With 2015 coming to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and thinking about everything I want to accomplish in 2016.  Natalie Bacon, the blogger behind Financegirl, recently shared an inspiring post about how to plan your best year yet.  If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or disappointed with your life, follow these steps for planning a better year in 2016.

Natalie recommends:

  • Reflecting on the past year.

  • Writing down 25 things you want to accomplish before you die.

  • Finding out your “why”.

  • Setting goals for the next 12 months.

  • Setting up systems to implement your best year ever.

[step one] When you reflect on the prior year, Natalie suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are your overall feelings for the last year?

  • What did you like about last year? What did you accomplish?

  • What did you hate about last year? What disappointed you?

  • If you could change anything about the last year, what would it be?

  • How did you do in each of the eight life categories (health, relationships, finance, career, spirituality, recreation, environment, and service) last year?

I have an innate tendency to focus on the negative and to not give myself enough credit for my accomplishments.  As I reflected on 2015, I realized that I actually accomplished a lot of incredible things this past year.  Here are the highlights:

  • I lost 35 pounds (by adopting a whole-food, plant based diet and exercising 5-7 times per week).

  • My husband and I decided to do the “debt snowball” on our student loan debt and pay off our six-figure student loans in just three years.

  • I started a new job – one that I like MUCH better than my last job. The new job also pays more and the benefits are way better.

  • I began this blog and grew it to hundreds of readers.

Of course, life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine – there were some pretty crappy times in 2015 too.  My biggest disappointment for 2015 is that I didn’t do enough to promote my blog – I shared my posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages, but that’s about it.

I read an incredibly helpful article about how many bloggers make the mistake of focusing 90% of their time on creating content and only 10% of their time promoting it.  You may have awesome content, but if no one is seeing it, your blog isn’t going to grow.  To quote the article, “The easiest way to get readers for your blog is to convince another blog that has readers to send readers your way.”

[step two] Write down 25 things you want to accomplish before you die.

Whenever I’ve written bucket lists in the past, the lists usually included fun items like “travel to Europe” or “do AcroYoga”.  Traveling and trying new things are both awesome goals, but when I think about what I’m really passionate about…neither of those items make the cut.

What I truly care about is making a difference in someone else’s life.  I want to help people through my blog – I want to inspire others to make smarter financial decisions, to be healthier (physically and mentally), and to grow personally as well as spiritually.  Here are 25 things I want to accomplish before I die:

  • Have a blog with 100,000 page views per month.
  • Create an e-book.
  • Deliver an online course.
  • Offer a giveaway on the blog.
  • Create multiple income streams on the blog.
  • Write sponsored posts as one source of income.
  • Create at least one form of passive income through blogging.
  • Be mentioned on another blog (in some form other than a guest post)
  • Motivate someone to change their diet or exercise habits.
  • Help someone lose weight.
  • Inspire someone to do the “debt snowball” on their student loans.
  • Inspire someone to decide not to take on student loan debt in the first place.
  • Help someone else to cope with their anxiety, depression, or OCD.
  • Help others to realize that introversion has many benefits, and that it is not a disease that needs to be cured. (I highly recommend the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking).
  • Adopt a pug (or two).
  • Donate to a pug rescue and other organizations that help animals.
  • Give money to a church.
  • Read the entire Bible.
  • Let go of all of my anxiety and have complete trust in God.
  • Complete Financial Peace University.
  • Pay off my student loans by 2018.
  • Pay cash for a vehicle.
  • Pay off a mortgage early.
  • Save enough money to be comfortable during retirement.
  • Accumulate enough money to be able to afford being a generous gift-giver on holidays.

[step three] Find your “why”.

Finding your “why” means finding your vision.  What is most important to you and why do you want it?  If you are passionate about your “why”, you will stay committed to it even when you face challenges.

My vision is helping fellow millennials (and younger generations) to make better financial choices.  I would like to stop other people from making the same financial mistakes I made.  I want to help young people to destroy their student loan debt as quickly as possible (or to not take on student loans in the first place).  My “why” is to show people the joy that comes from living a life of frugality and minimalism – instead of a materialistic, debt-filled life.

[step four] Set specific, measurable goals for the next 12 months.

  • Grow blog – I currently have hundreds of readers and I’d like to get to the thousands. My short-term goal is to reach 1,000 viewers per month, and I’ll keep increasing that goal as I reach it.  My long-term goal is to monetize the blog (through sponsored posts, freelance writing, and possibly creating an e-book or e-courses).  In order to achieve this goal, I need to reach more people.
  • Guest post on at least 10 blogs by the end of 2016. Guest posting on popular blogs is an excellent way to drive traffic to your site and gain more readers.  I have already written guest posts for two other awesome blogs: Millennial Money Man and Broke & Healthy.
  • Develop a Pinterest strategy. Pinterest is one of the best sources of traffic for bloggers.  I haven’t been using Pinterest much because I don’t know a lot about Photoshop – Pinterest pins are WAY more likely to be clicked on if they include text overlaying the image (which is done in Photoshop).
  • Grow Facebook following to (at least) 250 “likes” and Twitter following to (at least) 300 fans.

[step five] Set up systems to implement your best year ever.

Natalie recommends putting deadlines on your calendar and creating monthly check-ins on your calendar to revise and reflect on your progress.  This is a great technique for holding yourself accountable, and I will definitely do this!