How to Make the Most of the New Year

For the past few years, I’ve greeted the first of the year with eagerness and excitement. Why? Because these past couple years have been some of the best in my life. And not for the reason you’re probably thinking.

New Year Sparkler
Photo credit: Bethan (Creative Commons)

Not because I made resolutions or created new life goals. Heck, I didn’t even have a plan! I continue to have the best year of my life each and every year, because I’ve learned to change my habits.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of challenges in life I’ve yet to overcome, and every day isn’t always a cake walk. But by practicing a few simple habits every day, I’m able to tackle the challenges that come, and do so with confidence.

Here’s what I do (and what I recommend you do) to make the most of the new year:

Say “yes” more

The experts who tell you to say “no” don’t know what they’re talking about.

Sure, that works if you’re already busy and your time is in demand. For those people, saying no is a matter of survival. But what if you aren’t there yet? What if you dreamed of being busy in the right things?

The best way to create new opportunities is to start saying “yes” — not to everything, but definitely to more things that excite you, even if you’re not sure how you’ll pull it off.

Make faster decisions

You know what phrase I never hear? “I sure learned a lot from that decision I never made.” People who don’t decide, don’t do much.

Here’s a little secret: most choices can be reversed. And those that can’t usually have a lesson to teach us. So trust your instincts and start being bolder with the decisions you make.

This will cause a boost in your confidence and make you feel more in control.

Pick something (anything)

We live in a world of distractions — that’s nothing new. So how do we focus on the right things and accomplish something meaningful in life?

Take that list of goals you’ve set for the new year and pick one thing, then circle it. Maybe it’s to write a book or lose 20 pounds. Whatever it is make sure, you circle just one thing.

And then — are you ready for this? — do it. That’s it. Move on to the next thing and repeat the process until your list is done.

Don’t add to your list until you’ve finished everything on it.

This isn’t rocket science

Changing your life isn’t complicated, but it’s not easy, either. If you are going to make this year count, you’re going to need to focus, but you won’t have to drive yourself crazy.

A great place to start is to make more room in your life for new things to happen, become more decisive, and drill down on your to-do list, doing one thing at a time.

It’s not a complex process, but few will have the discipline to do this. They’ll spread themselves too thin, walk away from opportunities due to fear, and suffer from indecision.

And in another 360 days, they’ll be writing down their goals again. Maybe, hopefully, you’ll be different.

If you need some help kicking off this new year and beginning some new habits, check out 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. It’s a course that I’ve gone through for the past two holiday breaks, and it’s made all the difference. I’m a proud affiliate and highly recommend you start your year right with it.

How do you plan on making the most of the New Year? Share in the comments.

96 thoughts on “How to Make the Most of the New Year

  1. Last year I made lots of great plans, but they got derailed when God picked me up and moved me halfway across the United States. But I really wouldn’t want it any other way.

    This year, I’ve made more grand plans: some very ambitious – starting a blog/ministry for teen Christian girls, growing that online and eventually writing a book geared toward the same audience – and some more basic habits that I want to cultivate – staying on top of household chores, not wasting time online and reading more. 

    And by relying on God’s strength to do it, and not allowing doubt to creep in, I do believe I have set my goals and plans up in a way that will allow me to be successful. God can do what He chooses and course-correct if needed, but I’ve made my plans for now and am looking forward to seeing what 2013 will hold!

  2. I love this!! With so much on my plate already, I’m determined to take things one day at a time, focus on as few big projects at once and, overall, thoroughly enjoy this year!  

  3. Great post, Jeff. I started my book in 2006. After being rejected a few times I got discouraged and put it aside. This past year I resolved to re-write and set a goal for myself to get my book published and out in 2013. Well that’s what happened: I finished my book and landed a publishing contract.y
    My book comes out in a few months! So yes, I agree: you’ve got to pick something and do it, no matter what obstacles may come. God bless and Happy New Year.

