You don’t need to wait for New Years to plan out your year

I turned 40 at the end of August.

(Hallelujah! Seriously.)

When I was a kid, 40 seemed SO OLD to me. Like it was the pinnacle of being an adult. Now that I’m here, I can assure you it feels way less like the pinnacle of adulthood and way more like any other year of my life. 

Perhaps that’s why I felt so compelled to switch things up. I didn’t want it to feel like just another year. I wanted to usher in this new decade with intentionality and joy. I wanted to set goals for myself and try new things. Most of all, I wanted this year (and decade) to be one of growth and exploration. 

Years past (like, back when I was 30), I would create a bucket list of sorts for the year ahead of things that I wanted do. Some would be easy, some would be silly, and some would be serious stretches. All chosen to get me out of my comfort zone and learn something new about myself. 

But that wasn’t as appealing to me now as it had been when I was 30.

When I came across this post from The Lifestyle Files, I realized that I wanted something with a bit more structure and a bit less whimsy. (I also wasn’t convinced I could come up with 40 things to do before turning 41. 😂)

I had some delicious alone time last week while my husband was at a concert. I read lots of interesting things, listened to music that edified my soul, and spent time mapping out how I wanted the next year of my life to unfold.

I wrote down my themes for the year and my personal goals for each of those buckets. I thought about what kind of things I wanted to spend my time working on (my professional goals), my financial goals, and began a mini-bucket list of things I wanted to do this year (that I plan to add to as the year goes on).

Finally, I chose 3 priorities for the current month (which I plan to do for each month between now and next year’s birthday). All of them relate in some way or another to the personal, professional, and financial goals that I chose for myself.

I have to say, it feels GOOD to map that out and to be able to choose 3 small things to work on this month that I know will have a big impact on my health and happiness. (Want to know what those 3 things are? You can find them here.)

Why wait until January to plan out  your year? Why not use your birthday (or a random Tuesday) instead. Here are 6 areas to think about when planning out your year. #goals #planning #personalgoals #professionalgoals #personalgrowth #development #lists #writingprompts

Want to do something similar for yourself? Or, better yet, save the template for when YOUR birthday rolls around? Below are all of the buckets I used in my own planning plus the actual plan that I came up with for myself. 

The main categories

  • Themes for the year 
  • Personal Goals
  • Professional Goals
  • Financial Goals
  • Mini Bucket List
  • Monthly Progress 

My personal plan

Themes for the year:

  • Creative Expression
  • Self-Care
  • Mindfulness
  • Growth

Personal Goals:

Creative Expression:

  • Carve out time every day for some form of creative expression (writing, drawing, painting, photography, etc).
  • Follow along with at least 2 different creative challenges online (#inktober #augustbreak #100dayproject etc.)
  • Do at least 1 art project a week with my daughter


  • Carve out time every day for some form of self-care (journaling, foot soak, bath, being outside, going to a museum, Phipps, massage, doing my nails, girls night out, coffee dates with friends, time alone, weekend away, family vacation, etc)
  • Meditate daily.
  • Exercise at least 3x a week.
  • Nourish my body with good food — more salads, vegetables, and soups that fill me up and make me feel taken care of.
  • Find a babysitter and go out with Michael or take an afternoon for myself 1x/mo.


  • Focus on doing one task at a time.
  • Reduce the time spent on my phone, particularly when I’m with my daughter.
  • Reduce food waste — really use what we have and being mindful of not overbuying.
  • Practice gratitude daily.


  • Read at least 1 book per week.
  • Sign up for and complete at least 1 skill-based class (art, tarot, healing modality, etc.)
  • Teach a class or workshop on a topic of interest
  • Join a book club that focuses on personal growth and spirituality

Professional Goals:

  • Clarity around the kind of work that brings me joy and fulfillment so I can be of service to others.
  • Have freedom and flexibility with work so that I can be present and focused with my family.

Financial Goals:

  • No new clothing purchases for an entire year unless it’s an absolute need (doesn’t include underwear, undershirts, or socks).
  • Mindfulness when it comes to spending and making sure to live within our budget.
  • Sell the items in our basement that we have been wanting to let go of.

The Mini Bucket List:

  • Weekend away with my husband
  • Evening away by myself
  • Weekend retreat to work on business goals and ideas
  • Have a reading with Helen from Healing Helen
  • Take a cooking class

Monthly Progress

Create a running list each month with the following information:

  • Top 3 Priorities
  • Successes
  • Books read

Your turn! I’d love to hear what you think about the process and whether you found it helpful to work through. Also, was there anything that you wanted on the list or found yourself adding that wasn’t there?

Pin for later: 

Why wait until January to plan out  your year? Why not use your birthday (or a random Tuesday) instead. Here are 6 areas to think about when planning out your year. #goals #planning #personalgoals #professionalgoals #personalgrowth #development #lists #writingprompts

More about Emily Levenson

Emily Levenson is a therapist turned holistic health coach, podcaster, meditation encourager, and seeker of everyday magic. Emily recently kicked off her third #The100DayProject, focusing her efforts on daily meditation.

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