If You Want to Have a Great 2014, Spend an Hour Doing This

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s something magical about the first days of the New Year. Everyone is settling back to work from the holidays so time moves a little bit slower. You have room to breathe in deep, to reflect on your year, to set goals for the future.

Toast to a New Year 148/365

Photo by Eric Tastad (Creative Commons)

Every year during this time, I carve out five or six hours over two or three days where I don’t do any work. Instead, I spend the first few days of the new year by myself with a pad of paper reflecting on the year and dreaming about the year to come.

This is the best part of my year. More than Christmas candy and New Years’ champagne, it helps me relax and refocus. And with just a few hours over a two or three days, it sustains my work for months. 

So today, the day after the first day of 2014, I want to invite you to reflect and dream with me.

Reflect First

What did you love about your 2013? Where did you struggle?

We reflect for two reasons: It helps us learn how to make our future better. But reflection is also an end in itself. As a storyteller, your memory is one of your greatest assets, and delving into the best and worst parts of your year is an important exercise.

Take time to reflect on 2013. Evaluate on any goals you set the year before, and write a few sentences about any event you can think of.

Then, Reconnect With Your Desire

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions. Why would you want to create goals around things you don’t want to do?

Instead, I like spending this time reconnecting with my desire. What do I really want to do in the next year? What do I really want to accomplish? How do I want to grow, and who do I want to become?

This isn’t a time for half-hearted dreams. I only focus on my deepest desires.

As I reconnect, I set two to four goals for the next year. Why so few? Because resolve is a limited resource, and if you really want to accomplish your goals, it’s important to put all your desire behind just a few dreams that are really important to you.

What Are Your Dreams?

So how about you? Ask yourself the following questions to spur your dreaming:

  • What do you want, really want, in 2014?
  • What do you want to accomplish this year?
  • Who do you want to become?
  • This time next year, when you look back at what you did in 2014, what stories do you want to be able to tell?
  • And how will it feel once you accomplish these goals?

One final note, as you dream, make sure to focus on each area of your life: personal, professional, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Most people focus only one or two of these areas when they dream (I tend to focus on the professional aspects and especially neglect personal goals), but to be happy and healthy, it’s important to plan for the whole of your person.


Spend fifteen minutes (or several hours) reflecting on your year and dreaming about the next. Make a list of all your memories from 2013, and create two to four goals that represent your deepest desires for 2014.

When you’re ready, share your goals and two or three of your memories in the comments section.

Happy New Year!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Ron Estrada

    2013 was my “back to writing” year after the Dark Years. Here’s my list:
    Brushed up a manuscript I’d finished several years ago and submitted it to an agent.
    Attended a wrtier’s conference, first one in several years.
    Chose several blogs to follow regularly (this one came in late!).
    Really focused on learning story structure. And then applying it.
    Planted a heirloom vegetable garden from seeds started indoors.
    Paid off massive amounts of debt (the Dave plan).
    Found a writing partner who is as committed as I am.
    Treated my wife to a NY city trip to fulfill one of her dreams–to get to the crown of the Statue of Liberty (very cool…and small).
    Read 52 books and even started a facebook group for others to do the same.

    Now for 2014:
    Complete the current novel and one more.
    Work on gaining a following with 52 Books and other ventures.
    Focus on character development and read at least 5 books on the subject.
    Sign with an agent (yes, after 10 years and 4 books, I’m ready).

    God bless and Happy New year!

    • The Striped Sweater

      Ron, are you in charge of the 52 Books Goodreads group?

      • Ron Estrada

        No, that’s someone else. I need to join them, though. I have no intention of taking credit. Just trying to encourage more reading, which is good for all of us.

    • Giulia Esposito

      It’s good you found a writing partner I think. You have that support system, and that’s important. Good for you. Sounds like a good year overall.

    • Congratulations Ron. It’s been a great year for you. Can you send me a link to your 52 books page? I’d love to see what you’re up to. Thanks for following Ron!

      • Ron Estrada

        Sure, Joe. I always wonder what I’m up to as well. http://ronestradabooks.com/52-books-challenge/
        It’s evolving as I go. My goal is to encourage reading, of course, but also to engage the authors with readers. I’ll invite authors to post about their book on Mondays. I’d like it to include personal info, more than just the typical interview or jacket copy. The author can give away copies of the book if he chooses. I’ll have links to their books and continually promote them on the facebook page as well. I intend to offer live author chats on Google+ Hangouts as well, but I need to build up a following first.