  4. I ended 2012 by being enveloped in a couple of fairly large projects. The way I plan on making 2013 great is to keep working hard, but to learn from that and spread out the larger projects a bit more. That may seem like a simple thing, but I think it will make a world of difference.

  5. I am always eager to say “yes” to people all of the time because I love helping others. Last year, I found that I spread myself way too thin and not accomplishing some of my own personal goals. I so need to work on finding a happy medium to this dilemma. My three words for 2013 are… focus, imagine, be.

      1.  Just the other day I declined taking on a new project for a sunroom addition and about 15 minutes ago, I got a call for a potential new project for a house design.  Maybe there is some merit in the power of “no” after all.  🙂

  6. This post made me laugh in a way, because it just shows the simplicity of working, achieving, and progressing. So often we try to make some rocket science out of it, but it’s actually quite simple. Easy, no. Simple, yes.

  7. Your first point resonated with me, Jeff. Last Fall I said yes to some opportunities. It hasn’t always been easy to follow through on those since I am also in school…but I know that they will provide networking and client references for what I hope are more writing opportunities down the road.

  8. Two years ago my goal was to write and complete my first novel.  Mission accomplished, 22 months later I finished it; on October 11, 2012, to be exact.

    This year’s goal:  Seeking publication.  Whether it be with a publishing house or self publishing.  Wish me luck

  9. I did exactly that! Promised myself to finish my novel then slipped and tripped all over the place into the daily dredge of raising children. Spread myself so, so thin and then right at the very end of that year  BANG! I found your course. This year I know I will finish this novel because I have way too many stories clogging up my head and they all need to come out.

  10. Jeff,

    I love, love , love  your 3 steps to making the  most of the year. Simple and effective.

    I’ve had success in accomplishing goals during my life, but in the last few years have been distracted (and thereby overwhelmed) with the ever increasing choices, options, tools and possibilities. So, I’m going to adopt your 3rd action: Pick something. That automatically gets the first two done.

    Thanks for your wise words once again.

  11. By doing precisely that… shedding, simplicity and focus are the words that frame 2013 for me. I sense there is going to be a lot of good growth and change. I am being intentional about things too. Should be a very interesting year indeed. 🙂

  12. Either every writer in the world is exactly the same…or you, Jeff, have my inner thoughts wired 😛

    The three things you list are exactly the things that keep me from being as successful as I think I should be.  I often think if I had perservered/focused when I was young, I would be a bestselling author by now.

    Maybe 2013 will be that year.  I see that, if you have anything to do with it (indirectly anyhow), I will be.  Thanks a lot for this post.  It was exactly what I needed.

  13. I plan on making the most out of this year by taking action! All those things I’ve always told myself “I’m going to do”, I’ll stop talking about and do them! Heck, I already have 🙂

  14.  Man, you couldn’t have been more spot on with those three points.

    I definitely notice a difference when I say “no” to more things than “yes.” I become less social, less productive, and less energized for tasks, whether they are supposed to be fun or just necessary work – even if I used to like them before.

    I’m also quite slow with decision-making because of that whole analysis paralysis curse. I’ve been working on that though so hopefully that will help things.

    Have a great 2013!
    Austin Hodge

  15. I plan to make the most of the New Year? Well, first of all, I am a goal setter. I write goals, make lists, I check things off list, but in having lists all over, that does not mean I complete my lists. I never do. I try, but I never do. However, I am taking the same approach as you are by one thing at a time. I had lost 45 pounds a couple years ago but this year put 15 back on. My goal? Start eating correctly this week and next. Then….when I think I have that mastered again, I will add my exercise a little at a time.

    My BIG goal is to fly sky high with my writing. I am not sure how but I’m going to work at it as much as possible to make something of it. I started a blog. Firtst thing I di d was get a book from the library and scan it on setting up your own free blog. Never done that before. I’ve been posting on it for a couple of weeks and today I made real progress by adding a picture. It was not the greatest photo, but I did it. Baby steps.

    And look! I did it below too. Yippie!!!

