8 Ways to Get a Head Start on the Year

Get organized and you'll start the year ahead of the game!

By Jennifer Sheran, publisher Macaroni Kid McDonough, Stockbridge, Hampton, Locust Grove December 30, 2022
As much as I enjoy all the fun and magic of the Holiday season, it can also leave me feeling overwhelmed. I look forward to the fresh start of a new year and a clean new planner to write down my plans and goals. To set my year up for success, there are a few things I try to accomplish between the day after Christmas and the day my kids return to school. This pre-planning, goal-setting, and organizing for the year ahead allows me to start the year with intention and purpose. It also helps to get on a jump on those administrative things we must all tend to such as health appointments, maintenance appointments, and taxes.
When you can accomplish a small win right out the gate, you set your year off on a high note. Join me and see if you can set aside some time in the next week or two to tackle a few things on this list.

Eight Ways to Prepare for the Year

Catch Up on One Big Project

I find one project that has been taking up too much space in my head (ok, maybe I don’t just limit it to one) and tackle it with fervor. It could be editing the year's photos, sorting and purging my email inbox (yes!), donating the pile of outgrown toys and clothes collecting in the garage, or diving into a space that needs better organization - like my pantry. You don’t have to tackle all of them at once ...choose the one that you know will really feel like a weight off your shoulders. 
For me, I’m starting with the pantry! (More on that in another post).

Create a Projects List

If you’re like me, you have a long list of projects you want to accomplish, but can't seem to find the time to do them.

Here is a tip from a fellow publisher: Make a list of 10 projects that should take 10 hours or less to complete. Then prioritize them and begin working on them one at a time for just half an hour a day (set a timer). If you stick to this schedule, you can usually finish a project each month.
The trick is to schedule the time  and stick to it. If you save it for "if I have time," you never will.

Send Thank You Notes and Return Gifts

Occasionally we will receive an item of clothing that is the wrong size or a something we already own. Before the New Year begins, I try to get to the stores to return or exchange any items so I don’t have them hanging on my to do list.

It is a lost art, but such an important gesture to send a thank you card for gifts you received. Actually send a card. An email or text doesn’t have the same impact.

It’s easier than ever to send a heartfelt card with Send Out Cards. Set up a free account online or through the app and create your card from a template or customize one of your own with a picture of yourself with the gift item. You can even get your own handwriting font. Send Out cards will print and mail a beautiful, high quality card for you for just $2.75 plus the .60 cent postage. (Discount packages available).

You can also get a head start on birthday cards! 

Schedule Health Appointments for the First Half

Everyone at needs an annual physical, an annual eye exam, dental exams every six months, and an annual dermatology exam. I try to schedule all of these in the first half of they year because the sooner we meet our deductible, the better. I also make a note on our calendar to schedule a flu shot (in September) and a second dental appointment for everyone.

Schedule Time Off from Work

With Henry County Schools having week-long breaks every other month during the school year, a child in college, and my husband and I both working full-time, it helps to plan and prepare for my time off. My employer offers unlimited PTO, which is a game-changer, but I still need to balance time-off with my team members. As much as possible, I try to have at least some time off during the kid's breaks. Not only do I want to have quality family time during these breaks, but it is also very difficult to work  when they are home (I work virtually)! We also have summer family travel plans and my husband and I have a getaway long weekend planned together, and we both have our own trips planned.

Get "Must" Events on Our Calendar

I check the school calendar to make sure all the days off are on my calendar, plus any special events like the school play or concert, etc. I also add some of our family's traditions or annual events we are ready to commit to, such as participating in our favorite fundraising run, or having dinner at our usual restaurant for our wedding anniversary. I add our planned trips and vacations and then I add the annual things I want to attend around town (Geranium Festival, Taste of Henry, etc.) I also make sure birthdays and doctor appointments are in the calendar. I use both a digital calendar (Google), and a paper planner. I love filling up the calendar on my paper planner and use colored pens and stickers. The twelve year-old girl inside me comes out with glee.

Set Up a Tax Documents Folder

Most tax forms are mailed by January 31. Rather than going through forms as they come in, I create a "drop" spot for all these documents. At the end of January, it is easy for me to check for missing documents and then begin preparing the year's receipts for my tax appointment, which I like to have completed by the end of February.

Create Goals for Yourself

I don't really make resolutions, but I do like to set goals and I use the S.M.A.R.T. system to help ensure I can reach them. A resolution is little more than a desire or a hope, but a goal that uses the S.M.A.R.T. system is a plan of action I can follow.
  • S = Specific. For example, "Exercise for 120 minutes each week" is better than "Get healthier."
  • M = Measurable. What does success look like to me? How will I measure it? This is where being specific becomes really important. If my goal is to lose 10 pounds or spend an hour of quality time with my children each day, I can easily track this.
  • A = Achievable. If I want to get rid of $15,000 in credit card debt, but I can only cut my budget by $200 each month, I probably won't be able to completely eliminate it in one year unless I receive an unexpected inheritance or winning lottery ticket.
  • R = Reasonable. Is there anything standing in the way of achieving my goals? Am I limited by time, money, or ability? If there are roadblocks in my way, can they be removed?
  • T = Timely. Having a deadline or setting a time frame keeps me motivated, but I do need to make sure my time frame is Achievable and Reasonable.