Do you plan for a new year? Or for January alone?
There’s a structure in the human brain about the size of a brussels sprout. It’s called the lateral frontal pole and it’s uniquely human*. It gives us a super power that no other creature has. It allows us to plan into the future, be flexible in our decision making and to learn from our past experience.
The New Year is the perfect time to put your lateral frontal pole to use. Many of us start the year with a sense of something new that we want to achieve. Get fit. Find a new job. Save money.
We start our new regime in January but by mid-February it has fizzled out. We’re back where we started. It's time to plan for the whole year.
Twelve months ago I created a month-by-month plan for 2017. I thought about my goals for the year and mapped out what they might look like in July and October as well as January. It was illuminating! In January (in Australia) a long evening walk is a great idea and easily achieved. In July, where I live, not so much.
A goal to launch a big business initiative early in a new year is motivating and exciting – until you realise that the kids are still on holiday, you’re going back to work and you’ve already committed to three other big projects. It’s not going to happen.
Planning for the whole year allows us to make use of that lateral frontal pole. Take a bigger picture view, review and revise, consider what else might be happening at that time of year, then pull your plan together to achieve your goals across the whole of 2018. It takes a lot of the pressure off January.
If you’re keen to get started on your plan for 2018, I have created a 2018 planner to use as a guide.
Here’s what 2018 looks like for me…
January. We start the year at the beach with family. My goal every January is to find the perfect mix of relaxation and inspiration. The relaxation is vital if you’re preparing for a big year. Studies have shown that a relaxing holiday is associated with higher productivity and greater happiness which is a great way to set yourself up for 2018.
The mental break is also great for creativity and new ideas. I’m working my way through these books for inspiration as I have some big goals and plans for this year.
February. Back into the swing of things. The kids have returned to school and I have a busy February booked with several workplace workshops on mental health, resilience, leadership and unconscious bias at work – that will be an interesting one.
Like last year, my goal for 2018 will be to find the right blend of work and family. I’ll aim for my work day to end with the school day and minimal weekend work.
March. This is a beautiful time of year where we live. It’s still warm, Autumn colours are appearing and we enjoy life outdoors before winter sets in. My focus this month will be on health and wellbeing, with bike riding, walks and yoga. We also have a family wedding to attend interstate. I’m aiming for low stress travel so getting organised early will be key.
On the work front, the Potential Psychology Podcast will be live!
April. School holiday time. Camping and family fun for the Easter break. Last year my goal for April was to have three book chapters written. Well that didn’t happen! This year I’ve joined Kelly Exeter’s group coaching program for writers (and aspiring writers) because accountability and support is a game changer for big goals.
May. It's getting cold. My exercise regime did not survive the winter in 2017 because I was reluctant to leave the house. When habits fail it's time to change your approach. Indoor exercise will be the way to go in 2018. Gym, PT or treadmill?
June. Head north, she cried. The Happiness and It's Causes Conference is held in Sydney in June and I will be there. In 2018 Dr Kristen Neff is presenting on Self Compassion, legendary psychologist Dr Roy Baumeister explores cutting-edge research into how the way we think about the future affects our happiness and there are sessions on mindful leadership, mindset and positive education. Professional development, here I come!
July. We’ve reached the half way mark. It’s time to check in on income and project goals. How am I tracking? Any nice surprises? Or do I need a boot in the backside for 2018 part II? P.S. Someone is our house turns 10!
August. Aside from a business, a blog and a family, 2018 is the year we will build a new family home. We demolish the old and construct the new with a view to a more comfortable existence. No more wild temperature variations and cupboards that expel their overstuffed contents at the hint of an opening door. By August we should have a cleared site, ready for the foundations of a new home - and Potential Psychology HQ!
September. Six months of the Potential Psychology Podcast! That’s worthy of celebration. Time to take stock of my other babies - online course and workshop offerings. Are they delivering what I’d hoped? Is it time to refresh, reinvent or consolidate?
It’s time for our family holiday too. Three generations off to Lord Howe Island!
October. Prepare for the final quarter of 2018. Make sure that I’m getting the work-family-me blend right, with emphasis on the ‘me’. Birthday month for two of my boys. One turns seven, add 50 for the other.
November. My birthday month and always a busy one work-wise. Plan to meet deadlines and stay sane. Practice self compassion. Maybe time for a weekend away? We took a grown-ups only trip to Sydney in November 2017 and it was a joy.
December. It’s time to plan for a new year. I created my plan for 2018 in December 2017 and it allowed me to hit the ground running after a well-earned break. Time to do it all again, bigger and better for 2019.
Wishing you an outstanding 2018!
*We may not hold this title forever. Clever crows are gaining on us.