  • writerrobynlarue

    I’m so glad you listed the areas we should pay attention to (personal, professional, physical, emotional, spiritual) because I too often neglect all but professional. Such good advice. 🙂 Thanks!

  • katina Vaselopulos

    Thanks for a great post, Joe. I never make resolutions because they evaporate before January is gone. Reflecting on what has worked in the past inspires to continue. What has not, encourages me to stop. Thank you for bringing this out. Happy and Blessed New Year, to you and your family!

  • Jacqueline

    thank you Joe for your post I never promise myself to do anything, because i know i will fail

  • Katharine Marie

    Terrific post! I made more than a few resolutions for 2014, but many of them are smaller goals that will be simple to achieve, and I have made a monthly plan for everything. I liked all the points you covered – it made me re-evaluate what I have done, in a good way! Great job 🙂

  • Kathy

    This post made me pause as I reflected on 2013. I did make one resolution which ultimately failed due to lack of discipline. This year I have used one word to determine anything that I set out to do. It is Perseverance. I started writing about two years ago and still have an unfinished project that needs attention. I have been doggedly writing a chapter a week. Now I see that this will take another two years at this pace. I will set aside time to write at least 500 words per day, maybe more if my muse permits me. I may never be a published writer but I want to write often and learn more about how to create a clear, concise novel. Thanks for all your tips and encouragement.

    • Giulia Esposito

      I think I could use a little perseverance too Kathy. I have started two novels and both lie unfinished. One might never be finished (I’m starting to think) and the other I should probably go back to.

    • I like that your focusing your desire on what’s really important to you, the writing. Thanks Kathy!

  • Richard Huckle

    Short and sweet.
    2014 – More ‘Me’ time; last year it was only time for others.
    I WILL complete & publish my first book!

    • The Striped Sweater

      Go, Richard!

    • Do it, Richard!

    • Get that book finished! That’s my goal too 🙂

      • Jamie C V Strong-Author

        “… I write, therefore I am.” – Jamie C. V. Strong, author of ” The Wellington Ratio” >>> jamiecvstrong.WordPress.com

  • The Striped Sweater

    2013 was a year of consolidation and unburdening for me. I came to grips with some very difficult truths from my past and found the courage to step into the identity I’ve always wanted. In 2013, I found the courage to start writing seriously.
    In 2014, I want to manifest. In the writing arena, I’d like to submit some polished fiction for publication, rather than just squirreling things away on my hard drive. And I’d like to teach myself how to submit articles for pay. I’ve had many facepalm moments over the past months after posting something on my blog, only to see something similar on the Huffington Post a few weeks later. Clearly, I should have submitted some of those articles, rather than just tossing them online. Perhaps most importantly, I want to develop more connection to the writing community. To that end, I’ve already booked tickets to several writing conferences, and I joined my local writers’ association.

    • The Striped Sweater

      And I might just do NaNoWriMo this November…

    • Awesome. Good luck getting your stuff published this year. I like that you focus on submitting, which you can control, rather than publishing which is outside of your control.

  • Giulia Esposito

    Hmmm. The best and worst of 2013. Oddly, as I Iook back both revolve around work. I lost a contract last year. A contract I’d held for a while. That’s how 2013 started, with loss and uncertainty. By spring, I had obtained a full time permanent contract–ten years of hard work finally coming to fruition. I had also developed a fairly consistent writing routine. But that’s also when that routine started becoming inconsistent and is now non existent. Reflecting back, I know why it did–I took on too much. I found a lot of little projects I was interested in and in the interests of keeping busy I took them on and overextended myself.

    So, my desires for this year? Personally, to gain back that consistent writing routine. Not to overextend my own time. To worry less. To reflect more. I’m hoping that will help me stay connected with myself internally instead of all the external factors that play in our lives.

    • Congratulations on getting that new contract. Isn’t it amazing how often growth comes out of loss. I hope you can get your writing habit back on track!

      • Giulia Esposito

        Me too! It’s been on and off since the spring, sometimes I go through great writing periods, other times it’s not happening at all. Plan is to make it a daily practice again.

    • Sounds like a worthy goal, Giulia. It’s important that our work doesn’t define us. Our top priorities are so easily subverted by day-to-day distractions.

      • Giulia Esposito

        Very true! This has happened to me constantly in the past. I want to do away with that however.

