It’s no secret that I love the New Years.  It’s a new opportunity.  A fresh start.  A reminder to leave behind the mistakes and problems of the past year.  It’s a chance to change.  


This year I did something new, thanks to a friend/coach/mentor.  It’s a simple concept I’ve used in other areas of life and work, just not my personal life.  I created an Annual Plan.  Through a scripted set of questions and a lot of introspection, I made out a design for the year, matched with the goals for the rest of my life.  It’s a process that gives hope, which I’ve adopted the definition of as “present expectation of a future good.”  I expect to make 2024 a better year in some very specific ways and geared towards some very identifiable outcomes.


The process I undertook asks three types of questions:


What do you want?


Sadly, I’ve found that most people don’t spend the time defining what they want, in life or in communication.  They have hope, but it’s in some nebulous platitude like “The best is yet to come!” or “This is the year you get what you deserve!” (I sure hope not!)  


As I age and realize that there is limited time left to do all that I have dreamed, there are tough decisions to make about what to do and what to leave out.  Figuring out what I want the next year to look like is a critical part of this process.



What do I need to do to make that happen?


Action is required for anything to happen.  That seems obvious.  But when we dream big dreams, the outcome can seem far away and completely overwhelming.  I’ve experienced that in projects including writing books, our new online training platform, and losing weight. The key to action is to break it down to steps that can be achieved.  I can’t finish my book today, but I could write a new chapter, add 1500 words, or edit the prologue.  I can’t lose ten pounds today, but I can eat a balanced and light lunch.  Daily tasks can roll into weekly plans, which roll up to monthly goals, which fold into quarters.  Do that four times in 2024 and you’ve got your annual plan accomplished.



What needs to change (be left behind)?


All too often, our current state of affairs is our biggest obstacle.  Perhaps they are habits, limiting beliefs, resources, or expectations.  Our intake of influence might need to be adjusted, either through live relationships or through media consumption.  


If you see a master of anything – music, sports, finance, or quantum physics – they have sacrificed and put aside many great and perhaps satisfying pursuits for the sake of being truly impressive  at that one skill.  Before I left corporate in 2008 to pursue this business endeavor, I bragged once that I had 11 different streams of income.  Sadly, only one of them could support my family and it was the one thing I couldn’t keep as I started my business (my full-time job).  The side interests were holding me back.  Until I could let them go, I could never devote what was required to making a small business work.



As I processed  my annual plan, I realized the similarities and the typical failures between communications and a plan for the New Year.  Most meetings, keynotes, and training sessions fail because the facilitator/presenter /teacher doesn’t know what is to be accomplished.  Many know what they want to happen but cannot articulate the steps for it to occur.  And all too often, there is much in the way, including conflicting messages, terrible facilitation, contradictory visuals, bad delivery, and too much content.


For your next critical communication, the annual plan template is a good way to determine what you need to do.  What do you want?   What do you need to do to make that happen?  What needs to be left out?


Reflection is a good first step to the future.  2023 was a rough year for me.  Multiple major surgeries, several minor medical procedures and two “incidents” that left me completely immobilized reminded me of the frailty of our physical bodies.  Some tough business decisions and outcomes that were unexpected changed trajectories of my business. And there are always personal distractions—both good and bad—that get in the way. While I fully believe that the net of 2023 put me in a better place, I look forward to a little more proactive approach this coming year.


As we launch into the New Year, take some time to reflect and plan so that a look back a year from now can reflect you accomplishing what you most wanted to.


Communication Matters.  What are you saying?


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This article was published in the January edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.


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