Making the most of a new year: Tips and hacks

  • We have heard it all before: how a new year is like a blank sheet and one must make the most of it. I believed this so much that I used to wash all my dirty clothes on the 30th or 31st of December; it was my way of starting the New Year on a clean slate. As time went on, I began to wonder what the entire New Year hullabaloo was about. For goodness sake, we would just go to sleep one day and the next day is a new year. I didn’t feel different. It didn’t feel special. I mean, you are telling me that yesterday was an old year? Come on!

    So indeed, we have all gone back and forth on the subject, and perhaps, there isn’t anything new to be said. Many of us used to make resolutions, and we stopped because we either felt they were lame or just didn’t work and while I understand that, I am not going to entirely applaud it, especially if you have not replaced New Year resolutions with proper goal setting. Did I just hear you groan or probably roll your eyes and say, “Not again”? Give me a chance to die before you bury me, would you?

    Here is the thing: I have come to accept the fact that if you keep telling yourself that yesterday was an old year and today being a new year is no big deal, you are going to wake up about 20 years from now and suddenly ask yourself, “What just happened?” It may seem cliché but a New Year can be seen as a chequebook with 365 (6) leaves, given to you at no cost. It is up to you to cash each blank cheque as you please and what you do with the cash of each day determines what you can call your legacy after many years. I bet that puts the matter in perspective for you.

    Related: Ten ways to boost your personal effectiveness

    So, how can you try to make the most of the year without falling back to resolutions that you will probably forget by February? This takes me back to the concept of goal-setting.

    Before I go any further, I must add a disclaimer. I admit that the way goals are talked about these days, it is like a do-or-die affair. Some make it seem as though if you don’t meet your goals for the year, then you are a failure. That is not what I am promoting. I know what it is like to feel as if you are not doing enough or that time is running out. That feeling can put you in a really bad place, so the point of a goal is not to put pressure on you. In my opinion, a goal is for two things: to give you a benchmark to assess how well you did during the year and to ensure that you are on the path to achieving your life’s mission. Therefore, if you don’t meet your goals, it simply means that you need to do better next time (perhaps in setting more achievable goals or tweaking the strategies for achieving them) and thankfully, a new year gives you that second chance. 

    That being said, let’s quickly look at how to set goals.

    Write them down

    When you document plans, it makes it easier to refer to them. Also, placing it somewhere you can see it often ensures that it remains at the fore of your mind. Personally, I have written down goals that I forgot about till December because I carelessly dropped them in a book somewhere.

    Start small

    The best way to hew a rock is to chisel away a little at a time. If you have this huge goal, it is best to break it into smaller bits, and before you know it, you are done. For example, you want to study in the United Kingdom so you would have to start by choosing the school, getting your test of English and other documentation. You don’t just hop on a plane and head to the U.K.

    Make them SMART

    This is where I think the bulk of the work is. SMART is an acronym thus:

    S - Simple/Specific: This means that your goal should be clear and easy to understand.

    M – Measurable: This means you ought to be able to measure success or failure in some way. There must be a yardstick of some sort attached to your goal.

    A – Achievable: Well, your goal must be something you are confident you can get from paper to reality.

    R – Realistic: (There is no point setting a goal that is a far cry from your reality. How does a guy earning N 20,000 per month think he can buy a Rolls Royce within a year?).

    T - Time-bound: You ought to have a timeframe within which you are going to achieve your goal. This is another reason why you should break your goals into smaller bits. This way, you don’t take forever to accomplish them.

    Develop a concise plan

    This is about the strategy (-ies) you employ in bringing your goals to life. If you say that you are going to learn how to drive and have a timeframe added to it, you must also know how you are going to make it happen. Do you have a car to use and someone to teach you?

    Have the necessary tools

    This takes us back to your goals being achievable. You can only achieve what you are equipped for though this does not mean you cannot set a goal you are not equipped for. I hope I haven’t confused you. All I am saying is that as you pursue the goal, ensure that you are also trying to gather the right tools. For example, you want to be a radio presenter. While you are applying to radio stations, you could enrol in voice training classes. You are giving yourself the tool to succeed.

    You see, it does not take so much to set the right goals and see them through to the end. Mind you, when we are talking about goals, it may not be just all about self-development (although enrolling for professional courses, reading more books and stuff like that are great). You should also remember to make plans for financial investment, building your relationships and even taking vacations.

    I need to say something about vacations real quick. Nigerians don’t believe in taking vacations because they feel it is a waste of money. It is because we don’t prioritize it that many work till they keel over, most of us are not as exposed as we ought to be, and certain relationships don’t get the opportunity to take a much-needed breather. However, if you plan for it from the very beginning of the year- deciding when to take it, to where and how much you would budget for it - it would be much easier to grab your bags when the time comes.

    That’s it, folks. I really wish you all a great year ahead, and I hope we can gather here to talk about our successes.

    Happy New Year!

    You may also want to read about some strategies to manage your time because time management is key to achieving one’s goals.

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