I’m winding down the “planning” phase of the end of the year, and already ramping up into 2015.

It started last week, when I was in Ohio for a few days to visit family and friends. Because I was traveling, and I knew that when I returned life would be full of year-end distractions in other ways, I started my annual review and planning for next year a little earlier than I normally do. My custom the last few years was to start “thinking” about making new goals and setting new priorities in December, but not really start working on a written plan (in my case, several check sheets listing goals in various areas) until around my birthday, on the 15th, or even later.

This year, though, was different. I started putting things in writing early in December, and by the 15th, I already had a clear idea of what I hope next year will look like.

Even little actions, taken these last days of the year, can help maintain creative momentum.
Even little actions, taken these last days of the year, can help maintain creative momentum.

And, I found that vision of 2015 to be so compelling, I got a head start.

I started re-working my daily routine a little. I started writing some of the content I had decided I wanted to focus on. I dove into several new books that I am hoping to read and re-read and then journal extensively about.

I was excited.

It all came quite organically. I didn’t sit down and say, “Oh, I think I’ll get a head start on my goals for next year,” but that is what happened.

And then, as I was listening to several of my favorite podcasts about personal productivity and business and creativity, a central theme began to make itself known. Maybe I’d heard all of this before, and only now was I ready to pay attention, but almost all of my business and creative mentors were talking about exactly what I was already doing: Not limping into the new year.

They were suggesting what I was already doing, though I was doing it without conscious thought: Don’t coast through the rest of December because you’re tired of the old year. Don’t allow the great aspects of the Holidays be a reason for resisting the creative work. Don’t expect January 1 to be a sudden switch into something new, if I’ve spent the final three weeks of December twiddling thumbs and eating.

And I’ve spent many Decembers “winding down” the previous year. I’ve fallen victim to the “on January 1st, I’ll get started” mindset. (Though, it’s usually at least January 2nd or 5th, in reality, right?) I’ll coast through the last weeks of one year, and ride that negative momentum all the way into February, if I’m not careful.

The best advice I’ve gotten in the last month, which I’m passing on to you is this: If you have a vision for improving your creative output for 2015, and you’ve written down some of the ways you hope to change (maybe your work habits or daily output or whatever) don’t wait until the New Year to start “ramping up” to the new level. Start making progress in that direction now.

I’m not saying that you have to be at 100% of where you are aiming to be with your new goals and plans: Just do a little bit, in these last days of 2014, to build some momentum toward where you want to be.

We all have family commitments, travel plans, hosting duties, and such. I’m not saying to push those all aside. I wouldn’t dream of it.

But we can start to move in the direction we want to go, rather than drop everything for two weeks and then come back thinking we will have some magic momentum.

When it comes to writing, let me make one other suggestion: If you are hosting a large number of family members, or you have guests staying with you, or if you are traveling to be with family and friends, it is very easy to talk yourself into the idea of having “no time” to write. Not even a few words.

But I have found that these “really busy” times are the best times to find some time just for YOU and just for your writing and creativity. I don’t mean you should put off the family dinner or tell everyone to stop opening presents until you’ve had a few minutes to write.

I do believe in the value and the power of being intentional, even during very busy times, and protecting just a sliver of your day for your creative needs. Maybe it is just 15 or 30 minutes of solitude and quiet. Maybe you can slip out of the house while everyone is dozing post-dinner and find a quiet place. Or, get up before the rest of the household and find the time to write even just a few lines.

Personally, I’ve tried to do this for years, and found something very interesting: I get very creative when I’m traveling, or visiting someone, and if I just give myself a few minutes to write, I can produce something brand new and unexpected, almost every time.

A little warning though: You may find this to be a very potent strategy. I’ve often tried to steal just a little time for writing in these situations, only to find the words coming so freely that I had to take even more time to write. But I’ve also found the things I start under similar circumstances give me a great head start when I get back home. Even just a few minutes of “keeping the well primed” will go a long way when you are ready to settle into the New Year.

Thank you all for reading…I’m very grateful for the growth of the blog and podcast in the last year, and I’m looking forward to 2015.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and a peaceful and joyous New Year.

Giving the Family the Slip, and Get a Head Start on 2015