Many people, stuffed full of Christmas goose, spend the last week of the year mulling and ruminating over what worked and what didn’t and how they hope the next year will be better.

The problem is, without the right structure, there will be too many loose-ends, and too much unfinished business. Without new goals, and new ways of tackling them, 2014 will almost certainly be a Groundhog Day version of 2013.

Making resolutions without a good structure for reflecting on the previous year is like putting icing on a mud pie.  Sure, the resolutions look good, but the foundation is still muddy.

I’ve been using 12-day process with CEOs, celebs, and entrepreneurs for two decades called ‘Reboot Your Life.’  It takes just a 20-30 minutes each day and structures your reflections, ruminations and goal setting so that the past is in the past, and the goals, dreams, and vision for the coming year are do-able.   

“Reboot” is just twelve 30-minute sessions and adds up to less than a day.  Investing a day to make the next 364 outstanding seems to me a no-brainer.

Nevertheless, people are people, holidays are holidays, and people want to chill.  I’m often asked if there’s a “light’ version?” (Why would you want a “light version” of something as important as this? Go figure.)

But here it is.  If you do no other “work” on 2014 this holiday period, do this:

Step 1: Create a list of areas of your life that you care about.

In one sense, you are “just” going to make a list, but there is a huge trap here: making this list is not a descriptive process, but rather a creative one. What do I mean?

You already have five or six things you care about: a job, friends, and maybe children, hobbies, and school. There is some value in listing those and setting goals, but the gold is to be found by looking more deeply. By creating a new category, you declare that you are going to pay attention to that category in a new way.

Some examples are:

1)      You may not have a category called health or finance, but there are minimum levels of attention needed to live well (and long), and very high levels of excellence are possible in such categories.

2)      You may have other neglected areas. I sometimes find very successful people who neglect (not willfully) friendships or extended family due to their high-demand schedule.

3)      Adding an area can enrich your life. Perhaps ‘culture’ (maybe Bieber, maybe WWF, maybe Wagner,  or crafts fairs/ museums). Perhaps ‘being of service,’ or ‘learning something just for the sake of learning it’, or picking up a new hobby (or reconnecting with an old one).

4)      There might be “stuff you just do” where you would be inspired by a new level of achievement or focus. Play golf? Take five shots off your game. Kids like sports or music? Find them the best instruction you can. Married? Make “Spouse” a category and make that category inspirational (to them). Enriching an area might be adding an absurdly distant goal (like me doing a 10k when my previous best distance was a 100m.)

5)      You should have at least two work categories: “Career” and “Job.” Career is the management of your long-term productive activities, which will include (at least) skills building, brand building, networking, and having a plan for either your next promotion or retirement. “Job,” meanwhile, is an uninspiring description, so choose another one that is more descriptive. If you are a “portfolio person” (as I am), you may have several. I have “Writer” and “Consultant” categories now.  When I ran a company, I had “Chairman” and “Rainmaker” categories, with different goals in each.

Some areas pretty much everybody has, some are areas people sometimes miss and are deeply enriching, and some can be quite specific to your life.  Here is a table of things to choose from, but make this specific to you!  You should come up with 8-12, some of which you already have.

‘Standard areas’ ‘Enriching areas’ ‘Specific areas’
Well-being, health Giving back Dream vacation
Finances Cultural enrichment (could be fine art, could be WWF) Habitat for Humanity service
Family Community service Second home
Education Politics International travel
Primary relationship Church Soccer coach
Friends Spirituality Golf league
Home (the house or apartment) Travel PTA role
Career Sports
Job Hobbies

Step 2: Rate 2013 in each area on a scale of 1 to 10 in the next column of your page

If “10″ is deliriously happy and grateful for every second, and “1″ is “I would not wish this on my worst enemy” where are you?   Go with your gut, but take off the rose-colored glasses if you wear those, and take of the mud-stained glasses if you wear those. (There are people for whom “okay” actually means “horrible,” and people for whom “horrible” actually means “okay.”)  Get honest with yourself.

Step 3: In each area, jot down a few words or a sentence that answers the question, “What does a ‘10’ look like?” (This should also take about 15 minutes.)

By doing this, you create a vision for excellence in each area.  This creates a clarity of purpose and a new level of ambition that can make every area of your life extraordinary.

There is more to do.  The “whole enchilada” is eleven more days like this, but this gets you in touch with reality, and gives you a general sense of where you need to go.  Most people who do just this feel a renewed sense of aliveness and passion.

.Productivity tip:  Don’t let this be something you will ‘get to’.  Just reading this will do you no good.  Block off 30 minutes in your calendar to do it this week.

And have a great 2014!!!

Yes believe in yourself - you can complete your new year tasks: 11 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Complete any Task in New Year

Featured photo credit: popular new year resolutions - colorful sticky notes on a cork board via Shutterstock

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