Planning The Year Ahead: Use Good Questions to Get Good Results

13 December 2013, by A. Cedilla

One way to getting good results is, oddly enough, to ask good questions. You can easily start off with the simplest ones: the answers to what, why, when, how and where bridges the gap between good intentions and actual results.

Try to remember what your New Year’s resolutions were from last year. Did any of them make it, and if they did, how did you go about it?

  • What were the things that you aimed for? How many did you get?
  • Why did you choose those things? Towards what end did getting these things change your life? What aspects of your life were they concerned with? (i.e financial, physical, educational, relationships, self-improvement, etc.)
  • When did you want them, time-wise? How realistically did you allot time towards each goal, and what did your estimates show you about yourself?
  • How was the experience like? How did you keep going until you made it? What resources and support did you use or get?
  • Where are you in your life now with these things? How did you measure the improvement before and after you attained your goals? How much did it make a difference for you? Are you willing to do it again with the new skills you’ve learned for next year?

Seeing what you did this year, what about next year? What new way of scaring yourself are you willing to try so you can push yourself past old boundaries and the limits of what you think you can do?

Super tip: Try out Scout Wilkin’s short video, “How To Change Habits Using Your Unconscious Mind.” In less than three minutes you learn to flip the questions and jump-start your perspective when it comes to breaking down the mental blocks to your progress.

Successfully reaching one’s goals is an involved process. To replicate success, you need to go over what was involved in that success. To analyze failures, don’t gloss over your accountability, especially when it comes to laying out the facts. Hiding doesn’t serve anyone, and in this case, will just make it harder for you to get a clear picture.

Anticipate roadblocks and obstacles. This is brain exercise: mental rehearsal, psychological preparation and factoring in ease.

It helps very much to keep records: you can track energy levels on a weekly basis, see if you work better in the morning, afternoon or evening,etc. and get a feel to set a realistic gauge of yourself and the amount of actual, value-producing work you can generate on a timely basis.

Active commitment comes from within, and the work is done every day. That’s the boring, painful truth. So this is the time where you can check in with your calendar and daily planner for the year and get several clear images of how you reasonably handled your usual workload.

From that you get an idea of how much good work you can expect from yourself over a day, over a week, and over time. You’ll also get an idea of the following:

  • The best time of day for you to do certain things, like planning, handling communication, management, recharging, etc.
  • Your most productive time of day, or days of the the week. Any slow seasons, any peak ones too.


Pick a calm environment to do this back-tracking, otherwise you might undermine your own resolve with distractions. Schedule time to identify your specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals for the coming year. SMART may be a hackneyed acronym, but it works when you use it correctly. What more do you need?

Assess your strengths. Use your weaknesses. When you know where it is that you keep tripping up, you can set barriers so you don’t have to get to that point.

Engaging motivation is the link maker – you need to tie in your intention with the result and the scheduled tasks connected to those results. If you know that X is your weak spot, maybe you can outsource X to people who are better at it, leaving you to focus on Y and Z. Or you can do X first and put Y and Z where you can’t get to them, so you have no excuses.

Practice flexibility. Accept interruptions and changes can and will happen, so don’t try to ‘maximize’ the day by over-scheduling. It’s easy to overlook things when you do that. Pay attention to the most important things first.

Learn from the past: Schedule weekly recaps, what went on, what went well, what went wrong — and how to prevent missteps and mistakes from happening again, if you can.

Build those weekly recaps up for the monthly assessment, which ties in to quarterly goals. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Did I make the best use of my time in these weeks to bring me up and prepared for the next phase of my plans for world domination?

THEN go on to what you can do a little bit better this coming week. Hard work cut down into smaller chunks and sprinkled with rewards (and rest periods) make for a more balanced workweek.

Set realistic expectations. Planning the year ahead is easier to do that carry out, because it’ll be a mix of sprints, marathons, walks and boring, hard hikes. These are the winding-down days of the year; take advantage of the season to think about what you want to make real in your life for the next year.


Your goals don’t have to be spectacular, spectacular us something seen from off the stage. Remember, you’re doing this heavy thinking now, and the heavy lifting as well. Adoration and adulation aren’t enough good enough fuel for that. Make sure your goals are important enough to you to take the hits willingly.

  • Thinking is hard, especially when it’s about possible unpleasantness. Fantasizing is easier, more fun, everything’s roses and nothing hurts.
  • Bare-knuckle mental grappling is exhausting. Fortify yourself so you can do the (mental) heavy lifting that would make is easier for you in the longer run.


Even factor in the things you know will eat away at your determination: your most common excuses -“tomorrow,” “later” and “not now.” Then work them off — if you do this much of X, you can: take a pee break, go get coffee, do a few push-ups and stretching exercises, go out and take a walk, etc. Planning is a mental state of busyness: First you see chaos, then you make sense of it.

  • This is just a full mental brain dump.
  • THIS is what I want to change.
  • THIS is what I have.
  • THIS is where I want to be in X, Y, Z time.
  • THIS is the stuff in my way /to get in my way.
  • THIS is probably what I have to attend to in the foreseeable future – I don’t see them changing anytime soon.
  • THIS is what I’ll take the hits for.
  • THIS will be how I remind myself the goals are worth it.

Take the time to think. Think deep, think things through, play around with possibility. Think of the perfect day, the very best day ever, and then think backwards as to how it happens. Go nuts and think of the best days ever, looking back on a lifetime of work, with family, with friends, by yourself and communing with the cosmos. Dream big and aim for the stars.

Even if you miss, you might hit the moon, and it’s be a bit further on and higher up than you were before it all started, eh? You’re working to be in a better place.

Thinking ahead is really mental rehearsal. You practice it again and again, trying the likeliest scenarios, finding the loopholes, building in leeway so the system is resilient enough to absorb and recover from any assault, shock or backlash — not to mention human error.

You’re handling things. You’re managing. You’re in charge, you’re doing well, you’re making it.

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