Why we don’t make big plans at the beginning of the year

We do not make plans when a new year kicks-off

The new year comes with huge pressure and plenty of threads with all sorts of how-to guides on various topics. How to lose weight, how to stick to your goals, how to accept your introvert personality traits, how to stay less on Facebook, how to read more, how to [insert whatever you want]. Sadly, there are almost zero coherent articles and thoughtful discussions about how the beginning of an year should not automatically imply the start of creating plans. Discover how we approach the first days of 2020 at Pixelgrade.

We, too, used to get trapped in this new year’s carousel of emotions, all pumped up with an unusual amount of energy triggered by the reset counter. We used to get back to the office with a lot of adrenaline, but also pressure, to begin drawing challenging plans about how we will rock on in the next 12 months. 

Get the flipchart, papers, markers, and start throwing all kinds of grandiose ideas. Marketing and communication strategy, robust product roadmaps, ways to consolidate relationships with our customers — we covered everything.

Filled with dopamine from the instant gratification syndrome, we thought we could write down whatever we wanted because we will be able to turn them into reality. We can do it. Everything is possible. Oh, how naive!

In fact, I started to notice that, in reality, we were running away from the present and dreaming about the future because it was easier. No concrete costs. No strings attached. Just an ocean of beautiful dreams that we could accomplish.

The truth is that it’s far more convenient to start from scratch, to wear the magician hat. It’s like having all the opportunities in the world at your fingertips. 

You can wonder about everything and fool yourself without even realising it. You have a certain freedom to explore various ways to leave a mark in the universe, right?

Well, things are a bit more complicated and interdependent than we usually want to think. We’re not different people in the first days of January. We don’t suddenly shift the values that guide our actions. We don’t leave our lives behind and start new paths from scratch. 

As Esther Perel, a famous psychotherapist and the host of the How’s work podcast, would say, we take our personal journey to work and vice-versa. This means that there’s a continuity, a vacuum between years as it is between days, weeks, and months or between behaviours, attitudes, and beliefs. 

We’re not made of percentages: 50% at home, 50% at the office. We are an entire spectrum of continuum dynamics.

Therefore, this is the first year when we intentionally don’t start with long meetings about what to do next in terms of big goals (or, as the startup ecosystem would courageously put it — BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal). 

We don’t lose time, energy, and money in framing bold statements about what we want to accomplish this year on a granular business level, nor do we gather the team to make big promises about how we going to rock the stage. 

We learned first-hand that things are harder than they seem. Instead, we do what needs to be done. We do our jobs.

We continue initiatives started months ago, some maybe even a year ago, to make sure we finish them and meet our expectations. We try to keep momentum across the board. 

Marketing and communication tasks such as following-up with the affiliates, publishers or keeping the dialogue alive with our customers via in-depth e-mails. 

Development activities where we consolidate and improve our entire portfolio of products and the overall experience we are offering on our shop. 

Support work to keep our promises and serve the people who trusted us with their wallet and bet on us in order to build a website that truly makes them proud. 

By approaching beginnings in this manner, we see benefits on multiple levels. On the one hand, we are more relaxed and laid back because we gain the mental space to find the best solutions to our current challenges. We don’t rush, and we don’t cut corners. 

We give ourselves the chance to do things in our rhythm, not blindly follow a superficial trend just because most people and companies out there embrace it. We stick to our own tempo.

At the same time, I was wondering why not consider the fact that the beginning of crafting bold business strategies could be in April, for instance? Why do we need to keep pushing ourselves to find the magic potion in the first days of the year? Why not take the time to finish what we’ve been already working on? 

The answer is simple: it’s easier to start from zero than to keep swimming in the messy middle, as Scott Belsky’ wisely writes in his book with the same title:

“We love talking about starts and finishes, even though the middle stretch is the most important and often the most ignored and misunderstood. We don’t talk about the middle because we’re not proud of the turbulence of our own making and the actions we took out of despair. (…)

Every advance reveals a new shortcoming. Your job is to endure the lows and optimize the highs to achieve a positive slope within the jaggedness of the messy middle — so that, on average, every low is less low than the one before it, and every subsequent high is a little higher.”

At Pixelgrade, in the last six months, we’ve learned this lesson the hard way, as we’ve already described it in our Transparency Report #10. Feel free to take a look and learn from our hands-on experience. At the same time, we somehow knew that from the early beginnings, even though on a different level and with different risks. 

When most of the WordPress authors out there jumped into the multi-purpose themes arena, we were creating niche premium themes that would solve real, specific digital problems. 

When the competition started delivering work like they were managing a factory with 1,000 employees, we took our time to fine-tune and release Gema in no less than six months. 

When they hired a bunch of people from all over the world to amplify their efforts and provide 27/7 customer support access, we downsized the squad, improved how we deliver assistance to our buyers (via Pixelgrade Care), and protected our teammates’ mental health.

I am not saying that this is the right nor the only thing to do. I am a strong believer in dichotomies, which imply that things can be one way in some contexts and in other ways when the narrative changes. 

Nonetheless, what I am attempting to highlight is that we have the freedom to make our own decisions, and as long as we place our values at the forefront of our actions and behave consistently, we’re confident we will be fine. 

Thus, we will make plans that truly fit us, both personally and professionally. It will not be easier or clearer, but it will be in alignment with our inner voice, and that’s huge.

It is said that the beginning is the best part of every story. It is, as well, good for you to keep in mind that it’s also the part that sets the tone for the rest. Make sure you are well rested, grateful, and cheerful when you start playing music. In the end, you are the one who will dance on it’s tune, so allow yourself to enjoy it.

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Oana

Oana is a storyteller at Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place one story at a time.