“When one door closes, another one opens.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Isn’t it funny something like a New Year can take us by surprise?

After all, it happens every year.

Fall rolls around, leaves start to drop, the weather cools, and then one day…

you’re driving home and you see Christmas lights!


Everything you’ve been procrastinating on smacks you in the face, your stomach drops, and you feel like there’s no time for the million things on your list.

Actually, you do have time.

But, not for everything.

Now, before you start thinking this article is all about prioritizing a big list into a much smaller one, or mapping out a project chart to fit everything into neat (colored of course) boxes.

It’s not.

For over 15 years I have studied, written about (including my book), spoken to audiences, and screwed up my own planning for the New Year. The mistake I kept making was trying to open a new door, before closing the door behind me.

I need to put this year to rest, before leaping forward with both feet into the next year.

This will help.

Here are three things to do before you make your new year’s resolutions.

1. A look back

3 things to do before making your New Year’s resolutions

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Einstein

You can’t properly plan if you’re feet aren’t planted in reality. And you can’t fully grasp reality if you don’t take time to look back and learn from your past.

This year might not have been the raving success you wrote about in January.

That sucks. It’s also a learning moment.

This year one of my goals was to write a second book. Life came around and I didn’t get it done. But I did write over 100 blog posts. That’s over 100,000 words – or the equivalent of about two books!

If you’re struggling to write, we can help. Every day we are writing blog posts for busy professionals. Here’s how it works.

Maybe it wasn’t a book I needed to write (failure), but to practice my writing for another year (success).

ACTION: Get into a comfortable place with a favourite hot drink and your journal.

  1. Start with a list on the left side of the page of what worked well. Give yourself 5 minutes.
  2. Next, make a list on the right side of the page of what could have been better, including what you didn’t get done that you wanted to. Take 10 minutes for that list.
  3. Now, ask yourself what lessons can you pull from your lists?
    • Do you have a habit of over-promising? Or maybe under promising?
    • Do you have high ambitions, but you don’t take the time to break your goals into bite-size pieces?
    • Are you attaching enough reward to your goals? It’s hard to find time for a big project, like losing weight, writing a book, or hiring an assistant if you don’t have a big enough ‘why’.
    • Maybe you don’t take enough time to be thankful for what you have accomplished?
  4. With your new insights, ask yourself: what needs to be different next year? Even something as simple as repeating this exercise every 3 months can be an improvement.

2. Be thankful

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K.Rowling

3 things to do before making your New Year’s resolutions

It’s easy to focus on what’s missing.

Fill your mind with regret and you’ll quickly find more to be regretful about. Same with blame, guilt, fear, disappointment, and hopelessness.

In psychology, it’s called attention bias—we tend to notice what we want to notice. The smoker notices people who smoke, the procrastinator notices people who procrastinate, etc. We want to be right, so we notice evidence to prove we are right.

And there’s good news!

If you focus on being thankful for what you have – your accomplishments, the people in your life, even the opportunities you have – you’ll notice more things to be thankful for.

It’s like updating the software for your brain—a habit of gratitude for what is good and right in your world, makes you feel better. Research found that just adopting a daily habit of gratitude makes you feel more optimistic and better about your life.

When you run a small business, as I do, it’s easy to find examples of what’s lacking. I don’t have as many clients as I want, my income isn’t as big as I want, my office chair is from the 1980s, blah, blah, blah.

And, sure, that little voice does sound off at times. But when I look around at my team, my clients, and the freedom I enjoy I can’t help but feel thankful.

ACTION: Create a gratitude habit.

Before you roll your eyes and tell me this is soooo last year, hear me out.

A gratitude habit is nothing more than a moment to turn your focus to what you are grateful for. The people in your life, the comfortable clothes you wear, or the clients who trust you.

If you want to turn your gratitude exercise into a habit, stack it!

A trick to making your new habit stick is to stack it on top of an existing habit. It could be while you’re waiting for your first cup of coffee in the morning, or as you open the door to walk into your office.

Try it. And then thank me 🙂

3. Get completion

“Between now and the end of the day, you’ve got an opportunity to do certain things, and doing them will actually change what’s possible for tomorrow.” – Dan Sullivan

Oh! I love completing things. The sound of my pen crossing a job off my to-do list is sweet!

As you prepare for the New Year, look for opportunities to complete things. It could be updating your pricing, mapping out that new online course, or a website update. The goal is to get jobs off your list and create space for what’s possible next year.

ACTION: Start by pulling all your lists into one place. It’s going to be a mess, but it’s necessary to examine all your goals, wishes, to-do’s, sticky notes, reminders, and “someday’s” in one place.

Once, you’ve got one list, it’s time to filter everything on the list (hat tip to Rory Vaden for this model):

Eliminate. Sometimes the best way to complete things is to eliminate them from your list.

Delegate. You might not have a team, but you can still outsource to a freelancer. Look for one-off jobs, like design work on your new lead magnet or updating your website. Or you can delegate routines, like publishing blog posts or updating social media.

Better yet, click here to book a free 30-minute consultation call. You might be surprised how easy it is to free up 2 hours a week for other work.

Tools like Upwork make it easy to post your job or search on sites like Freelancer, or Fiverr for talent.

Automate. You might be surprised at what can be automated in your business. We recently set up automatic emails that are sent to clients as soon as their new blog post is published. It’s something we were doing manually and now it’s freed up time for more creative work.

Start with your email inbox, it’s worth investing a few minutes to learn how to filter email to avoid seeing spam or to organize new emails into folders.

The reality is…

The reality is you won’t get it all done, you will have regrets, and you feel overwhelmed by the whole idea of New Year’s.

We all do.

Maybe this is the year to do it differently. Instead of acting like it’s your first rodeo, prepare yourself to get back on the horse with a little reflection, a new habit of gratitude, and by wrapping up nagging projects.

You deserve to have your best year ever. Now, go make it happen.

Enjoyed this article? Well, here are 3 more you might enjoy as well:

How to Get Organized and Take Charge of Your Business During COVID
A Survival Guide for Small business Owners During a Crisis (or any time)
9 big blogging mistakes you need to avoid in 2020



Shoes: Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash
Thankful: Photo by Kiy Turk on Unsplash
Fireworks: Photo by Chris Gilbert on Unsplash
List: Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash