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Get it done or leave it behind: How to write a year-end anti-resolutions list

In the final few weeks of the year, consider the things you don't want to take unfinished into the next. Squadra's Margaret Roth Falzon writes about what might appear on her list, and how a word can help define a new year.

How are you closing 2020? (Photo courtesy of Margaret Roth)
Margaret Roth Falzon is director of portfolio operations at Baltimore venture capital firm Squadra Ventures. This post was originally published on Squadra's blog.
A few years ago, I started making an “anti-resolutions list” at the end of the year.

As someone with an early December birthday, I consider myself lucky in that I get a reflective head start on one year coming to an end, and another nearing its beginning. Having that extra month between the start of “my year” and the start of everyone else’s has become a window, rather than looking towards what I want to accomplish in the next year. I double-down on what I refuse to take with me undone past the current year.

This may make me sound like a list-checker, but it’s more about being very intentional with my goals. By December, I find that the things I’ve pushed off, delayed or never quite made time to complete throughout the year are the things that will have the biggest impact on how the next year is going to go.

What if you could get just a little bit ahead, made some progress earlier than your peers or competition? What if you started the year in motion?

Here’s how I put mine together:

What conversations have I missed or avoided?

Think about the people in your life. Is there someone you’ve been thinking about calling but haven’t because you know you have more to say than the five minutes you have to say it? Is there a conversation that you’ve been avoiding, or feedback you’ve needed to give? Is there someone you met this year that left a truly notable impression? This can be with a coworker, peer, friend, family member, or someone you wish you had a better relationship with. Reach out, and schedule the call. You never know what they’re thinking about at this reflective moment, too.

What big projects or initiatives did I plan to have finished already?

Everyone runs out of time, has competing priorities and is guilty of procrastination. What are the things that “June-you” knew for sure that you were going to spend time on?

To give an example from my life: One of our companies set the goal of implementing a weekly multi-channel marketing strategy in February in their joint strategic plan, but it never got done. This goal was too big, too monolithic and the team didn’t have the internal resources to devote at the strategy level. Eight months later, it’s still on the list, still no action.We’ve now broken this down to developing two pieces of content per month. We’re increasing inbound leads and brand awareness, and we’re building the dataset we need to make more extensive decisions in Q1.

Another example from my anti-resolutions list is making an end-of-year review template for our internal team and our companies. Not only did I plan to do it already, but the end of the year only comes once a year. I’ve got to get it done so that it can impact us next year.

Where should I have been more decisive?

There are two things that defined my first anti-resolutions list: The fact that there is no such thing as “Hell Maybe,” and [Technically Media CEO] Chris Wink’s rule #11 of life — “Not making a decision is making a decision.

What happens in your year is defined by a series of “yeses” and “nos.” Things that you decide to do, and things that you decide not to do. Those decisions get off track when you trick yourself into believing that “maybe” is an answer. Just because you “didn’t make a decision,” at the end of the year you’re still stuck with the impact, and it reflects in what you have and have not accomplished.

Take a look back across your year — what were the seemingly small moments at the time that could have gone differently if you had been more decisive, more bold? What if you could change them? Add these things to your list. While you can’t go back, you can reroute things with intentionality.

Your “word of the year.”

With this first draft of your anti-resolutions list in hand, see if you can sense a theme. What is the connection across these tasks? In that connection, you may find there is a theme. That theme is going to be the word of your year. Last year, mine was “Treasure.”

Setting out into a new role, I wanted to treasure every moment of new experience and new interactions that 2020 would bring. “Treasure” set the way I built relationships with my new team, and with each of the amazing founders I work with. “Treasure” made me appreciate the quarantine time I got to spend with roommates — my husband and best friend — and commitment to the word helped me get through the frustration and sadness that staying home (read: global pain, COVID and fear for my many Hopkins friends who are frontline workers and doctors, the BLM protests, missing my family) brought.

With your word of the year and your anti-resolutions, you will have defined the foundation of partial accomplishment that is going to set your next year off to the right start.

Now go! You’ve got just about two weeks to make this progress.


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