve anything this year? What made you angry? Frustrated? What went wrong, and how did you fail?
The purpose of this list isn’t to make you feel bad: it’s to get your brain firing in the other direction. To step away from celebration for a moment and focus instead on identifying spots of improvement in your life.
Now, put it all together: Pick one word or phrase that sums up your year, and write through that feeling.
Why did you pick that word? What does it represent about 2019 for you?
Maybe your year can be summed up in a simple word like “happy” or “struggle.” Or maybe it’s a way of being that was representative of your year — boldness, positivity, or unrest.
Whatever your word or phrase is, write about why that was representative of your 2019, and what it says about the kind of year you had.
Now it’s time to go backwards: Before we start making lists, pick a word or phrase that you want to be the story of 2020.
What kind of year are you craving? One of peace and calm? Or do you want a year where you tear everything down and start from scratch amidst the chaos?
Maybe your theme of 2020 is something tangible, like “promotion,” “wedding,” or “travel.” Or maybe it’s something you want to exhibit through 2020: fearlessness, confidence, optimism, or self-care. What would mean the most to you in 2020?
Finally, it’s time to make a new list: What are your goals and desires for 2020?
How will you take the theme you wrote about above, and live it out next year?
You don’t have to connect everything back to your theme. There’s certainly room on your list for goals that have nothing to do with your main word of the year. But having a certain level of focus heading into a new year can streamline your actions, and help you prioritize what you want to work on or do to kick the year off.
The most important part of these exercises: This is YOUR year to create. Taking stock of the past year can be helpful in goal-setting, but it doesn’t have to define your future. Set intentions for the New Year, knowing that you have the power to control your story.
2020 is a blank page, and it’s up to you to fill it.
Is one of your goals for the New Year to write more? Sign up for Monday Motivation for a weekly, reflective writing prompt. Follow the Find Your Voice Instagram account for another weekly writing prompt, plus plenty of other inspiration.
And if you need more help writing during the holidays specifically, check out our holiday blog series: