A new year is upon us and with that an opportunity to start fresh! Refocus on what you truly want and start building the habits to get you those things. So let’s look at the first 100 days of the year. That’s one-third of the year, folks—a respectable chunk of time, but not so long to be unachievable or daunting. So what can you do, and how will you do it to get to where you want to be?! Here are some tips.

Planning, Planning, Planning: If you have read any of my stuff or ever heard me speak – you know I always start with planning! It’s the most important step in getting what you want and where you want to be. As the folks at AAA have told us for years, you can’t get where you’re going without a map. And in life, you can’t achieve pretty much anything worthwhile without a plan.

It doesn’t have to be hard-bound, comprehensive, 20-chapter official document that includes all your history. This is overkill and usually by the time you finish a document that big, the year is over and you either have to start again or have lost A LOT of time!

Start simple. Begin with a brief description of where you are, where you want to be, and the resources you have at hand. Spend some time on this to get really clear on what you really want. Once you have it all written down start brainstorming! Think about strategies, tactics, and timeframes to get you there. Edit them down to a realistic assortment of tasks, and you’ve got a basic starting point—it’s as simple as that.

Fire It Up: A lot of plans end up sitting on the shelf because of lack of follow-through. If you have a project management style you like to use it can help, but in reality, all you need is a calendar. It will prove to be the most useful tool. Walk through your plan thoroughly and schedule the bits and pieces, even the smallest ones, on what appears to be a reasonable timeline.

You know, researchers say it takes 60 days to establish a new habit; within your 100-day plan, you’ve got time to build a few of these! Choose wisely. Pick the things that will have the most impact and a few that you know will be easy to stick to. Little victories help keep your motivation going!

Be sure to keep an eye out for heavy-activity periods; some tasks will need to take place at a certain time (i.e., monthly or end of the quarter), but others are more flexible—space them out accordingly. Be generous with teasers, ticklers, and reminders to keep the essential parts of your plan on schedule, and be sure to note some clear milestones to track your progress.
With a 100-day approach, there should be something noted for every day. Even weekends—those activities are called “rest, refresh, and revitalize.” Take them seriously!

Prioritize Strategically: Those are two very important words. Prioritize the elements of your plan in terms of their importance. It’s always tempting to tackle the simpler tasks first—grab that low-hanging fruit—but rarely are these the keys to success. (If they were, EVERYBODY would be successful.)

Be strategic in how you build the schedule. And keep in mind that quite often, taking care of those tasks that you dread first can pay major dividends. That can be a good approach for your daily to-do list just as it can within the context of your 100-day plan.

One of the best things about having a plan is being able to evaluate a potential activity in terms of whether or not it supports your major goals. See where it fits…and if it doesn’t, re-think whether it even needs to be on your to-do list.

(You can use the basic four-prong test, urgent or not urgent, important or not important. And if it’s not urgent OR important? Well, why are you doing it?)

Your next 100 days could be more fruitful than you’d ever expect. Take this opportunity to lay the groundwork for success, and you’re likely to end up in a winning position come May….when it’s time to start your NEXT 100 days!