Be resolute

With the end of 2019 just a matter of weeks away, many of us will already be starting to contemplate the year ahead. The winter season is the time to take stock of how far we’ve come and realign ourselves with our long-term ambitions.

Preparing for the year ahead can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re in the middle of current deadlines and assignments are still due in the coming weeks. However, setting goals for the next 12 months and making a list of things you would like to achieve will help aid personal and professional development.

If you want to make a headstart on your 2020 to-do list and map out how you’re going to realistically meet your objectives, the steps below will help you to develop and prepare a well-considered plan.

Time management

Time management is an essential skill to master and could be the solution to your problems, whether you’re revising for exams or starting out in your first job role. You will always have to juggle different tasks and manage distractions, but understanding the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent and prioritising accordingly can prevent your work from snowballing out of control.

It’s not just life in the office that can be improved if you’re using your time effectively, your home life can benefit, too. Ineffective time management can lead to stress and longer working hours, which can negatively affect your work-life blend and the quality of time you have out of work.

Compromised wellbeing, tiredness and lack of motivation can then impact on your performance in the workplace, resulting in a vicious cycle. Mastering time management can go a long way to prevent this.

Reflecting on the past 365 days will help you to implement any lessons you have learnt into your plans for the new year, whether that is making an effort to hand assignments in early to save yourself unnecessary stress and pressure, or by making a daily to-do list so that you can prioritise your tasks for the following day. This will enable you to have maximum focus and clarity at the start of the day and will save you 15 minutes of your time which can be better spent elsewhere.

Work out where you want to go

Do you know what you want to achieve in your career and how to get there? Once you have worked out how to manage your time, creating a broad objective accompanied by smaller contributing tasks to help you reach your main goal will help you figure out how long it will take to get there. From there, create an outline of how you’ll reach those goals, when you want to accomplish them, and ways that you can ensure you stay on track. This becomes your action plan for the year.

You’ll want to revisit your action plan at least four times a year. Your goals can change throughout the year for several reasons. Your ambitions shouldn’t stay the same if your circumstances have changed.

If you’re looking for your first job, make sure that the businesses you work with match your values. This, in turn, will help you achieve your goals. Make use of your connections and continue to network, this will give you a sense of how others have carved out their career path and will help you mirror their steps.

Make space

Making yourself busy in the evenings and over the weekends will mean you are tight on time in other areas. This can result in you restricting your personal breathing space.

Eliminate, automate and delegate everything you can. Strive to have time on your hands and the time will be filled with more meaningful things. Make space in your life for creativity, growth and self-care. This will increase your capacity to give more of yourself to things that matter the most to you. You have to be ready and make space for success and abundance to arrive.

Reward success

It’s often easy to overlook our successes, especially if we have created a goal to meet them. Rather than punishing yourself for setbacks and missed goals reward yourself for the great things you achieve.

Guilt, regret, and punishment may push you in the short term, but they won’t motivate you to continue striving for the things you want. As you prepare next year’s goals, figure out what your rewards will be. The key here is that the rewards must be intrinsically meaningful to you.


When it comes to planning out the year ahead, ensure that your goals are SMART. A well-known acronym, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time sensitive. Too often people set goals that are vague and unrealistic. This leads to frustration, and also decreases the likelihood of achieving the goal. The SMART method can be applied to a variety of goals, whether professional or personal, giving you the tools you need to succeed in your goal setting endeavours.

Avoid comparisons

When you’re creating your plan it’s easy to at the careers of others who have arrived at the place where you envision yourself. However, the tip is to focus on your own self-improvement and not that of others around you. Keep in mind that everyone’s journey and encounters are different, and the way people learn differs as well. Although we may share similar destinations, our paths are often quite different.

Instead of making resolutions, setting measurable goals is more likely to lead to success in seeing your hopes and dreams come to fruition, whether that is during your time studying and achieving top grades, or whether it’s in your first job and working your way towards your first promotion.

For more information on how to get the most out of your career and personal life, and for tips and tricks on a range of topics from exam preparation to managing stress and anxiety, visit the Help and Guides section on CABA’s website: Get ready for 2020 with the latest ACA planner.

Use your planner to keep track of key dates as well as recording your work experience days, study days or plan a revision timetable. To download go to

• Kelly Feehan, Service Director, CABA Reproduced with the permission of ICAEW, this article was first published in Vital (December 2019)