Everything we do and create begins with a thought. This is such a simple but powerful insight. We need to imagine or think of what it is we want to do, be, produce before manifestation can occur. Sometimes we don’t even know what to think, so how should we begin?

I like to start with a blank piece of paper and brainstorm. I try to go “big picture” and “blue sky” and worry about reining it in to a realistic level later. Get out a pad of paper and go for the best-case scenario about what you can do with 2016 in areas of personal growth, work, money, relationships, health, home, etc. If you had a magic wand, what would your life look like by the end of the year?

Picture yourself achieving a few of your big-picture goals as clearly as possible. Maybe it’s having a completely orderly house with no clutter on the counters and every sock matched to its mate and rolled sushi-like in shallow drawers. Maybe it’s dropping 20 pounds and becoming fit enough to wear a favorite cocktail dress to next winter’s holiday parties. Maybe it’s being debt-free and looking at a healthy bank statement with a December 2016 date on it.

Whatever your goal is, really clearly picture the outcome. How will it feel? What are you wearing? Where are you? If your goal is to be debt-free, maybe you are enjoying a well-deserved vacation in the tropics. Feel the sun on your face, imagine the sand underfoot, the warm ocean around your ankles. If your goal was to lose weight, imagine how great you’ll look in your swimsuit.

If you get really detailed, this vision will be strong enough to keep you motivated over the weeks and months it will take to achieve the goal. Add an inspiring theme song to the vision. Create a file of motivational photos. Write some affirmations to say daily, such as “I am completely organized, I love my beautiful home.”

Now we get to what actions will be needed. Working backward, what would you have to accomplish each month to reach the goal by the end of the year? What would you have to accomplish each week to make sure you are on track each month? What would you have to do each day to make sure that each week you are moving forward?

Writer Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” In Twelve Step programs, the mantra is “one day at a time.” These big visions come down to what we do day by day. Think big, break it down into smaller and smaller chunks, then reassess — is the goal really possible? With your current expenses, is it possible for you to save $1,000 per month, which is $100 per week or $14 per day, in order to be debt-free at the end of the year?

To lose 20 pounds, are you willing to give up (or sweat out) 5,900 calories per month or about 1,400 per week or 200 per day?. When you break it down, it can either seem really doable or impossible. Two hundred calories is less than a Lara bar, and I eat 3-4 of those a day and could easily give up one or two. Saving $14 is a magazine and a latte or skipping lunch or not having a glass of wine at Rutherford Grill.

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Those examples relate to the goals where you are giving up something (food, spending), but many of our goals require doing something, which can be more amorphous and difficult to gauge.

With clutter clearing and organizing, you might choose an area of your home to focus on each month with a goal of being completely finished and standing in a serene, clutter-free space by Dec 31, 2016. I suggest starting with paper. Tax season is ahead of us, and having all of your papers in order will make it relatively painless.

It’s also an easy indoor activity that you can do in the comfort of the dining room. Save outdoor sheds and the garage or basement for warmer, drier months.

How many files or piles would you have to tackle each day to have your papers perfectly organized by the end of February? Think forward to your goal, work backward to figure out what your daily tasks need to be, and then — get to it!

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to HouseInOrder.com or call 707-738-4346. Sign up at the website to receive upcoming Season of Order and Season of Style quarterly tips.

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