Since 2016, I’ve chosen a word of the year. This word (or sometimes a phrase) is what I use to help me set my intention for the year and guide me on my business journey.
I use this word to set my goals, check in on progress, and realign myself when I start to go off track. It’s something full of purpose and meaning, not just something I give lip service to.
Here are the words/phrases I’ve chosen for the past 4 years:
- 2016 – Discover
- 2017 – Purposeful Path
- 2018 – Abundance
- 2019 – Less, But Better
Like anything else in business, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and buzz of business owners shouting out their word of the year from their internet rooftops. I’ve very intentionally been sharing my quitely with close friends and colleagues, so as not to add to that noise.
Instead of just shouting out my 2020 word of the year, I thought I would take some time to talk a bit about my process in case you haven’t decided upon a word yet, or if it’s something you’ve struggled with before.
In today’s post, I’m sharing how to:
- choose a word of the year,
- build your word into your plan, and
- leverage your word throughout the year.
Having a word of the year is something I encourage all leaders to have, as well as an exercise I recommend they do with their team members. I’ll share a bit more on this later in the post.
Choosing A Word of the Year
I don’t actually choose a word of the year. My word finds me.
That might leave you scratching your head a bit, so please allow me to explain. The first part of my process occurs through quiet time to reflect on and journal about the year that’s ending. I’ve learned a lot of amazing reflection questions and year-end review processes from my friend and mentor, Kathryn Hofer of Modern Planner.
This period of reflection allows me to celebrate what went well, identify areas of improvement, and notice any themes or patterns that occurred. I often discover common feelings, emotions, or frustrations that I experienced throughout the year, as well.
By being reflective, I come to learn what it is I need more or less of in the coming year.
My 2020 word of the year found me in a booth at Panera, where I was sipping a cinnamon spice latte, eating quiche, and doodling in my notebook.
A lot of what came up for me in 2019 is that I was stretched in too many different directions. My schedule was overly stuffed, my commitments were off the charts, and I was left feeling used up and, if I’m being totally transparent, resentful.
I sat there knowing that there was no one to blame but myself. I had allowed these things to happen. I hadn’t maintained healthy boundaries, I said yes far too often, and I didn’t make space or time to do the things that were most important to me.
As I mentioned in my 2019 year-end-review post, I did achieve some pretty amazing things in 2019, but there was still much left undone both in my business, as well as my personal life. And I didn’t want to do it all by stretching myself too thin, running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and being perpetually exhausted.
My sister once shared with me on our weekly call that she didn’t know how I kept up with everything I had going on, to which I deafeatedly replied, “I have no idea either.”
My 2020 word of the year was born out of these, and other similar, frustrations and reflections.
It started off with a doodling of how I wanted to focus more on me in the new year. How I truly needed (not just simply wanted) to be more selfish. But of course, selfish couldn’t be my word of the year, right? It felt too cold, too harsh, too…narcissistic.
As I sat doodling thoughts, feelings, and words, my 2020 word of the year found me – TEND.
Building Your Word into Your Plan
As I sat with TEND, it showed me how it was the perfect word for me in the new year and how I could build it into my overall plan.
I could tend to my needs, wants, and goals.
I could tend to my business. I could tend to my health. I could tend to my marriage. I could tend to my family. I could tend to my space. I could tend to my creativity.
I could tend to living as a human being. Not a human doing.
Tend focused on self in a loving, caring, and purposeful way. Tend didn’t take away from someone else in order to love and serve myself well.
Tend allowed me to create a plan that builds my business while serving others and myself in the best possible ways.
Tend built upon my phrase of 2019 of “less, but better” – which I did accomplish with great success, but without the emphasis of serving myself and my business more wholly.
You see, tend isn’t selfish. Tend showed me how taking care of myself allows me to show up and tend the areas and people in my life that matter most to me. It helps me to be well, in order to serve others well.
Once tend found me, I got to work planning out the new year ahead of me. How does tend manifest in my business, relationships, and life? Where can I tend to myself better, in order to serve better and live a fuller, more intentional life?
Leveraging Your Word Throughout the Year
I believe in building a plan for the year, not just for my business. And I like to break it down into three parts: business, relationships, and life (my personal life). Doing so allows me to maximize my word and leverage it in different areas throughout the year.
In the following sections, I’ll share some (but not all!) of the ways that I’m planning on leveraging my word in these three areas throughout the year.
Business: I intentionally set only 3 overarching business goals for this year, tying together 2019’s “less, but better” and 2020’s “tend” together. (I believe that our words of the years should build upon one another to promote personal growth.) Having fewer goals means I can focus more clearly on the important things, ensure that anything I say yes to directly ties to one of those goals, and build in plenty of white space to tend to my needs. By tending to myself in these ways, I can show up for my audience and the clients I serve more fully.
* This is a great exercise to do with your team! By identifying and tying a word of the year to their professional goals, they will develop a more personal connection to the company and a greater sense of ownership for their goals and objectives. With only 15% of employees strongly agreeing that the leadership of their company makes them feel enthusiastic about the future, this is a great opportunity for you to step it up!
Relationships: As my husband and I were driving here and there to be with family over the holidays, I realized how little quality time we spent together in 2019. This past year was especially difficult for us because of the sudden loss of his father in July and a particularly busy year in his business. We talked about how we wanted to go on more dates, have more adventures, and plan more intentionally for time off together. We’ve already been on a day trip and a couple of spontaneous date nights this month and are loving it! My husband and I have also set some goals around projects, finances, and purchases we will be working toward in the new year. We love having joint goals because they help strengthen our bond as a united front and give us something meaningful to work toward together. These are some of the ways we will better tend to our marriage throughout the year.
And for family, we started working toward tending those relationships in 2019. It’s sad how the loss of someone you love so dearly makes you stop and think, “Take the time to connect now before it’s too late.” We’ve made more visits to our family (both of whom live 2.5 hours drive from our home), call more frequently, and make more of an effort to be engaged in their lives. For you never truly know how long you have with your loved ones. We’ve been loving the opportunities we’ve created to tend to our families and the ways we’ll continue to work toward this in 2020.
Life: I don’t believe in setting New Year’s Resolutions. I almost feel like it’s a surefire way to totally both a goal and fail in the first 30 days of the year. That’s why I think a word of the year, an intention for how I want to experience the year in whole, feels much more purposeful for me. Rather than saying, “I want to lose 30 pounds this year,” I want to focus on living a healthier life all around. Getting outdoors, drinking water, moving my body, and experiencing life to the fullest. Taking care of myself through monthly visits to the chiropractor and massage therapy, as well as bi-weekly visits to my therapist for mental and emotional wellness. I want to tend to my overall wellbeing, whether that be physical, mental, emotional, or creative.
Choosing a word of the year is such a personal experience and one that should be thoughtful and reflect where you are on your journey. Sometimes, my word of the year has been expansive, other times it’s called me to hone in and focus. The most important part of choosing a word of the year is to select one that is meaningful and motivating to you. To spend time getting to know your word and how it will play out in your business, relationships, and your life. A word of the year is only as good as the intention behind it.