Forget Goals, Focus on Intentions: My Yearly Planning Rituals That Set The Direction For A Powerful Year.

Ev Chapman
December 21, 2023

It’s that time of year when we look back and look forward and try to set some direction & intentions for the year.

I used to hate yearly planning. And I think it comes down to my relationship with goal setting. I’m not much of a goal setter. A year is a long time and I don’t like to be locked into heavy goals throughout the year.

But a few years ago I came up with this yearly planning routine that focused more on setting intentions for the year. Intentions can take you many places — like a navigator setting a direction in which to explore.

These 5 practices help me to set a powerful intention for how I want to show up throughout the year. And they guide all of my activities, my goals, my habits & how I show up on a daily basis.

I usually sit down somewhere between Christmas & New Years in a quite spot with a coffee and mull over the following 5 practices. Sometimes it’s one session, often it happens over a few days.

Practice 1: Make a Best Moments List

I start my yearly planning by looking back. The first thing I do is make a list that’s called my Best Moments List. A look back on all the great things that happened throughout the year.

I find looking back sets the stage to start thinking forward. And focusing on the positive moments puts me in a frame of mind to keep moving forward with intention on what I want MORE of out of life.

It’s easy to look back on all the things we want to improve. But sometimes it’s harder to force ourselves to look at all the positive things. So this is a great exercise, especially for high achievers.

I use my Tana day entries, calendar & photos on my phone to remind me of all the moments I had throughout the year & make a simple list. It’s easy to forget moments (especially those ones that happened early in the year) so having some prompts helps to jog your memory.

Practice 2: Make a More/Less List

Once I’ve got my best moments list I then start to get my mind working forward. I start off with a really simple more/less list.

  1. What are things I want more of in the new year?
  2. What are things I want less of in the new year?

I’ll use my best moments list as a jumping off point for this. Best moments tend to have themes that I can add to my more list (more best moments please!). And this gives me enough momentum to start brainstorming more things on both lists.

This list will guide the rest of the practices, but also help me to shape my days throughout the year and make sure I’m having more best moments.

Practice 3: Set 3–5 Areas Of Focus

Next I start to list down some areas I want to focus on. These can be areas I want to focus my learning around and explore more. Or they can be personal or work areas that I want to improve upon.

These often come from my exploration of best moments & more/less. So each of these practices builds on the next.

The areas will guide my reading & learning throughout the year. And they will also form the basis for a lot of the personal 30 day experiments I run throughout the year.

I usually choose between 3–5. Anymore and it gets too overwhelming. This gives me some good boundaries for exploration throughout the year. And that is important, because I am the kind of person who can go down random rabbit holes, so I like that the areas keep me (somewhat) focused.

Practice 4: Choose A Word Of The Year

The word of the year concept has been a powerful influence in my life for about 10 years now. Each year I choose one word that represents who I want to be in that year, how I want to show up, or a theme that I want to be pervasive throughout the year.

I usually look back at my more/less list & my best moments list and I start to think about how I can sum up how I want to show up in the following year.

Past words I have chosen have been: Kaizen, Play, High Vibe, Pro, Magic, Push & many others. In 2023 my word was Editor In Chief.

Some years these words just drop easily into my soul and I’m so certain of them as far out as October. Other years I’m still pondering on December 31st. But every year I trust that the word will play out and it always does.

To choose a word look back at everything you’ve done so far, the best moments, more/less, areas of interest and start to brainstorm a list of words that sum up your intention for the year. I tend to look through synonyms, words in other languages and ChatGPT can be really useful for this too!

When you find something that sparks… you’ve landed on your word.

Once I have something locked in I create an image for my phone homescreen and it sits there the whole year. I’m on my phone everyday, so it’s a constant reminder to keep showing up in the way I intended.

My Phone Homescreen This Year With My Word Of The Year — Editor In Chief

Practice 5: Vision Board

Finally I sum it all up in a vision board. I’ve used vision boards for years as a visual representation of my intentions. Not just as something pretty to look at. But there is something powerful in visualisation.

To start I usually go to Pinterest or google and grab a bunch of photos that represent things in my more list, my areas of interest & in my word of the year.

Then I go into Canva and get creative! I put my Word of the Year in the centre and then place the photos all around. This often ends up as my screen on my laptop throughout the year so I see it everyday.

My 2023 Vision Board (made in Canva)

This way there is no setting intentions & then forgetting them. Literally everyday either on my phone or my computer I’m reminded of the intentions I set for myself throughout the year.

A Note About Goal Setting

I don’t completely neglect goals. I just don’t set them on a yearly basis. I’ll use my Monthly & Cycle Planning sessions to set my goals. I find smaller goals with smaller time frames tend to work better for me. And I can use the intentions I set for the year to guide those goals.

This routine has become one of my favourites throughout the year. It takes the pressure off of setting goals and puts it firmly on how you want to show up as a person in the new year.

I hope it inspires you to design a year full of intention, best moments and more of the things in life that you want.

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