Dec 28

What Green Changes Can You Make in a Year?

It’s been a wonderful Christmas and, despite the economy, I feel like I’ve had a pretty stellar year.

That said, 2010 is quickly approaching and I’ve got a lot to do.

I gave a glimpse into my annual review earlier and today begins a week long process of intense planning for the upcoming year.

This is the first time I’ve ever formally done this and it’s brought me to the question, “What can I really accomplish in a year?” You’ve probably questioned what you’re capable of before, too.

Interestingly, it’s pretty common for people to overestimate what they can get done in a day and completely underestimate what they can achieve in a year.

This is clearly evidenced by my enormous daily to-do list and often non-existent long term plan.  A year can be so hard to plan for – too short for your biggest life affirming goals and certainly too long for a goal like “remembering to program the thermostat.”

It can be really hard to figure out what you can get done in 365 days. Yet, to see what is possible to accomplish next year, all you really need to do is look at what you completed last year.

How has your life changed in the last year?

When I take the time to actually look at what I’ve done in 2009, it’s easy to see that my life has changed quite a lot. I’ve done all kinds of things like:

If you sat down for a few minutes and really thought about what you’ve accomplished this year, I bet you could come up with a pretty amazing list yourself.

Go ahead and do it and then give yourself a little pat on the back. It’s ok to congratulate yourself. You’ve earned it.

Planning for next year

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never put much thought into planning out an entire year because, well, it’s so dang long and hard to think about.

But, now that you’ve seen what you can do without much thinking, why not take a moment to nail down what you could accomplish if you did put together a plan of action?

If you want to, think bigger and make a plan for how you’ll outdo yourself next year. Or don’t! Just use your planning to focus your goals more specifically on a topic that’s important to you.

Maybe you were too specific this year? Use your plan to allow yourself to branch out and try some new things you’d thought about but never got around to doing.

The sky is the limit here. Your only ceiling is your own imagination.

What if you hate your plan?

Maybe you’re reluctant to start because planning out a whole year feels restrictive. That’s another thing that kept me from doing this for so long. What if you set it all up and then decide you don’t like it?

Well, that’s the beauty of a plan. You can always have a back-up. It’s not a contract. There’re no other parties involved and no lawyers are going to serve you a subpoena if you have second thoughts about your direction.

If you decide you don’t like your plan, change it. Just by getting started, though, you get yourself thinking about what’s important to you.

If, later, you find out that what you thought was important really isn’t, you’ll probably have a better idea by then of what is. Feel free to let go of things that don’t feel right.

If you want to start composting and then realize you hate it, stop doing it. If you decide to walk more, but then realize you’d rather be riding your bike, do that instead.

The whole point is to allow yourself to think big and try new things.

Final thoughts on yearly planning

Many of us plan out each of our days to squeeze as much productivity out of them as possible, but never take the time to look at how each day contributes to a longer, overall goal.

For some, these long-term goals are strongly internal, and that’s fine, but I’ve noticed that I get a lot farther when I put my goals down on paper than when I hold them in. It’s entirely psychological, but it adds concreteness to my resolutions. “I AM going to do this. See, the paper says so!”

What does your list of accomplishments look like for this year? Feel free to use the comments section to show off the things you’ve done. What’s been on your mind that you want to be sure you get done next year?


If annual planning seems scary and weird, leave a comment, or subscribe get free updates.

Connect with me on Twitter: @tylertervooren

Happy New Year image by Sally M*


  1. ConsciouslyFrugal

    After learning more about sweatshops and child labor in the garment industry, I’m going to give myself the challenge of buying only clothes made in the USA in 2010. Made abroad is fine for thrift store finds, but here’s the rub: I’m uber fat. Fat women do not part easily with clothes, so thrift finds are rare.

    Also, there are so few plus-size lines that don’t suck out there, and I know of only one that is made in the USA. (It sucks as well.) I’ve already signed up for a sewing class, and have found a couple of folks who do custom work fairly inexpensively. Hopefully, this won’t be as much of a challenge as I worry it will be. Ideally, I want clothing manufactured in the USA from sustainably-sourced fabrics. Wish me luck!

  2. Bennett Conzemius

    Great story and example

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