Planning for the Year Ahead: 3 Simple and Free Resources to Reflect, Plan, and Thrive
As we approach another year, it’s common to feel a sense of introspection and a desire to start planning for the year ahead. The same can be said if you, like me, set quarterly goals and like to check in on them each season. Today, I want to share some valuable resources and practices that I have personally found helpful in this process. From defining a word of the year to creating a vision board and utilizing reflective exercises, these practices can empower you to make informed decisions and set meaningful intentions for the year or for the quarter ahead.
Defining a Word of the Year
For the past five years, I have made it a practice to develop a word of the year. I find it interesting too because in 2023, I’ve noticed many more individuals following this practice as well. And it doesn’t surprise me since it’s such a powerful act. This word can function as a guiding force that influences the decisions you make throughout the year.
My previous words of the year have included “abundance,” “healing,” “ease,” and “re-alignment” and as a result, they’ve shaped my year and led to memorable accomplishments. For instance, in my year of abundance, I took a risk and purchased a home, something that previously seemed unreachable for me. In my year of “healing” I had a surgery that vastly improved my sleep and quality of life. In my year of ease, I slowed things down and set firm boundaries to protect my time and energy. This past year was about re-alignment. I got clear on my values and it led me to moving back from Portugal to the US to have closer geographic access to loved ones and community.
Creating a Vision Board
Another practice I engage in each year is creating vision board or a visual representation of your goals and aspirations for the coming year. It serves as a powerful reminder of what you want to achieve and the vision you have for your life. However, if you’re going to create your own board, there are a few things to keep in mind. I strongly urge you to avoid setting goals that may seem too lofty and as a result, may discourage you. While it’s important to set what some people call “big audacious” goals, they should be encouraging, and to some extent, achievable to maintain motivation.
Additionally, ensure that your vision board is placed somewhere visible. If it’s a digital board, you can save it on your desktop wallpaper or phone wallpaper, to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. If it’s on paper or cardboard, hang it up somewhere you can see it regularly.
Reflecting on the Past Year
December is a great time for reflection and planning for the year ahead and so too is January and even February, if you, like me, celebrate the lunar new year. By examining your calendar, spreadsheets, camera roll, and other records, you can take stock of your accomplishments and experiences from the past year. As a Virgo, I find great value in reviewing my achievements, noting important events, and journaling about my personal growth. I also give myself credit for surviving another year because along with all my achievements, there are always challenges too. This reflection process helps me gain insights into what I want to maintain and what I want to release in the coming year.
Planning in Community
Planning in community is another option you can try out this year, which can be an enriching experience. It provides an opportunity to share knowledge, support, and strategies with others who have shared identities, common experiences ,or are on a similar journey.
In my case, in December 2023, I decided to host a workshop on reflecting and planning for the year ahead. I invited my former clients, including undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals, to join me in this endeavor. This intimate and hands-on workshop was a place for me to share the practices that have been helpful to me and create a space where others can explore their own reflections and intentions. In some cases, I was able to connect some really cool people to one another.
Acknowledging the Challenges
While reflecting and planning can be empowering, it’s also essential to acknowledge that the end of the calendar year can be difficult for many. Some individuals may feel lonely, triggered, or burnt out during the holiday season. It’s crucial to respect your own needs and not pressure yourself into engaging in reflection or planning if you aren’t ready or willing. Remember, these practices can be accessed at any time, at the end of each quarter, or even much later in the year. If you find them helpful, try incorporating them into some sort of routine or custom whenever you feel ready.
Simple Resources for Reflection and Planning
To assist you in your journey of reflection and planning, I highly recommend exploring a few free or low-cost and easy to use resources that I’ve found valuable.
1) One such resource is the Year Compass, a booklet that helps you reflect on the past year and plan for the next one.
2) Additionally, consider journaling exercises as a means of reflection. For instance, my Growth Journal offers a comprehensive set of reflective exercises to support personal growth and self-discovery. These exercises can help you delve deeper into important aspects of your life and gain clarity on what you want to prioritize in the coming year.
3) You can also listen to my podcast episode 146 where I share journaling questions that will help you dream again.
As we end this year, take the time for reflection and planning for the year ahead by setting intentions that align with your values and aspirations. Whether you choose to define a word of the year, create a vision board, or practice journaling, these resources can empower you to design a fulfilling year ahead. Remember, there is no pressure to engage in these practices if you’re not ready or if they don’t resonate with you. Modify them to suit your needs and utilize them at your own pace. I’m wishing you a wonderful year filled with growth, gentleness, wellbeing, joy, love, and success!