  16. I’ve known for a while that I have a problem trying to focus on too many things. The hard part for me is knowing which area of life needs my full attention at any given moment. I wonder how everyone else here has made that decision.

  17. Just wanted to let you know that I recently subscribed to your blog, and have been loving the relevant, succinct and original advice. I just got into blogging, and what love it if you checked out some of my posts!

  18. Love the permission to say YES! Most of the advise out there is to do the opposite – but I agree they are wrong…we get opportunities when we go out on a limb and say YES.

  19. I like how you didn’t pit goals and habits against each other, even though you value habits more. I look back at 2012 and see that habits are what created momentum in my life. So that’ll be what I’m praying and writing about over the weekend. Thanks Jeff.

  20. Inspiring post. Though I know you’ve said many times you’re not a planner, you are a focused clear thinker and you’ve worked hard to know who you are and harness your passion. I love the Yes concept…we are always being told to say no. I’m ready…

  21. I am still sticking to saying “No” because from experience, that’s the only thing that makes me deliver on my promises. Clients love when you say yes, and they take advantage of that. When you say no, they have to persuade you, and in most cases, that comes with increasing your pay, and respecting you. I still say No, and No, am I not in agreement with you.

  22. I’m a person who always don’t want and find it hard to say “no” to others,which brings me much incovenience.I wonder if there’re some ways to be like you.Besides,I don’t like to make a long term plan for myself but try to live a good life every day.

  23. Love the permission to say YES! Most of the advise out there is to do the opposite – but I agree they are wrong…we get opportunities when we go out on a limb and say YES.

  24. I love the idea of saying yes more. For me, it’s not about saying yes or no more. But I need to do a better job switching my yesses and nos around. When the kids ask if we can make play dough and make noise, I need to say “yes.” When schedule busting requests come up, I need to say “no” to protect my schedule for the important stuff. Awesome!

  25. Jeff,

    I can identify with the insight that you provide, especially to pick something and to make decisions faster.

    With my site, I have written out specific, actionable goals for every month as far as the content that I am producing, so that I hold myself accountable and have a standard against which I can measure my success. I have also set the goal for myself that by the end of July I will finally finish and publish my first non-fiction work on creativity.

    Your urging to make faster decisions also caught my attention, as I can be a bit hesitant from time to time and get stuck in the planning phases of projects. While this doesn’t mean I’m going to make rash and impudent decisions, I am going to be more decisive and trust my instinct and go.

    Thanks so much for your work!


  26. Great stuff! I would probably be able to do so much more in life if I were just to commit to something instead of tacitly approving of nothing through inaction.

  27. Im starting small fifteen minutes a day editing novel and fifteen minutes a day illustrating picture book. It might not sound like much but little by little I will get there. I am finding once I start it usually stretches to an hour or so. Thanks Jeff for the reminder to stay focused on the goal. It is all about the hard work for me this year. Head down off I go.

  28. Hmm, faster decisions? It sounds a little dangerous but I guess when you risk nothing you tend to end up with the same thing.

  29. Love this…my dad always said, especially when I was fretting over a big decision, “Nothing is irrevocable.” So true…and it frees you up to go ahead and do the scary thing. New Year, new response (my response from last year is below:)…This year I actually am committed to taking a regular DAWG (Day Alone With God) to quiet myself, reassess, think, pray. I’m going to schedule this day every quarter. Happy 2014!!

  30. This may have been written a year ago but it is as fresh as the cold powdery snow outside my office door. I confess I got tired of all the new year’s goals stuff that was circling the sphere the past few weeks. I finally boiled down my concept for the year to ‘simple’. I ended up at: Simple. Consistent. Push. I affirm the pointers Jeff has provided above are simple, practical, and totally results based. I’m liking them. The message resonates. Yeah. Especially this one: “Take that list of goals you’ve set for the new year and pick one thing, then circle it… then… do it.”

  31. My plan is to take more risks. Having spent most of my life playing it safe, the rest of my life is dedicated to adventure.

