It’s a brand-new year! Although some people say that January 1 is an arbitrary date and that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work, I always feel like the start of a new year is a good time to reflect and refocus on your goals. I’ve been doing a lot of planning and and goal-setting over the past week, and am really excited for what’s ahead in the coming year.

Have you thought about what you want to accomplish this year? While New Year’s Resolutions are always made with the best of intentions, it’s true that they won’t be effective unless you put some actual goals and planning behind them. Try some of the following exercises to get clear about what you want to accomplish this year and start the year off on the right foot.

Write down your goals

People are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down. Be specific if you can. If your goals seem overwhelming, see if you can break them down into smaller action items that you can easily tackle. For example, if your goal is to eat a healthier diet, start with one specific action, like giving up soda or including plant foods in every meal. Once you’ve conquered that, you can move on to something else.

Buy yourself a fun planner

After a few years of trying to rely on my digital tools, I’m back to using a physical planner. It’s just way more effective for me to be able to write things down and see them on paper. Pick a planner you’ll enjoy using every day. (I’ve used Inkwell Press for several years and I love their extra goal-setting and project-planning tools.)

Cultivate gratitude

Write down at least 10 good things that happened in the past year. I did this yesterday and was surprised by how many things I thought of once I got going. Here are a few of mine from last year:

  1. Attended a workshop led by two of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed
  2. Had an amazing vacation in Iceland with my mom
  3. Started a new web development business and got some great clients
  4. Attended my niece’s wedding in Mexico

You might even want to start a gratitude journal or a “happiness jar” — every time something good happens this year, write it down on a slip of paper and put it in your jar. Then at the end of the year, you’ll have a year’s worth of good memories to review and be grateful for.

Choose a theme or a focus word for the year

Mine for this year is “dream.” I chose this because I have a lot of big dreams coming to fruition this year: I’m close to finishing my novel. My family is moving to a different state. Your focus word can be anything you want, whatever represents what you want to achieve or accomplish this year. Words I have used in the past include expansion, faith, and brave. Choose something that inspires you!

Be open to new possibilities

Sometimes we’re so stuck on what we think we want that we miss other opportunities that present themselves. Challenge yourself. Broaden your viewpoint. Step out of your comfort zone. Do something every day that scares you. Create space in your life for whatever the Universe is ready to deliver to you.