7 Things You Can Do to Start the New Year Off Right

The new year is a time of hope. With the old year behind us, we can do anything. But really, this year, what will you do now to make sure you have the best year ever? Many people make resolutions...

The new year is a time of hope. With the old year behind us, we can do anything.

But really, this year, what will you do now to make sure you have the best year ever?

Many people make resolutions every year that they never follow. What can you do to make sure you actually change for the better?

Here are seven things you can do to start the new year off right. Some are easy and some are harder. But all of them have the potential to improve your life so you end next year in a better place.

1. Take a Look Back at Last Year

Before making any moves for the new year, it make sense to take a second to slow down and look at the past year. Be brutally honest. What worked? What didn’t?

Are you where you thought you should be?

If you aren’t, why?

This isn’t the time to beat yourself up about the things that didn’t work. It’s just feedback so you can figure out what to do differently this year.

2. Take A Big Picture Look at the Year

The new year is a good time to take a holistic look at the year.

When you look at the year at a whole, what does it look like? Are you going to have a busy period? When are you planning to see family? Marking those periods on the calendar will mean you’ll already have big obligations down. When a new event comes up, you can take a look at your calendar and know if you’ve already committed to something big.

Get a big yearly calendar or sit down with your online calendar. Mark down birthdays and anniversaries, and then put a reminder in there so you can remember send a card or buy a gift on time.

If you want to travel this year, how much do you think it will be? Start saving a bit every month now. What about Christmas gifts? Go ahead and put $50 a month away now so you’ll have the cash when you need it. You can put systems in place now to make the rest of the year easier.

3. Set Financial Goals to Start the New Year Right

With your big picture plan of the year, it’s easier to set realistic financial goals. Are you going to pay down debt this year? Are you going to save more for retirement? Or perhaps you want to manage your cash flow better? Whatever your goal is, you can set something in place that will make it easier for you to do better this year than last year.

Perhaps you want to pay off debt this year, so you’ve decided to pay more attention to what you’re spending. You could hook up your accounts to an account aggregation site like Mint or Personal Capital.

If you want to save more for retirement, you can bump up your 401(k) savings amount by a few percent. It takes once to do it, and you’ll save more the whole year.

Figure out your goal, and do something to get started right away.

4. Choose Something to Start Doing

Jerry Seinfeld is a household name that millions of Americans know and love. He’s funny, and he delivers over and over again. One time when he was asked about how a young comic could become funnier, Seinfeld told the young comedian that best way to was to write comedy every day.

He added a little tidbit that’s incredibly useful outside the world of comedy. He advised the young comedian to set up a big calendar, and then mark a big red X for every day that the comedian wrote. After a few days of writing every day, there would be the beginning of a chain. And then after that, the only thing was to not break the chain. It’s a powerful strategy to consistently do something.

Daily action is what really creates change. So what can you start today that you can do every day? Since it’s a daily action, it’s best to choose something small you know you can do without fail. It’s more important that you do something every day rather than doing something impressive every once in awhile.

5. Choose Something to Stop

Since you’re adding something new to your life, it’s an appropriate time to also stop doing something. What currently drains energy from your life? Do you have a social event that you feel obligated to go to? What would be the worst thing that would happen if you decided to not do it this year?

You’ll free up time and energy to do something new that will help you create a better year.

6. Use your enthusiasm to help yourself get committed to something

Willpower is often at the peak at the new year. After a whole season of indulgence, it feels good to buckle down. Take advantage of your abundance of willpower to do something that will help you keep reaching your goals after the motivation fades.

If you want to grow your income this year by building marketable skills, book a class and then tell someone about it. You won’t want to miss out on the money, so you’ll go to the class. And by telling someone else, you’ll feel like a fool if you back out. When your future self would rather eat take-out on the couch instead of going to class, you’ll still be committed enough to go.

You could even take the time to book your dentist and doctor appointments for the whole year. While you’re on the high of enthusiasm, take care of your future self who doesn’t want to bother.

7. Create an environment that will help you succeed

When you’re trying hard to do something new, regularly encountering old temptations makes it difficult to commit to a new behavior. Using your burst of willpower to change your environment for the better is a great way to make progress on your new goals.

Think about your house. If you’d like to save money by cooking at home, post a list of your favorite recipes. Organize your kitchen so you can actually find the leftover containers to make it easier to pack your lunch.

It’s helpful to control your physical surroundings, but spend a moment thinking about your mental space too. What kinds of things are you saying to yourself in your head? If you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, stop and figure out a more positive thought. You can even post goals or affirmations in an easy to see place so you’re putting the right messages in your head.

Thinking positive thoughts isn’t the only thing you need to succeed, but it does keep you in a positive, opportunistic frame of mind that will help you take advantage of the right opportunities when they come along.