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Do you believe in New Year resolutions?

Traditionally, I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. However, several years ago, my coach suggested a different approach. One December, she asked me to write a letter to myself, outlining all the things I believed I should, wanted, and needed to achieve in the upcoming year (professionally and personally). Always open to new experiences, I eagerly penned my thoughts, sealed the letter, and handed it back to her.

A year later, she returned the letter to me. To be candid, it evoked quite an emotional response. Some of my goals had been met, some forgotten and neglected, and it even served as a gentle reminder of aspects of my life that required more attention. I repeated this exercise for the following two years. By the end of the third year, I realised the need for periodic self-checks to stay on course. Consequently, I now revisit my annual letter every four months, allowing myself to recalibrate and realign my objectives.

In September 2023, I reviewed my letter from December 2022 and surprised myself that even in a challenging year, I found I was largely on track. Nevertheless, two recurring items, denoted by the number 2 in brackets, demanded my attention – these have persisted for two years, indicating a need for resolution or removal. Now front of mind, those needed sorting!

I decided to share my insights on writing an annual letter because I don’t believe you need to write one specifically in December or January; you can start the process at any time in the year. However, as we start a New Year, it seems appropriate to share what I think makes an annual letter work—those key critical components.

Take time to think.

It can sometimes take a few days or weeks to get to a point where you are happy with your letter. My January 2024 letter took quite a few weeks of contemplation, which began at the end of November 2023. I knew I needed to have it finalised, no excuses, by December 31st, but a few elements needed more thought, so I gave this the time it needed. But also, a deadline.

Give yourself specific areas to focus on.


Having specific areas reduces waffle and enables focus. My own areas of focus are:

1. Personal

What would you like to achieve this year?

Do more of, less of? It could be travel, seeing certain people more, seeing certain people less!

Learn something new or reacquaint yourself with an old hobby you used to love?

2. Career

Are you happy? Do you feel fulfilled?

Are you in the right job in the right company? Do you want more? If not, great! Time to enjoy the year ahead.

If you are not happy what do you need to do to start taking steps forward?

Or are you planning for that next chapter? (The word ‘retirement’ is not in my vocabulary!) If you are planning to exit your current work chapter, what does the next chapter look like for you?

3. Health

Check in with yourself. Are you ignoring any niggles? Is there anything you need to address?

In my 2022 letter, I wrote about the struggles I had been having with my back. I knew if by December 2022 I was still struggling, that would have meant two years of struggle.

The words in my letter were, ‘If you’re still in pain… get it sorted!’ (I did!)

4. Finance

Are you where you need to be? Is there anything you need to address?

5. Family

Are you spending the time you want to with the people you want to? Family and friends – because as many of us can identify, friends become your family.


Diarise three check-ins.

I normally review in March, August, and towards the end of November. This gives me time to re-address the areas I want to tackle, and maybe some areas don’t need my attention, are done, or are obsolete.

Be accountable but kind to yourself.

Like anything we undertake, having responsibility and accountability are areas that really drive our behaviours to positive outcomes and success. Remember to be kind; you don’t have to achieve everything on your list. Maybe consider what upper and lower limits could be successful for you. For example, ideally, I would like to achieve 8/10 from my list, but a minimum of 4. Anywhere in between would be a success.

If this insight inspires you to put pen to paper in 2024, I wish you every success and happiness.

Ruth

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