How to Start the Year Strong: An Actionable Plan

by Caleb Davis January 1, 2024

Your Days Matter

Here’s a sobering truth: the wasted life is possible. It is a lurking enemy we must be aware of. Talents can be buried, time can be squandered, opportunities can be missed. You will not drift towards the vision of life God has for you. Seriously, let that sink in. You will not accidentally end up building an excellent life. We can spin our wheels, put out fires, run in circles, fill up our calendars, and yet still be missing what God has.

But there is a better way.

There is a way of clarity, wisdom, and action that God holds out to us. God wants to give us fruitful and faithful lives filled with joy and purpose. He wants more for us than being pulled in a thousand directions. He wants our lives to be built into something strong, beautiful, and lasting. After reflecting on the shortness of life, the Psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts” (Psalm 90:12). This is what you want. Not a frantic life, a lazy life, or a reactive life. You want a life lived with wisdom. You have a limited number of days and each one matters. The life of wisdom is one of careful focus and intentionality, it considers each year an opportunity to steward, and plans accordingly.

And, here’s an encouraging truth: whatever the last year has looked like for you, you can start a new year strong. You can do this by considering how you will number your days next year using the process of “Connection, Reflection, Direction, and Intention.”

Connection – Spend time with God

You don’t want to begin making plans without first bringing your life and heart to God. Consider this last year and pour your heart out to God.

  1. Adoration
    • Who have I seen God to be last year that I can worship him for?
    • What themes or passages in the Bible has he continually shown me?
  2. Confession
    • What patterns of sin have been present in me this year?
    • Where is God convicting me? What or to whom do I need to confess?
  3. Thanksgiving
    • What can I thank God for in what he has done in me?
    • What can I thank God for in what he has done through me?
    • What can I thank God for what he has done around me?
  4. Supplication
    • Ask God to open your heart, lead you, and guide the rest of this process.
    • Submit your plans to him, and tell him you trust him.

Reflection – Where am I right now?

It’s hard to move forward if you don’t know where you are. Prayerfully consider and write an honest reflection of where you are.

  1. Make a quick assessment of your health and satisfaction in various life areas, rating them from 1-10.
    • Faith, Marriage, Parenting, Vocation, Community, Church, Other Family, Physical Health, Financial Health and Generosity, Ministry, Rest and Joy.
  2. Present condition
    • How is my relationship with God?
      • Consider: what fruit of the Spirit is present/lacking, passion, love for God, obedience, prayer life, awareness of God’s love and grace, truth being alive and real, maturity, contentment.
    • How are my relationships with others?
      • Consider: Spouse, kids, friendships, extended family, church.
    • Am I stewarding life well?
      • Consider: finances, time, health, work, energy, rest, distractions, good works, mission, disciple-making.

Direction – Where is God leading me?

Now that you have a better understanding of where you currently are, take time to consider where God is leading you.

  1. Consider each of the main roles (Christian, Spouse, Parent, Vocation, etc.) in your life. For each of them answer these questions:
    • What is my vision/God’s vision?
    • Where am I seeing God already at work?
    • What are the obstacles getting in the way of the vision?
  2. Summarize where God is leading you:
    • What are the top three areas of growth?
    • What are the top three things I am going to accomplish?
    • What are the top three areas I need to learn?

Intention – What do I intend to do to get there?

You have a clear picture of where you are and where God is leading you. Now you need to plan on what you will do to get there.

Revisit your main roles (Christian, Spouse, Parent, Vocation, etc.) and summarized goals. Considering each area answer this:

  • What do I need to stop?
  • What specific actions do I need to take?
  • What disciplines and rhythms do I need to develop?
  • What is my ideal weekly schedule to build this life?
  • What tools will I use to manage my priorities and disciplines?

Enter items into your calendar and your task management system

Don’t just desire a better life

What could happen in your life and the lives of those around you if you lived with greater intentionality? Proverbs says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4). Think about your desires. What do you want? A better marriage? More fulfilling career? Financial freedom? More time with your kids? To make a difference? Desire alone will never produce change. We need diligence.

Don’t just hope 2024 is better. Don’t just hope that things will change. Start the year strong by being diligent in numbering your days, wisely reflecting on your life, and making a plan. Life may be short but it can be lived well. It can be lived with a heart full of wisdom. You won’t drift to where God is leading you but you can intentionally walk with him there. Let’s start the year this way and let’s live the life God has entrusted us in this way, every day.

<sup>*If you want an extended version of this process see here.</em>