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DOWNLOAD ANNUAL PLANNER

Each year, January brings with it the idea that maybe we really can start over. It’s a faint promise, a whisper of hope. The past is now forever in the past and with the turning of the calendar a renewed sense of the possible returns.

As I’ve pondered this reality, I find myself wondering: what actually changes with the new year?

In one sense, nothing changes. It is merely another day, one more rotation of the earth, another sunset followed by another sunrise, another 24 hours in a long, long series of 24 hours.

And yet, in some other sense, everything changes. We awaken to a new year with fresh eyes, new excitement and a vigorous belief that we can finally become the person we’ve always dreamed we would be.

This is a grace, a gift from a God who knows we will make mistakes, we will not be the people we desire, and throughout our lives, we will need many fresh starts. And so as a gift to his creation, God institutes seasons, and rhythms and years. This is nothing new. Several hundred years before Jesus was born, King Solomon stated: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiates 3:1).

It is a reality set forth in creation. Summer follows spring and leads to fall which ushers in winter. Every year. And in this rhythm we find within our soul hope for a better tomorrow.

In fact, this is the point of the Bible: the world is broken and needs a savior. We are broken and need a savior. I am broken and need a savior. And one day, it will not be the turning of the calendar that brings the idea of hope, but the returning of Jesus who will bring ultimate hope and peace once and for all.

As we usher in 2019, we stare down 365 new opportunities to begin again. As we steward another year, we are told to walk wisely, making the most use of time (Eph 5:15-16) and that requires us spending time thinking through a plan for the year.

Below are some steps I believe you will find helpful in mapping out this new year. As you move through them, consider all aspects for your life: relational, spiritual, vocational, and personal.

Consider the important.

If you want to spend your time and therefore your days wisely, you must first determine what is actually important. It’s a good practice to start each year by listing every thing that seems important to you: family, friends, work, finances, church, spiritual growth, education, physical health, hobbies, etc.

Once you’ve listed all the things you consider important you should then rank them in order of importance. This will help you further define what things should receive priority and will aid you in creating a plan for 2019.

Author and leadership guru Patrick Lencioni famously said: “If everything is important, then nothing is.” This simple exercise will bring clarity in determining what is truly important and guide you in knowing where you want to invest your time and energy throughout the new year.

Schedule the important.

After determining which things are actually important to you, begin to list the ways you plan to invest in them this year. Perhaps you’re going to take some classes and begin working on your degree or pick up a new hobby or schedule a regular date night or begin serving on a new team at church or start reading.

Now that you know what’s important and how you want to invest in those things, begin to quantify them and them on a calendar. How many books will you read and when? How often will you have a date night? When will the new classes begin?

I have created an annual planning calendar that I use to help me think through the year in natural rhythms (you can download a copy of it here). What needs to happen daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually?

  • Daily – prayer & bible reading, exercise, homework, family dinner, bed time routines
  • Weekly – date nights, sabbath, learning, meal prep, hobbies, chores
  • Monthly – bill pay, special time with the kids, budget review, overview of next month, time with friends
  • Quarterly – weekend or day trips, special events, financial review, outings with friends
  • Annually – vacations, anniversaries, birthdays, tag renewals, holidays

Once you have completed your list and assigned them to the correct place in the calendar, begin putting actual dates next to each. If date nights are going to happen every Thursday, schedule the first one. If vacation needs to take place the fourth week of July, book it. If you’re going to join a Grace Community, reach out and get it on the schedule with a date and time.

Revisit the important.

Now that you have a road map for your year, go back and schedule time to review your plan. Take a few minutes each evening to think through the way you want to spend tomorrow, schedule some time each week to think through how well you executed your plan this week and how you will modify or tweak the plan next week. Share your plan with a spouse or good friend and ask them check in on you throughout the year. Having some small bit of accountability will help ensure you reach your goals and truly do prioritize those things you consider important.

The Christian author and philosopher C.S. Lewis challenges us to consider this: “Isn’t it funny how day to day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”

We have a good God who has given us the gift of a new year. This time next year, everything will be difference once again. Let’s steward our story well in 2019 so that we will be best prepared to steward the stories of others as we seek to take our next steps toward Christ.