I USED to hit the beginning of every January like a lead balloon with a feeling that I couldn’t quite breathe – partially due to too much Christmas cake admittedly - but more to do with anxiety brought on by the thought of what I should or shouldn’t be doing in the coming year.
Sick of this, I decided to rethink this whole ‘New Year, fresh start, exciting adventure, best year ever’ approach to see how I could make the transition from one year to the next a smoother and happier experience. Here are some suggestions that might work for you too:
It’s your choice
Some people find the start of a New Year motivating and can’t wait to make and act on their resolutions. I’m not one of them. Whether it’s caused from lack of sunlight or from bursting out of the festive bubble back to normality, I’ve found that January isn’t the month for me to put pressure on myself to be or not to be…whatever.
Nowadays, I find that choosing not to try to get the year off to a flying start by making a long list of ‘to dos’ helps me ease into it without feeling guilty or panicked about all the things that I must do to enhance my life.
However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t regularly plan and review what I’ve done and set new goals for what I want to achieve in the future. Indeed, I do. But, I choose to do this at times when I feel more energetic and buoyant such as April and September. As a freelance, it’s up to me to appraise where I am now and what direction I want my career to take from here on in, but, in my case, January simply isn’t the best time for this...so I don't do it.
Stop stopping and start starting
I never resolve to give up ‘stuff’ at this time either as I’ve found it sets me up to fail. Darkness and cold weather make the option of a glass of vino and something tasty of an evening a veritable lifesaver. So, if I need to make challenging changes, I address these later in the year when my resolve is stronger and I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself.
Instead of cutting out, I tend to add in. For example, I might take up something new – not necessarily anything momentous or vital to career success but something that’s interesting and will help jolly me along through the winter evenings. For example, my local cinema offers half price tickets once a week so a few friends and I have our own cinema club. Also, buffing up my rusty French is on the cards. The course isn’t expensive and is a cost-effective way of being ‘good to myself’ without having to fight with the bank manager to re-define ‘overdrawn’. Ooh la la.
As a result, not only am I doing something enjoyable, but this bit of reverse psychology has positive results - using my brain in different, non-pressurised ways makes me more motivated and productive at work too.
Apart from the work I need to complete, I like to clear the decks at this time by addressing those tasks that are essential but drop to the bottom of my priority list because I find them tedious, for example, ‘admin’.
It’s equivalent to sharpening your pencils and tidying your room before starting to swat for an exam - I like to think of this as preparation rather than procrastination thank you! The result is both a sense of achievement and relief that these pesky activities are now done and dusted for the time being as well as a sense of clarity that sets me up nicely for the coming months. Also, because I can do such activities in automatic mode, my creative mind gets space to think up and ponder upon ideas that may well turn in to actions in the near future.
Not much of a meditator usually, I do find that 15 minutes a day around this time an effective way to shake off anticipatory anxiety. Also, surprising, I find that deliberately not thinking often results in some great ideas. And, if I end up falling asleep, who’ll know? I’m meditating.
Do what works for you
Whether you hurtle into the New Year with the energy of a demented whippet chasing a rabbit, or, like me, your approach is more meandering-come-whistle softly, what’s important is that your strategy works for you.
Wishing you a very happy and successful 2017!
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