How to Embrace ‘Tabula Rasa’ and Prepare for a New Year

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Every New Year gives us a chance for a fresh start and to build on the momentum from the previous 12 months. It’s a chance for leaders at all levels to reflect, assess and set new goals for the coming year.

The calendar, after all, is an artifice. Like the clock, it is a device we use to measure time, when in truth there are blank slates all around us but every moment is fresh and new and if we learn to see it that way, January often brings a renewed sense of clarity and optimism. I want to discuss How to Embrace ‘Tabula Rasa’ and Prepare for a New Year.

It’s a chance for things to be different; a break away from a particularly difficult year, or a sense that we’ll achieve more of what we desire in life during the year ahead. Perhaps it’s a chance to raise standards, improve our lives in ways that are important to us, and continue to look for how we can live life to the fullest. It’s a time for resolutions and recommitting ourselves to forming better habits with the ultimate goal of enhancing our life’s purpose and passion.

This feeling of renewed optimism goes back many centuries and there’s a Latin term called ‘tabula rasa’ which translated into English means ‘blank slate.’

A Clean Slate for the New Year

When January flips a new page on our calendars, it holds the promise of novel possibilities, moments full of vibrancy, and hopes to go into a new year. As leaders, we must consciously let go of the past year’s failures, setbacks, and any grievances in order to move forward with a clear mind and open heart. Holding on to any ‘baggage’ will only feel like 100 pounds of deadweight on your shoulders, if not cut loose.

Embracing a tabula rasa (clean slate) mindset requires a deliberate decision and willingness to let go of a few things to ensure you have room for all the new ‘stuff’ you will encounter in 2022, you have to take action to clear the path. Investing time into planning and manifesting what you want will help your set priorities and alignment for another 12-month cycle.

Five Ways to Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

The week between Christmas and New Year has traditionally been a time when I tie up loose ends and organize my life to make space for new projects and opportunities. Here are a few ways I like to ‘clear my slate’ and ensure I’m prepared for the cascade of new activities and opportunities in the new year:

1. Clearing out the filing cabinet of old papers. 

I try to be as paper-free as possible, but there’s somehow a buildup of documents and print files on my desk at the end of the year. Doing this for your work and home office will enable both places to operate more smoothly. Make three piles: trash, keep and/or digitize. Sorting and purging paper files are important and help save time when preparing to do taxes.

2. Organizing digital files and sending important ones to the Cloud. 

I try to do this throughout the year, but sometimes I set it aside until I know for sure what to do with it. Ensure you have a reliable cloud service and a backup external hard drive for all your files. Label your folders and files with the year first and organize them in a logical manner so your important documents are easy to find. Ask yourself who else needs to have access and will you understand how it’s set up.

3. Archiving imagery and refining your file storage management. 

The new year is a good time to clear photos from your phone by placing them into albums and labeling them in logical order. Uncluttered digital photo storage is soothing, efficient, and important. It helps you find the right images without any stress or hassle. By purging content from your phone, it frees up space for all the new photos you’re going to take in 2022.

4. Manage your inbox like a boss. 

I tend to subscribe to e-newsletters, shopping sites, travel blogs, etc. during the year and by the end of the year, I’m drowning in redundant email blasts. I’ll always re-evaluate and unsubscribe from content that I no longer resonate with. Also, deleting and archiving emails is a sign of letting go, and feels good to move on to new conversations and discussion threads.

5. Transfer data to a new planner. 

I still use a paper planner because I’m extremely tactile and like to ‘hold’ my planner, make notes and see my calendar. If you use a paper planner, transfer important notes right away or it will be July and you’ll still be carrying around two planners.

Be Ready for any Contingency or Emergency

This to-do list may not seem urgent now or maybe you’re thinking about putting it off for another month or two. Staying organized and being ready for any contingency, like a natural disaster or family emergency, will save you precious time and energy later.

For example, in 2017, my hometown of Santa Rosa, California, was ravaged by wildfires and many friends and families lost their homes and businesses. One of the biggest lessons learned from that devastating experience was that having important documents digitized and accessible from the cloud was key to their financial and emotional recovery.

Leaders Thrive with a Blank Slate

Each year gives us a new slate and leaders thrive when there’s open room to make new connections, innovate in new ways and take a new path. There’s something about a fresh start, that tabula rasa feeling that you get when you’re able to determine a new trajectory for the year ahead.

Lastly, resist the urge to plan around every corner of 2023. Yes, have goals and pursuits to fill your passion but there are endless winning scenarios that will arise and you’ll want to be prepared to meet them by being organized, ready, and with enough storage space on your cell phone to take the photos!

Amy Forsythe is a Managing Director with Victory Strategies and an award-winning military photojournalist and author of Heroes Live Here: A Tribute to Camp Pendleton Marines Since 9/11. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Instagram.


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