Getting Ready for Next Year: Mapping Your Course

20 December 2013, by A. Cedilla

Have you written down your plans for next year?

Having a plan in mind is better than having no plan at all.

Even better is writing it down — doing that sets your mind free; you’re free to work things out and play with how the different factors and players could work together for the best outcome, and free to aim for the best results while planning back-ups (just in case things fall through at certain weak points). If you have a good idea of what you want and need to make happen in 2014, write it down. You need a map to navigate next year. And by ‘map’ I don’t mean a to-do list. Those are relatives, the close cousins of what I’m talking about.

By ‘map’ I really mean goals. With no goals and no direction, your chances of influencing events to your favor go down, and you’ll likely get what you’re getting now. Are you truly okay with what you have now?

Things won’t change on their own. Situations may develop differently, but if you don’t actively take charge to protect your own interests and make the change, if you don’t act to change the situation you’re in, it won’t happen.

In connection with last week’s article and your plans for a whole new year, drawing up a map means getting your bearing and your direction. ‘Bearing’ is where you are in relation to something else. In travel terms, this means knowing where you are, and marking that down as a starting point. As in a place to start from. Getting your bearing gives you Point A. Direction is where you want to be at the end of the process.

You decide the points B,C, D, etc. from there until you hit your intended goal, which is a better place for you– that may or may not include improved Points A, B,C, D, etc. — or a better situation for you still at Point A. It’s your map, it’s your choice.

You need to prep for this, of course. Daydreams are a nice escape during idle hours, but it’s brains (thinking, prioritizing and deciding) and brawn (action) that gets you from Point A to Your New Happy Place.

  • You study – No half-assing it with some of the links that come up in the search engine results. You want reliable, trustworthy sources — from people who know what they’re talking about, and data that gives you the cold, hard facts about the options you’re entertaining. At the core, knowledge gives you options: Know the rules backwards and sideways before you decide to break them. It will save you a whole lot of grief down the line.
  • You double-check. You verify if your facts are facts and not anecdata , you bring up the facts and check them against a list what you need. This is known as due diligence.
  • You brainstorm, and pick off the weakest links. The survivors are picked apart for viability and fit.
  • You act. Acting on something is taking action. Taking action can mean a lot of things:
  • Looking for, finding and asking for help from people who have already succeeded at what you’re starting out with
  • Taking a moment to center yourself when you’re under pressure.
  • Giving yourself enough leeway in a day by not over-committing to a lot of things.
  • Adjusting the schedule or activity when something important or urgent comes up (thus the leeway, which gives you room to move).

We’re almost done with this year, and you’re already thinking about what next year can bring. You may be even thinking about 5, 10, 20 years down the road and feeling a lot of trepidation. These things may be a bit too far out, so chunk time down…build from the ground up, build forward. All we have is the present really, no need to rush ahead of yourself (that just makes it easier to trip.)

Take a moment to see the year in highlights — data gathering is necessary to bringing up the big picture

  • What hurt you the most this year, and how do you learn from it for next going, going forward? We must all go forward, even if we’re still hurting.
  • What gave you the most satisfaction of having accomplished this year?
  • What were the hardest lessons you learned?
  • How about filling in the blanks? Before 2014 ends, I want _____.

Go back to your big picture, seeing things break down in medium (but still important) pictures. One big thing can be overwhelming, a few medium things (making up the big thing) is easier on the brain and the multi-tasking, oddly enough. This is called breaking down into phases.

  • Think harder. Look for loopholes and weak spots. Look for the fine print and read it. Ask for help understanding it if it’s difficult to wade through.
  • Think in color (emotionally) and then in black-and-white (logic, a la Spock.)
  • Think upside down and sideways. Think backwards — think in opposition.


If last week’s article was about the goals and the obstacles, the broad strokes, this is about amassing the necessary resources and girding yourself up for the actual work–pretty much like it’s the first day pf school–each month, each week, each day until you hit your goals. Prepping is the grunt work in achievement, like making sure you’re in good shape physically, financially, emotionally and mentally to do something demanding.

A map is useless without your bearing and your direction. If you don’t know where you are and you don’t know what direction you’re facing, the map won’t help you. Know where you are. Find out where you want to go. Have back ups and alternate routes.

Also, even then maps are only supposed to be guides for you along the way. Doing the work is not limited to crossing off items. It is doing the work. That’s the difference between maps and the terrain. GPS can tell you where you are, but won’t mention if it’s raining, if there’s a transit strike, if your co-workers are in a collective slump, if your boss /your friend/your spouse/your child has had A Very Bad Day, and you have to adjust accordingly. Psyche yourself up to take on the challenge, and prepare to embrace the journey.

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