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How I Start The Year: My 4-Steps Guide To Mindful Goals Planning

Every end of year I like to spend some time to reflect on the year that just passed and review the highs and lows. It helps me learn and plan a productive year ahead. Here I share my process and the prompts I use to mindfully review the last 12 months.
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In this post, I share the annual process I do to review the past 12 months and spend time doing some mindful goals planning.

The end of the year and the start of the new one is a very sacred time for me. I usually decline big parties and tend to spend my NYE in a quiet and mindful environment, usually with close family. I like to have an early night and wake up fresh on the first day of the year with a clear mind and lots of energy to take on the year ahead. I believe that the way I start the year sets the tone for how it unfolds, and I like to make sure I start it with energy, purpose and a grateful heart.

I’ve written this before on my Instagram page, but New Year is my favourite holiday. It’s a fresh start and gives me a renewed sense of purpose. I like to dedicate some time at the end of the year to reflect on my learnings and my achievements and set my intentions for the new year. It helps me live a life of purpose and be more mindful with how I spend my time. It focuses my energy towards the goals I had set for myself and helps me avoid too many distractions.

A few years ago, I developed a list of questions that help me with this annual review and goals setting that I have formatted into an excel sheet that I can use to track my progress throughout the year.

Reflections – Previous Year Look-back

This is an important exercise. I don’t mean that we should dwell in the past for a long time, but it’s important to examine how we spent our time and the things we used the time for. The questions below help me make sense of how I prioritised my time and energy. It then helps me identify areas that require more focus, which would then become a major goal for the upcoming year.

  1. Top 3 achievements
  2. How did I look after my self? (Self care)
  3. How much did I care for my family?
  4. How much did I nurture important relationships?
  5. What were my biggest challenges?
  6. What am I grateful for?
  7. What were my habits? Do I like them?
  8. How much did I invest in my learning?
  9. How did I help others?
  10. In what ways was I creative?
  11. What sacrifices have I made? Were they worth it?
  12. What have I learned about myself?
  13. If I were to repeat something, would I do it different?
  14. What were my financial achievements?
  15. How can I improve my finances?
  16. How was my career in 2018?
  17. What career risks did I take?
  18. What financial innovations did I make?

Goals For The New Year

When I plan my goals for the year, I think about them in the various areas of life. I categorise them and decide whether it’s realistic to have a goal in that space for the coming year. I try to have one goal per category and I make sure they are realistic, because otherwise I wouldn’t make the effort to work on them.

Make it realistic

When I have more than 3 major goals that require considerable effort, I keep the others simple, which can be to just “maintain the good habits of 2020” or “continue with weekly meditations”. You don’t have to impose a new item on each category.

When setting a goal, make sure it’s broken into manageable chunks. Having an unrealistic goal can be too overwhelming and can paralyze you. Start with something you can manage, no matter how small.

Understand your WHY

When you’re setting goals, make sure to understand your WHY. There will be days when you will be tempted to fall off the wagon, to do the comfortable thing and disrupt your discipline around your goals. When the driver and the motivation are clear to you, it becomes easier to stick to your routine and get back to your plan.

Personal Goals Planning Categories

  1. Self improvement
  2. Creative outlet
  3. Learning
  4. Health (diet, exercise, doctors, etc)
  5. Habits
  6. Family and important relationships
  7. Career and work
  8. Home
  9. Finance and investments
  10. Spirituality
  11. Helping Others

Relationship Assessment

This is important. We are the average of the 5 people we spend most of our time with. Every once in a while, I like to review the relationships I spend the most energy on. I think about whether they feel fulfilling, whether they push me to level up and whether they continue to fill my cup in the same way I fill theirs. I pay attention to how I feel after I spend time with them, and how genuine they are with me.
Relationships are two-way streets, if they don’t invest as much as you do, then you should reassess your efforts.

Review Process

I like to track my progress and review my goals on a quarterly basis. It’s good to set the time aside to reflect on whether my time in the last few months has been spent in the right way, whether goals need to be adjusted or tasks need changing etc. My 2020 goals had to be completely re-written after the lockdown. And that’s okay. We adjust when life throws us new challenges.

Rest And Recharge

Make sure you have enough time to rest and replenish your energy at the end of the year. Rest is a productive activity.I intend to find time to relax and spend it with my loved ones, I hope you plan to do the same.
I know I shared alot of information in this post, but it’s worth taking some time to pause and reflect. This will make sure that your year is productive and aligned to your hopes and dreams. Nothing beats starting the year full of energy, good intentions and good habits.

To make things easier, I have pulled all these prompts together in a tracking sheet to help you prepare for your year ahead. I hope you find this useful.



For articles on personal development, see the Growth category. I have also written on living a mindful life, check it in the Lifestyle category.

For more mindful content, check out Mindful Sauce on Instagram.


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