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NextGen Know-How: 3 Planning Exercises to Start 2021 Strong

runner in black sneakers crouched at 2021 starting line
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

3 minutes

Follow these steps individually or with your team to help release negative energy, build positive focus and plan for a successful future.

I had big goals for 2020. In February, I started writing my leadership book, which was going to be my main project of the year. Then COVID-19 happened in March, and I found myself at home with three kids, struggling to balance pivoting my workshops to online sessions and getting my kids through virtual learning. It took me a few months to work through the disruption and shift to a more positive mindset.

I bet you had goals and plans this year too. We all did the best we could under the circumstances, and this was certainly a year to give ourselves grace around goals, plans and intentions. I have to remind myself regularly that I am a human being having a human experience. We may have plans and dreams, but life isn’t always easy. There are twists and turns along the way.

We can’t change the past; we can only move forward. No matter where you are now, start there. Maybe you’ve gained a few “COVID pounds” this year, or you didn’t make progress on some work projects as you planned. While beginning a new year won’t magically make things easier or better, there are a few exercises you can do to transition into the new year with a more positive mindset.

I recommend doing these exercises using pen and paper (rather than typing), but do what feels best for you.

Release Exercise. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down everything you want to release or let go about this year. You are not judging your responses, just writing them down. Here are a few of my examples:

  • Virtual school was really hard. I had no breaks and felt overwhelmed and exhausted the first three months of the pandemic. Assignments weren’t being completed, and the kids struggled to stay engaged online.
  • I stopped exercising during that time and lacked energy to do anything but get through the day.
  • I was disappointed that I couldn’t find time to write my leadership book. I thought I would have it almost completed by now.
  • I miss traveling and speaking in person. Several of the conferences I was contracted to speak at were canceled.

Once you have a completed list, either crumble it up and throw it away or throw it in a fire. The point is to release these events, situations and challenges to make way for a positive 2021.

Positive Focus Exercise. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write down everything positive that has happened this year. Don’t edit your thinking, just brainstorm. A few of my examples:

  • My family is healthy and safe.
  • I started a daily walking habit of at least two miles.
  • I successfully converted all my workshops to being virtual and completed over 45 engaging events.
  • I worked with a parenting coach and have shifted how I approach my daughter. I have seen a big improvement in our relationship.
  • I wrote a chapter for a book of stories that will be published this month.

2021 Planning Exercise. Answer the following questions/complete the prompts:

1.    What do I want to stop doing in 2021?

One of my examples:

  • I will stop watching TV at night during the week.

2.    What do I want to start doing in 2021?

Some of my examples:

  • I will start getting up at 6:00 a.m. for my morning ritual.
  • I will start meditating regularly again.
  • I will block out two full days on my calendar a month to work on my book.

3.    If 2021 were a successful year, I would …

Some of my examples:

  • The  manuscript for my leadership book will be completed by December 31, 2021.
  • I will continue to walk at least 5 days a week for 45 minutes.
  • I will launch a successful online leadership course.
  • I will write in each of my children’s journals at least every six weeks.

In addition to doing this as a personal exercise, you can also facilitate it with your team at work. This is a great way to release any challenges and negative energy at work, regroup and set goals for the coming year.

We can’t control all the events in our lives, but we can control how we plan and respond. No matter what 2021 brings, taking the time to release any negative energy from this year and honor the positives will set you up for a more positive and productive year ahead.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or lmaddalena@envisionexcellence.net.

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