  32. This is great, Jeff! I’m learning more and more that multi-tasking isn’t always the best route. It is helpful to throw a load of laundry in and something in the crockpot while I sit and write, yes. But it’s not helpful to spread myself much further than than if I hope to accomplish much. Blocking out time to do specific tasks is the way to go as much as providence allows. Also, saying “yes” more is opening up so many doors already for me. Too much time is wasted contemplating beginning something or how to get there. We just need to Nike it up sometimes and, “Just do it.” Thanks so much for what you’re doing to steer many of us in the right direction especially with writing. It’s so helpful and a huge encouragement.


    I wrote this after something you wrote recently when you suggested we write about Christmas. I did feel much better after. I really like the One Little Word Concept, although it’s kinda a scrapbooker kinda thing. 😉 Does help to focus when it’s an overall feeling you are trying to capture. In my case, I need to stop my head sometimes when it gets away from me. Good post, my first time to comment!

  34. I’m afraid I’m one of those few who needs to learn to say “No” because I am definitely over extended in my activities, which are numerous. The piece makes a lot of sense.

  35. Thanks for another great post, Jeff. I’ve been learning some of this over the past few months. You’ve reinforced that, and given me a couple of new insights.

  36. Hi, Jeff. Liked your comment about “not learning something about a decision I never made.” Totally agree with you!

  37. Hi, JG! I, for one, never pay any special attention to New Years. They come and go, as time passes. Like yester new years, this New Year too is to fade away soon. Making firm decisions and deciding on goals should be a time-bound process. What really matters is not what we have done but how near to our goalpost we are now! Inspiration, we need not wait for, Perspiration, yes, relentless perspiration is what is needed, for which one should learn to live and work minute by minute. In short, the present, only, the present counts. The past is dead, while the future is yet to dawn!

  38. Hey Jeff! I love this post. I really feel that this year is about accomplishing things instead of allowing time to pass by and complacency to set in. I am about to be a teacher, so I am going to put in my all with lesson plans, time with my students, and my future career plans! My other aim is to share my daily lessons from my students and life on I hope you’ll follow along!


  39. Hi Jeff,
    This post, and your other recent one about having the resolve to change your habits, has struck a chord with me, I guess because it’s something I’m trying to do at the moment. Thank you for the encouragement!

    One thing that is causing some difficulty for me, though, is this issue of not spreading myself too thin. I am a teacher and at the moment have to be working full-time to support myself (and at the very least have to finish out the school year full-time). The hours can be really long during the term (8am-7pmish) and very all-consuming, which leaves me with little energy for other pursuits, even though writing is what I am really trying to make space in my life for. I’ve been getting up extra early to do some writing in the mornings before work and I think as it settles into being a regular habit that could help. I just wonder if you have any advice for people who want to tackle our dreams and really go for the things we want even when we have only a very limited time during the day to do so?

    Thank you!

  40. This is great advice for artists like myself who have the terrible problem of finishing projects. Being a poet, I revise a draft continually until I have said exactly what needs to be said in as few words as possible in order to bring the recipient of the poem into the moment that the poem honors and recreates. However, compiling poems into a selection, collection, concept book etc, is also an art in itself, and the message in a bottle sort of speak that you’ve chiseled away at for days, weeks, sometimes months, is not finished until it’s thrown out to sea and allowed to find its intended recipient, the reader. So, for those of us who suffer from manuscript moth as it were and the piles of words that protest against the silence of the void, we need to treat the crafting process as never complete until the work is set free, free to find the reader and complete the circle of Artist to subject in the conversation of the joining of individual souls in a moment of brilliant (hopefully) craft that reports on the spirit of the age, delights to the senses of experience, and produces most importantly the joy of craft itself. May we see our visions come to life in 2014, not just in our heads or on our hard-drives, but into the world so they can live through others as well!

  41. Thank you Jeff. That was advice that I actually read about recently. Saying yes more than no. I am very good at saying no. I probably feel too comfortable at this point. So point taken.

