It’s the last day of the year and there’s no denying 2020 has been unlike any other.

It has brought challenges we could never have imagined, and I’m sure many people out there can’t wait to draw a line under it and start afresh in 2021.

I love that a new year often inspires a fresh wave of hope and positivity – and of course the planned vaccine roll-out has really amplified that by providing a long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel. I heard a speaker just before the pandemic hit, Dave Ventura, who calls this feeling “hopium”, and yes, it can be addictive!

It’s also a time of year that encourages personal and professional reflection, with many seeing it as an excellent time to press the reset button and set new goals. I bet many of you reading this can relate and have decided on some New Year resolutions of your own.

But let me ask you this… how much time have you spent taking stock of this year before deciding on next year’s resolutions?

It’s such an important step and one that can really help you to achieve the goals that you set for yourself. It allows you to get your priorities in place and move forward with some real clarity, direction and purpose.

I coach business leaders across the country, and every year I send out a questionnaire which calls for reflection and planning.

It encourages them to take a moment to celebrate their wins and success, and to congratulate themselves on any new systems, people and processes they brought in that have proven effective.

Just as importantly, it asks some candid questions about challenges they have encountered, things they have avoided or things they could have done better. All too often people want to sweep negative experiences under the carpet, perhaps not facing up to what they see as failure, but please, resist the urge.

You’ll stack up more problems if you ignore them instead of analysing them and learning from them. Use them to help you grow and thrive. If you reflect on the whole picture, warts and all, you’ll have the tools to plan more effectively.

The questionnaire purposely puts an emphasis on short-term challenges and aspirations, asking what barriers are anticipated in the coming month, and what objectives have been set for the coming three months.

This approach encourages a more effective approach to goal setting. Too many of us set woolly goals about things we’d like to do “one day”, but that day won’t come unless you start to map out achievable targets, and realistic time lines.

It’s all about starting with baby steps, looking realistically at what you can achieve and when, and little by little you’ll get there. Each marathon starts with that very first step, and then the next, building up gradually to achieve the larger goals.

There’s an excellent book called Atomic Habits by James Clear that illustrates this point brilliantly, teaching you how to become one per cent better every day. To recognise the habits that serve you, and those which don’t. And to build strategies for better, healthier habits that will enable you to live a happier, more effective and ultimately more fulfilling lives.

It discusses how miniscule changes can have life altering outcomes and is a brilliant book to put on your New Year reading list.

If you’re serious about building your own better habits in 2021 to achieve your goals, whether in your personal or professional life, why not do your own 2020 audit and see what you learn about yourself? You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs