My Favorite New Year Rituals and Tools

Getting ready for the new year? Try these easy rituals + tools to help you get started.

It’s the last morning of 2016 and I feel pretty confident in saying that a lot of people are looking forward to the opportunity to start fresh in the new year.

I love the new year, but if you read my blog at all, you know that I appreciate (and maximize) pretty much any opportunity to “start over” – Mondays, new months, the change of season or the start of the academic year. If you’re not feeling enthusiastic about the new year right now, that’s totally cool. There are lots of opportunities to make changes throughout the year.

The funny thing, of course, is that nothing magical happens on January 1st.

While there is some collective momentum around creating change this time of year, the opportunity to pursue your goals or habit changes relies significantly on your thoughts and actions.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are comfortable in the “research and planning” part of goal setting and, honestly, I’m not that different.

Do I need new running sneakers? Great! I can buy those!

Do I need to find a new gym near my office? Awesome! Let me hop on Yelp and read reviews for an hour!

Do I need a new tool to help me manage my budget? Let me download an app and spend two hours setting it up.

When it comes to the early stages of goal setting, you know buying things, researching things and setting things up, I’m totally on top of it.

Because that stuff is totally in my comfort zone.

So for the last couple of years, I’ve started to approach my new years goals in a totally different way – one that helps me reflect on my accomplishments in the last year, identify potential obstacles, clarify my goals so that I can get as specific as possible so that I can start the new year off with a plan.

(You know, instead of just a new pair of sneakers!)

Today, I’m sharing my favorite tools for planning, pursuing and achieving goals, but I’m also sharing how I prepare, assess, and implement these tools. I hope it will give you some insight into how to shift from “research and planning” into action. And I also hope that it will help you keep things moving, even once the collective momentum of the new year energy seems to fade away.

A goal planner for the new year


Yes, it’s true that I love all things paper – notebooks, day planners, stationary, sticky notes. The whole nine yards. And while my husband loves to look at these products as they come in and say, “Oh, good! More paper!” very sarcastically, I always say that that none of these products go unused. They all serve a purpose.

A goal planner is different from a typical day planner or calendar. While it certainly helps you create a daily or weekly list of actions, a goal planner also helps you figure out what your goals are and provides a mechanism for assessing yourself regularly.

If you’ve been following along, you might know that I’ve been using the Daily Greatness Planner (both the personal one and the business one) for the last year. I also recommend them regularly to clients and readers.

This year, I’m trying out PowerSheets. I like both systems very much and I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice.

Reflection time for the new year (and to assess the last year!)


Here’s the thing about goal planners. They require a lot of time. Both of these planners have tons of reflection questions and worksheets before you even get to figure out your goals. It’s easy to skip this part. Please don’t do it. This is why these tools cost more than planners and work so well.

Please, please, please give yourself time to complete the pre-goal setting questions.

A goal planner isn’t just a tool. Engaging with it is a ritual or a habit that you’ll need to engage in regularly for you to experience success.

I ordered my PowerSheets the day after Thanksgiving and spent about 20 minutes a day, several days a week, working on the front end of the planer – assessing 2016, thinking about my obligations for the new year and figuring out where I really needed to spend my time

You don’t need to start this work that early (I’m a nerd) but you do need to respect the process. The pre-work mirrors a lot of the coaching work that I do with clients. We identify patterns, obstacles, and strengths. All of these are really important to connecting with your values and goals in the new year and summoning the resources you’ll need to pursue them.

Also! You don’t need to spend all of your “reflection time” in a planner or journal. I also like going for long walks and talking with my friends and coaches to help me reflect. Your friends and colleagues might have great insight into your accomplishments that you haven’t noticed. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or to spend some quiet time alone to see what pops into your head.

Desktop de-clutter


I’m talking about both your physical work space and your digital desktop – it’s time for a clean up. Let’s not start the new year looking at a mess that makes us feel about unfinished work!

I changed the background on my laptop to a warm sunny beach (partly for  fresh start and partly because it’s cold AF right now), moved files I didn’t need onto Dropbox and left, prominently, folders for works in progress that are central to my goals.

My sisters both got me super cute desk accessories so I spent some time cleaning up my home office, arranging my new things, hanging my bulletin board on my actual wall (it’s been leaning against the wall for six months!).

Now a lot of my goals are work and business related – yours might not be focused on this area. Consider where you need a refresh. Your closet? Your kitchen? Your living room? Give yourself permission to clean out spaces that aren’t working for you so you can start over and experiment with a new approach.

A daily planner for the new year


I have a pretty straight forward daily planner plus I use Fantastical as a digital calendar. You should use whichever medium (paper vs digital) that works best for you. I like a few minutes each day making sure my paper planner and digital calendar are in “sync.” It helps me remember things! But lots of people have a purely paper or digital planning system. My advice is to choose tools that you’re likely to use!

Much like using the goal planner, a daily planner doesn’t just “work” because you write stuff in it.

That’s not how the force works

That’s not how planners work!

If you want to shake up your new year with new goals and energy, you must take action. Writing things down in a planner is not enough.

If you find yourself not doing things you’ve written down for yourself, try this: Spend a week circling all of the things that you’re not doing. Not a red circle, like you’re punishing yourself. Just circle the “undone” tasks so you can notice what’s not getting done. At the end of the week, see if there’s a pattern or connection to what’s been left incomplete.

I notice that things go undone for me when I don’t give them enough time or when they’re more like projects than tasks so I make sure to break things down into really small steps. You might have a different pattern, though, so definitely pay attention to those items that go undone!

Pretty notebooks for the new year


Planners of all kinds are lovely but sometimes you just need a place to brainstorm, doodle, plan or list things out.  A place to be messy.

I love brightly colored moleskin notebooks and I use a few – one is where I brainstorm blog and social media ideas, another is a journal I use for five minutes each morning and another is where I breakdown projects into tasks. In short, I “think” in notebooks and once I have tasks or plans, I move them into my planners.

You might not need three notebooks, but consider how you do your best thinking. Do you need lots of space for brainstorming and reflecting? Do you prefer to carry around a journal for bullet journaling? Do you have a project that requires it’s own space?

One more thing…

I didn’t spend too much time talking about mindset here – but more on that to come in the next couple of weeks.

I have a few new resources (including a brand new 2017 Action Guide!) to help you make the most of your new year. Make sure that you’re on our mailing list so that you’ll receive it once it launches!

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2 thoughts on “My Favorite New Year Rituals and Tools

  1. Love this post, Jenn! you’re totally convincing me to finally buy that dailygreatness journal this year!
    I too love new beginnings and create them throughout the year, month and even during the day if i’m feeling particularly overwhelmed. Towards the end of 2016 I started following the moon phases to track time instead of the gregorian calendar and it has been amazing 🙂
    I just took some of your advice and decluttered my desktop. I set my background as a picture that is alignment with my 2017 overall goals, and now only have TWO folders on my desktop ~ one for school and one for personal projects i’m working on. the other 6 folders are off the desktop and that made a huge difference! phew! such a simple task that already made me feel more organized and refreshed ~ thank you!! xo

    1. Yay, Lisa! Thank you for sharing. I’m so happy some of these strategies are working for you. I’d love to hear more about the Gregorian calendar!

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