One question I like to ask people at the year-end is: “So, has it been a good year for you?”

Most people say the politically correct thing: “Yes, pretty good”, or words to that effect.

My next two questions typically stump most people: “What was it about the year that was good for you?”  and “On what basis do you say it was good?”

We may do a very good job planning the budget for the company or putting together strategic plans to further grow the business in the region, but neglect to plan for ourselves.

To me, that is ironic — your job responsibilities are transient. Your life is long-term.

Why plan?

Planning is a tool that allows you to begin with the end in mind. All of us have the same 12 months in 2014.  How we each choose to live out those 365 days will, of course, be uniquely different.

Come midnight on Dec 31 next, I assume most of us would want to say that we have not wasted too much of the year, and have achieved most of what we have set out to achieve. Realistically, this can only happen if you plan for it.

How to start?

If we want to have a “good” year, we have to set the markers now. For most of us, our job/career is a big part of our lives. What else? Identify your focus areas, what’s important for you.

Here are some typical areas that you need to consider:

Financial planning

Attaining financial independence is of prime importance. Ideally, we have to work to grow our wealth and minimise debt. The two primary payoffs for financial independence are peace of mind and the option to do what we want to do in life.


This area encompasses physical, spiritual and emotional wellness. You can invest in your personal development and growth by enhancing your knowledge and skills, learning a new sport, doing some volunteer work and so on.

Family and friends

You may want to spend more quality time with family members, especially your children, ageing parents and grandparents. Consider also how you can nurture existing friendships and make new ones.

Professional development/networking

Sign up as a member of a professional group, and acquire a wide-ranging pool of global contacts.

How to plan?

One simple approach is to use what coaches call “scaling”. For each of the areas you have identified, determine where you are on a scale of 1 to 10, the latter being the most positive.

For example, if you rate yourself at “6” for physical health, ask yourself this question: “Where do I want to be on that scale at the end of 2014?”

Maybe you want to be an “8”. The follow-up question to ask would then be “What do I need to continue to do, and to do more of — in the area of physical health — to bring myself to the “8” that I desire?”


The real hard work begins after you have set your goals. The key ingredient to success is discipline.

In the new year, you will undoubtedly have multiple priorities and if you are not focused enough, your carefully thought-out plan will remain just a plan. How can you attain discipline? Here is one way:

•   Draw lines to divide a piece of flip chart paper into three columns.

•   Put “Goals” as your Column 1 headline and itemise your goals below.

•   “Strategies” should headline Column 2. Below it, write action statements on how you are going to achieve each goal. For example: “I will plan my week such that I will allocate (collectively) three hours to go to hit the gym.”

•   The third column headlined “Time-line/Status” is critical because it is here that you will check off when you have achieved each goal. 

Pin your goal chart where it is virtually impossible to miss it. For good measure, get someone — a family member or colleague — to check on you so that you will not have a chance of “forgetting” what you have set out to do. Here’s to a good year!


Article by Paul Heng, founder/managing director and executive coach of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia. For more information, visit