Academic New Year Resolutions: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

by | Dec 12, 2017

As the year winds down and you start wrapping up your projects (that is, if you can peek out from under the grading deluge), many people start thinking about academic new year resolutions to set. December brings a wonderful opportunity to assess the progress you’ve made on your goals this year and start thinking about how to rock next year. Before you set those resolutions, spend some time reviewing this year to ensure you can set smart ones that reflect your real-life needs and situation.

Look back

Get out your calendar, to-do list, project management apps, CV, and all the other things you use to track how you spend your time. Take note of any and all things you accomplished this year in ALL the areas of your life, both personal and professional. Get detailed here and write it all down.

Some categories you might use are writing, publishing, family/relationships, friendships, teaching, academic service, community, activism, creativity, spirituality, exercise, cooking/food, travel, mentoring, tech/tools, finances, and nature. Use or create categories that make sense for you.

Under each category, list every single accomplishment you can find from this year. Did you finish and submit your book manuscript? Teach 4 classes? Read outside twice a week? Apply for a new job? Attend 3 conferences? Learn how to box? Cook weekly meals? Cut down on your course preparation time? Get a fabulous haircut? Submit a grant application? Go on fun dates? Walk your dog every day? Conduct some informational interviews? Contribute X dollars to your retirement fund? Write it all down. Most people have no idea how much they accomplished in a year because the day-to-day hustle and bustle rarely affords us an opportunity to count it all up and reflect. Here’s your chance to recognize and celebrate all your accomplishments.


Keeping an eye on all those awesome accomplishments, answer these questions:

What activities, habits, environments, and interactions have been working well?

What activities, habits, environments, and interactions do you want MORE of?

What activities, habits, environments, and interactions do you want LESS of?

What are some opportunities for growth? These might be new things you want to try, new habits you want to develop, new relationships you want to form, new things you want to learn, new techniques you want to test, or new goals you have.


Create a plan for next year that increases the things you want more of or that worked well, and decreases or eliminates the things you want less of.

The benefit of planning your next year this way, rather than making random and unspecific academic New Year resolutions like “write more” or “have better work/life balance,” is that you have in front of you a complete review of what worked and what didn’t this year, and why. You can then use that information to craft smart next year goals AND give yourself the resources you need to actually accomplish them, including time for self-care and recharging.

For example, did you discover that reading outside, writing every day for an hour, or making a monthly dinner date with friends helped you move along toward your goals or just feel better? Prioritize those things for next year’s plan and put those dates in your calendar right now.

Did you learn that it is always super difficult getting work done while traveling or that you traveled more than was healthy for you? In your next year’s plan, avoid scheduling any work during travel times or set a travel quota to ensure you have the energy and time you need to focus on what really matters to you.

Yearly reviews like this help you recognize and celebrate your successes, assess how you actually worked and how you feel about that, and make a concrete plan for prioritizing what’s really important to you. As the year wraps up, make sure to take time to celebrate the huge list of things you’ve accomplished this year.

And here’s to a fantastic new year!

Author: <a href="" target="_self">Cathy Hannabach</a>

Author: Cathy Hannabach

Cathy Hannabach is the founder and CEO of Ideas on Fire as well as the host of the Imagine Otherwise podcast.

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