3 Questions to Guide Your New Year, Organize Your Goals, and Maximize Your Impact


There's something magical about opening a new planner.

I love the fresh, blank, creamy pages full of clean lines and empty boxes just waiting to be filled with appointments, projects, concerts, coffee dates... 

It’s invigorating to think about the possibilities, to dream about what could be; there’s excitement in the air, the promise of a new start. 

In fact, there are so many things I would like to do that I can start to feel a little overwhelmed. 

When that happens, I find three questions—inspired by my love of gardens—helpful for breaking my goals into manageable categories and giving me guidance on where I should focus my energy.

The questions are: 

          What should I plant? 
          What should I fertilize?
          What should I prune? 

To be healthy, a garden requires various methods of cultivation, such as sowing seeds to encourage new growth, fertilizing to strengthen established plants and enable them to reach their full potential, and pruning to keep older plants in shape and prevent them from choking out other plants. 

Just as these activities can help a garden flourish, they can promote a vibrant lifestyle by helping us make the most effective use of our time, energy, and resources. Asking and carefully answering these questions gives us a better chance of becoming a fruitful, lovely garden, as opposed to an untended, weedy backyard. 

1. What should I plant? 

Suppose Suzanne wants to become a nurse. She plans to attend nursing school, but will not be able to do so until next year. Even though she won’t be able to accomplish this major goal this year, she can start taking steps toward it. She might attend a medical conference, read an anatomy text book, or find a doctor to mentor her as she progresses through her field. These actions are like planting seeds, laying the foundation for future growth. It may not be her major focus for the year, but by taking small steps now she is building momentum, affirming her commitment, and creating a sense of connection to her goals and dreams. 

Something I have wanted to do for a long time is learn to draw. Because my current goals and commitments are strongly focused on writing, coaching, and my family, now is not the time for me to invest a lot of time or money into drawing, yet I do want to keep that dream alive and make some small progress towards it. I have an art book, Learning to Draw on the Right Side of the Brain, that I’ve had for years. I decided to make that a seed goal for 2018—read this one book about drawing. 

2. What should I fertilize?

What do you want to put major focus and energy into this year? What do you really want to see grow? These could be goals like start a blog, write a book, organize your home, go back to college, teach a class, or homeschool your children.

Not sure what should get the bulk of your attention this year?

Try this: make a list of your goals—brainstorm and write down anything that comes to mind. Then, as you look over the list, ask: How will it feel to come to end of 2018 and have accomplished this goal? How will it feel to come to end of 2018 and not have accomplished this goal? Pay attention to which items sparks particular energy or excitement—this can be a good clue that this is something that matters a lot to you. Honestly listen to what your heart and spirit are telling you. Then narrow your list down by asking, What is most important to me this year? What is essential? Put a star next to the top three or four and give yourself permission to save the rest for another year. 

3. What should I prune?

Is there anything in your life that you need to cut back on or trim out? Without pruning, our activities can become a bit wild and overgrown, choking out other priorities. If you want to improve your health, that might mean cutting down on sugar; if you want to spend more time with your spouse, that could mean trimming time on social media. Anything that isn’t actively contributing to your main goals, priorities, and the vibrant life you long for are candidates for pruning. (For more on trimming, check out my post Do You Need to Trim Down on Your Activities or Commitments? Here are Four Signs That it’s Time). 

These questions can help us determine when and where to focus our energy in the coming months. 

We make more progress by focusing our energy on a few main projects, and experts recommend setting no more than 5-7 major goals at a time. If we have too many goals, we’re likely to spread ourselves too thin and end up feeling overwhelmed, which hijacks our ability to actually accomplish what we most desire. 

As you plan for 2018, choose what matters most to you in your unique season of life and allow yourself to release the rest. 

And consider reviewing these questions on a periodic basis (for instance, jot them at the top of each month on your personal planner or wall calendar and spend some time reflecting on them at the beginning of each month). By doing so, you can keep yourself on track, remind yourself of what’s most important, and assess the progress you have made so far (which is a huge motivator for continued progress). 

I’m looking forward to hearing about the adventures 2018 brings you! Happy New Year!


Photo courtesy of Pixabay