Another new year is here. And how you start it carries weight.
I don’t believe you need the new year to reset or to make resolutions. But it is the best time to clear your mind, create some mental space, organize your life, and set yourself up for success in the new year.
But how do you do that? You have a million things going on – and if you’re anything like me – a never ending list in your head of random thoughts you’ve carried into the new year.
This isn’t a post about resolutions or setting goals, but a number of things I think everyone should do at the start of each new year to set yourself up for success. Some relate to health, some to technology, and some are just age old wisdom.
1. Jot down everything still in your brain from 2019
This works wonders. No devices, no tech (we’ll get into that later). Just grab a pen and paper and get everything that has been on your mind recently onto it. To-dos, people you’ve been wanting to schedule dinner with, books you’ve wanted to read, appointments to schedule that you’ve put off for (wait, has it been that long?) an entire year, and that subscription you need to cancel.
Just getting it out of your brain frees you up for fresh thoughts and vision.
This is Productivity 101. As David Allen says,
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
2. Organize it all
Organize into a few buckets:
- To-do items
- To revisit down the road
- To delegate
- To read / watch / consume
- Scratch it off because it’s no longer relevant / not helpful
If you already use an app or have a system for to-do’s, plug everything from your list into it. If you don’t, some of the tools in this post should be really helpful (maybe even life changing). For to-do items and task management, I’d recommend ToDoIst or Wunderlist. For all those other items like “to-watch” or “revisit this article later,” keep reading for some great solutions.
3. Unsubscribe from junk
You probably signed up for 50 random email subscriptions without realizing it last year. You can stop deleting them everyday and just unsubscribe already. Unroll.me is the best service for this. It’s free and super easy to use. And when you unsubscribe from their dashboard, it actually works – unlike some other services like this.
4. Clean up your email inbox
Get yourself to inbox zero before starting the year. You’ll appreciate it once the flood of new mail invades. Mailstrom is a service that helps. Signup for the free trial (or paid), connect it with your inbox, and it will group your emails by sender to help you more quickly archive or organize.
Please, for the love of all things holy, don’t head into a new year with 2,000 unread emails in your inbox.
5. Delete unused or distracting apps
Cleaning up and auditing the apps on your phone and computer can work wonders for your focus. Delete what you don’t use and get rid of the games and social sites that are eating your life away. Not ready to fully delete anything? Check out Rescue Time, an app that helps limit app usage.
If you’re a productivity nerd and want to dive deeper into making your phone work for you, check out this post from Better Humans.
6. Purge your browser bookmarks
Disregard if you don’t have 800 random things bookmarked on your browser (and pat yourself on the back). The rest of us unorganized heathens need to reclaim our bookmark bar to start the year. Delete the sites you no longer use and the articles you already read (or never got around to reading).
To keep 2020 organized, check out Pocket to help you keep up with interesting articles, videos, and more for viewing later. Unmark is a similar app that turns your bookmarks into to-do’s – whether to read, to do, to try, to visit, etc…
7. Organize your notes (or start taking notes)
Digital note taking is super helpful in the age of devices. I still love pen and paper from time to time, but note taking apps make meetings, random thoughts while in the car, and lists so much easier to capture and locate later. If you do any kind of digital note taking, the new year is the best time to clean up your folders, delete unnecessary notes, and make sure your tagging conventions are still working for you.
8. Buy a new journal.
Buying a new journal is a must for the new year. There’s nothing like 150 fresh, untouched pages to spark vision and creativity over the next 365 days. Moleskine is far and away the best blank journal out there. But I’ve also heard really good things about the Leuchtterm1917.
Get yourself a fresh journal and start filling that bad boy up.
9. Analyze your habits and routines.
Open up that journal and make a list of everything you do on a regular basis. Not everything you *aspire to do, but everything you actually do habitually and routinely. And not the things you’re *proud to do habitually and routinely – but everything.
Go through and cut out the time wasters, the unhelpful, and the meaningless. Perhaps you’ve already done so with our other clean up tasks. But if not, now’s the time to prune. Ass Patti Digh says,
“Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.”
Now start thinking through (if you haven’t yet) what new habits and routines you want to stick this year. Start with a read through The Power of Habit or Atomic Habits and then try out an app like Streaks or Stickk. Streaks is just an iOS app, but StickK is available on Android as well. Both are great for habit and routine building.
10. Set some tangible goals
Now that you’re reset, have set your sights on some new habits, and have the space to take next steps in 2020: set goals. But maybe not the way you always have.
Learn how to set goals and make changes that last.
Now go and have an awesome year.