  • Last year I learned to say “yes.” I learned that it is possible to get outside my comfort zone, talk to people, make friends, and go on unexpected adventures. I have also learned that one great leap is not enough to expand your comfort zone forever. I learned to treasure people as I never have before.

    Next Year:

    *I want to travel with family, once in May and once in September, and see more of Europe, specifically Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, and perhaps France.

    *I want to find my purpose for blogging, and stick with it.

    *I want to go deeper with God, reading my Bible, praying, and journaling every day, cultivating our relationship.

    *I want to eat and exercise more mindfully, systematically saying “no” to sweets and “yes” to working out.

    *I want to finally finish my novel and move on with my writing life, growing my talents through study and daily practice.

    • Giulia Esposito

      Learning to move beyond your comfort zone is a huge step forward I think Abigail. Once I learned to do that, I realized life is full of forks in the road and crossroads of conflicting desires. Continue on with that and I think you’ll achieve your goals for the year.

  • MichiganKim

    My 2013 had its ups and downs. I went to my first writer’s conference and made some progress in exploring various types of writing, but then got overwhelmed with too many options. As 2014 starts, I’m looking ahead with optimism–tempered by a little bit of fear of failure. My goals are to get my house in order (literally), and to reduce distractions so I can focus and produce some finished work. And I’m going to submit something to someone this year. I don’t know yet whether it will be a short story, an article, or a poem, but I AM going to submit something to someone. (And, Joe, I just now decided that, right here on your blog. Thanks for prompting me to do this!)

  • Brook Greene

    2013 was an extremely emotional year for me, it was the first full year i had without my father, i finished 4 full books, my daughter and only child graduated from highschool and started college. I celebrated 12 years with my wonderful husband, and have been at my job for 15 years. I put hopfully the finishing touches, meaning i have to self edit, on the first of several books i will upload to Kindle Self Publishing. Discovered The Write Practice, which has helped me in ways i guess everyone reading this knows. My goal as an author for 2014 is to get my books out to the general public in the hopes a few people like them. Thank you The Write Practice community for letting me know I am not alone in this journey.

  • Michael Marsh

    When reflect on 2013, for me, it felt like running through an emotional mine field and somehow emerging on the other side with a few scrapes and bruises. Most of the year was lived in survival mode, but I managed to get through it in better shape than I started in nearly every way. I am still a mess but a slightly stronger and more manageable mess. What I want from 2014 is to start actually building new skills and relationships and become more unshakeable in my core, not so reliant on other people for my feeling of well being. I am starting with just setting up daily goals for simple things like writing for at least 30 minutes a day, and exercising, which can be as little as 10 minutes a day. Little things that over time will add up to habits and give something to build on. That’s my plan anyway.

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  • coolspirit

    to write a monthly blog on creativity on my website!
    the first entry is up! http://www.mariannekesler.com/blog
    Joe, thank you for co-founding Story Cartel .. not only have I enjoyed some good reading, but have also been inspired (I am a singer-songwriter) to continue my passion for other types of writing as well, like blogging and poetry! Thank you!

  • Maria Matthews

    stumbled upon this late in 2014 so suppose I will simply apply it for next year, better editing and more publishing.

  • Ali

    hi, i wan to publish a digital pdf ebook, do I need to register (license) from Adobe for it?

  • Don Sloan

    I’ve written a short, free book with more than 200 clickable links to sites where authors can get reviews or post promos for their books. It is intended to save hours of looking for Facebook or Twitter groups geared to authors. I’d welcome additions to it, if you know of a good, inexpensive or free site on which to promote your book; send me an email and I’ll add it to the list. You can reach me at oldsloan@gmail.com. The book is called 200+ Ways to Promote Your Book and Get the Reviews You Need. It’s available for free on KU, or at a price of $0.99. Thanks very much. Don Sloan

  • Sinjania – Escritura

    We are very interested in the process of writing. In our creative writing classes we try to teach all the process to our pupils, in order to make them better writers. Some of them are already published their first books and we all are very proud.

  • Rachel Davis

    Loved this article! Very reflective and short, easy tasks that will help!

  • Jonathan Lenahan

    I’m against New Year’s goals in some ways, but in others, they’re useful. Sometimes we don’t want to do things, but, sadly, oftentimes, we need to do them. That’s the point of New Year’s Resolutions, I think. To take the necessary, put a on a brave face, and go after them.


  • Steve Schaefer
  • mariangreen

    I’m going to take this advice in the coming new year. It’s awesome! Thank you.