  42. This is great advice, Jeff! Thanks! I had to go through a period of saying no to re-establish my own boundaries, but saying yes to new things is definitely a good thing! It expands your vision!
    In recent years though I’ve started to do goals for the next year on my birthday in November, as your birthday has energies special to you, rather than on New Year! This has made it very personal for me and I think it allows you to feel less pressure and more inspiration for what you would like to achieve for the next year of your life.
    I always enjoy your writing and advice and it has inspired me enormously. Thank you for that!

  43. Great idea to circle ONE goal and do it. It is easy to get overwhelmed when writing out a list of items/goals to accomplish. This type of focus will help people be more successful – even if the whole list is not complete by year end, there should be at least one goal accomplished, which is a success!

  44. I really like the idea of circling one goal. This reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball. Pick the smallest debt and pay it off, then move on to the next one. The power is in the inspiration and motivation that comes from making progress. Thanks Jeff.

  45. I plan on making the most of the New Year by writing more fiction and less blog comments – so I’ll keep this one short 😉

  46. Great post! I’d add “Don’t be afraid to ask” – this is the major lesson I learnt in 2013. I got over my pride and asked for help with my online lit mag, I asked people for interviews, asked strangers on social media to help promote my page… I realised more often than not, people are supportive and that the writing community is like a huge family. It’s inspiring. So that’s what I’ve got planned for 2014 – asking people to get involved, asking for people’s support, because for the most part, we’re all in the same boat and you never know where it might end up.
    Happy New Year!

  47. I’m going to get beyond the fear and write more. Scratch that – it’s the sharing part that is the issue! I’m going to be more intentional in my time and to-do list so that I turn that dream into a reality.

  48. Being a person who struggled with decisions, this was enlightening to me. I used to say yes to everything. The problem was, I wasn’t on my list so I’d get burned out. Now I’m on there too. I do like the idea of refusing to add to the list until it’s completed. But what if something you think of is more important than something on the list??

    1. That’s a great question. I suppose a great question to ask is what will benefit you the most. That being said I think it is wise to finsih somehtings so that you have some successes to go on. Probably didn’t help your question 😉

      1. I appreciate your response Peder, You’re probably right. It’s a matter of comparing the two things and seeing which one would be more beneficial. I’m a person who likes crossing things off a list so I can see where I would gravitate to finishing the first list first.

  49. Tricky to pick one thing when there are so many wonderful things out there; I get distracted extremely easily! Just want to write, dance, travel, meet people, make a difference to the world and enjoy it all at once! Thanks for the post though, inspiring as always 🙂

  50. You are so right. Changing your life shouldn’t be complicated. It’s hard, but keeping it simple will actually make it easy to take action. It all starts with the right mindset. How do you get yourself in the right frame of mind to make sure you keep taking small daily steps.

  51. Actions and things aren’t that difficult but need undivided attention to be made at. It will cause two things to happen; one, you will enable to do your tasks expeditiously; second, it will occupy U being in stick-to-itiveness. Consistency matter a lot in this regard, as well. We shouldn’t procrastinate on facebook etc. as they kill our too much of time without having noticed.
    Ur writing is always inspirational helping us muster up courage to initiate ourselves into getting the stone rolling. 🙂

  52. Actions and things aren’t that difficult but need undivided attention to be made at. It will cause two things to happen; one, you will enable to do your tasks expeditiously; second, it will occupy U being in stick-to-itiveness. Consistency matter a lot in this regard, as well. We shouldn’t procrastinate on facebook etc. as they kill our too much of time without having noticed.
    Ur writing is always inspirational helping us muster up courage to initiate ourselves into getting the stone rolling. 🙂

  53. Jeff, I’m working through Mike’s Best Year Ever. One of my goals is to finally finish your entire Tribe Writers course. I have allowed life and other “commitments” to get in the way. The current iteration of the goal has me completing the course by April 1.

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