I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions.
But I do find it helpful to choose a word, a theme for the year ahead. Something that can act as a compass, pulling you in the direction you want to go. Guide you, when there are decisions to be made. And perhaps help you say no more often.
It’s not a task to tick off your to-do list, a goal to aim to, a possession to own. Your word is just a simple intention, to help you choose which path to take.
Here are mine, over the last few years.
At the start of 2018, my home felt cluttered. I was doing too much, juggling different careers, businesses, roles. Our finances were over-complicated. Our life was over-complicated, with no time left over for the things we really loved doing, as a family.
I got rid of a lot of stuff that year, moving a lot of things I’d been keeping in boxes or on shelves – photographs, vinyl, books – into digital form. Then I looked at systems, streamlining everything from my filing and storage to my accounts and invoicing. Along the way, I found more time to play, travel, see friends. And yes, I read Marie Kondo and organised my sock drawer. It sparked joy.
I ended up with a question I still use, often: What would this look like, if it were simple?
As I went into 2019 I was feeling scattered, overwhelmed and still taking on far too much at once. I’d just read Gary Keller’s book The One Thing and Cal Newport’s Deep Work, both of them urging us to cut back on distractions and focus on what is important to us.
I concentrated on creating at least an hour a day to focus deeply on work that mattered to me. Whenever I was tempted by a new idea, a new project, a new course, I asked whether it was really what I wanted to focus on. By concentrating on just one project at a time and deliberately cutting out other distractions, I found I got far more done.
My question for the year was from The One Thing: What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
In 2020 I want to create more.
Like many creatives, I’m great at starting on new projects, not so good with the detailed work needed to get them to completion. And fear is always lurking in the corners, ready to emerge in the form of procrastination.
But I have old books I want to get back into print. New books I want to write. A course I’m itching to create. A workshop I want to deliver to freelance creatives. And an idea for a podcast that just won’t go away.
None of these are useful to anyone unless I complete them, and get them out of my head and into the world.
The question? That tends to emerge, during the year. I’ll find it as I try to finish more, and see what gets in the way.
If you like this idea, and are looking for inspiration, here are some words my clients and friends have chosen to guide them this year:
Love. Grow. Learn. Vitality. Play. Calm. Create. Adventure. Home. Risk. Foundations. Joy. Expand. Connect. Innovate. Dance. Contribution. Freedom.
What’s your word for 2020?