Three things you should write down to start the year off right

Welcome to 2020, my beautiful friends! Ready to start the year off right? As we enter a new decade and new year, now is an incredible time to consider making some changes and truly looking at your life to assess where you are and where you want to be. I fully support this practice, but I also want it to be strategic and lasting. That’s why, today, I’m sharing some exercises and advice that has helped me make positive changes in the past (as well as a few things I’m doing this year). And it all requires you to write. Yes, like actually write.

Three things you should write down to start the year off right

Three things you should write down to start the year off right by A Lady Goes West

Here we go …

1. Grab a notebook and ask yourself some questions to reflect on last year and set goals and intentions for this year.

I highly recommend that you take a moment (maybe 10 to 20 minutes actually) to grab a notebook and answer the following questions. Bonus points for heading out to buy a brand new notebook that excites you and you’ll want to refer back to throughout the year.

And even though it may seem easier to do this exercise in your head or on your computer or phone, there’s something permanent and meaningful about writing things down on actual paper. Also, research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them (source), so you may as well give it a try. 

Here are the prompts to consider and then respond to in writing …

  • What made me feel good in 2019?
  • What didn’t make me feel good in 2019?
  • Where do I see myself at the end of 2020?
  • What’s one daily habit I can begin now to get me closer to where I want to be?
  • What’s one new thing that I want to try in 2020?

Once you answer these questions, it should be pretty easy to write down two to three goals or intentions for the year, and you should be as descriptive as you can. Your goals or intentions should include what you want to do, when you want to do them by and why you want to do them.

I think that we often feel like we need to make big sweeping changes with our lives, but sometimes the changes we need to make are small, yet they lead us in the right direction, so you don’t have to shoot for the stars. In fact, sometimes smaller goals are more effective and achievable, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

A few things to keep in mind …

  • Keep the notebook near your work station or kitchen or mirror and go back to it when you need to.
  • You can write down inspiration you come across to help you get where you want to go and even keep track of your progress. I promise that this step feels really good, so don’t skip it.
  • Bonus points if you write down your intentions on sticky notes or notecards and put them in additional places in your house, purse, car or gym bag, so you can refer back and visualize where you want to be multiple times a day.

Three things to write down to start the year off right by A Lady Goes West - 2020

2. Get a planner and write out and plan your workouts for the week, with the right amount of variety to get you results.

You’re looking at a gal who loves to have a hard-copy planner, and that’s because it’s proven beneficial for my life, health and business. For a while, I was doing bullet journaling, but have decided on a standard planner this year, and I bought this one from Target that is sold out, but these are great options from there too.

In my planner, I look at the month ahead and write down the classes I’ll be teaching, my social engagements, work deadlines, etc.. And then on a weekly and daily basis, I write down more specific to-dos, including which workouts I will do on which days.

Once again, there’s just something about having a real planner in your hands (just like writing down your reflections and goals from above) that feels good, provides some permanence and keeps you on track — especially in the fitness arena. Based on that, it seems totally appropriate to write down and plan out your workouts for the week in this way. I’d recommend sitting down at the start of the week and writing down and scheduling the exact time and format of the workout you plan to do each day, but you could even do a month at a time.

If you’re starting out as someone who’s been pretty inactive the last few months, then do not plan to work out every single day in January. There’s no need to jump in to too much, too soon. In fact, it would be beneficial for you to add just three to four workouts a week to get some great results and feel good.

How you schedule your week of workouts really depends on your fitness needs and lifestyle. I can’t give you an exact set-up of what your week should be like without knowing your body, goals and daily life, but it’s safe to say that we all need a rest day, as well as a good mixture of cardio, strength and flexibility. 

Here’s a very loose way to plan your workouts …

  • If you’re planning to do 3-4 workouts, include two strength and two cardio, all at least 20 minutes.
  • If you’re planning to do 5-6 workouts, include three strength, two cardio and one flexibility, all at least 20 minutes.
  • No matter what amount of workouts you do, make sure you take one day off completely from formal exercise, and also make sure that if you’re lifting weights, you don’t do full-body weights two days in a row, and always put a day off or a day of cardio or flexibility in between.
  • Also, I think this goes without saying, but try not to do the exact same workout too many times per week. So if running is your thing, do one day of steady state running, one day of sprints, and then a couple of days of bodyweight strength training and stretching, so you aren’t always doing a similar repetitive motion at the same cadence.

To put this into practice, grab your planner, look at your week and see if you’ll be fitting in your workouts before work, during lunch or after work and whether you’ll be doing any on the weekends. (It’s ideal to do your workouts around the same time every day, but this is NOT a requirement, and it’s also not something that I prescribe to due to my class schedule.)

Then, take the actual steps of writing down the workouts on the days and times you’ll be doing them, with the type of workout you’ll be doing too — specifics work great.

If you’re looking for workout inspiration, I recommend trying Les Mills On Demand for amazing workouts you can do at home or at the gym; the Sweat app; classes at your local gym or studio; or even seeking the help of a personal trainer.

While you don’t have to kill yourself in your workouts every day, almost everyone can benefit from some formal movement throughout the week, and you’ll have a much better chance of staying consistent if you seek variety and regularly map out your workouts in your planner with a little strategy behind it.

There will be days when you have to change course, if you’re low on energy, one of your kids gets sick, or you have something come up at work, but those times will not derail you — stay the course and keep on planning and writing things down throughout the whole year. 

Three things you should write down to start the year off right by A Lady Goes West - 2020

3. Spend two to three minutes every single day writing down one small thing that you are grateful for in a gratitude journal.

While this may seem like the simplest and easiest writing task for the year, it could potentially be one of the most powerful. Just like research shows that people who write down their goals have a better chance of reaching their goals, research also shows that people who practice gratitude daily through writing in a gratitude journal are actually healthier, more positive and even have stronger immune systems than those who don’t do a gratitude journal (source).

Why? Because practicing gratitude daily — by choosing something small and recent in the last 24 hours that makes you happy and writing it down — helps you to be more present, alert, aware and focused on the beauty of your daily life, in spite of whatever is happening around you.

Then, when things get tough in your life (which they will, because we all have struggles), this is where your daily gratitude practice can help a lot. Because you can not only look back on all the wonderful little things you’ve written down each day, but you can also see past the challenges and remember that there is always something to be grateful for.

Your gratitude journal doesn’t even have to be a separate entity, you can write what you’re grateful for in your daily planner or in the notebook where you are keeping track of your goals and intentions. But whatever you do, actually do the writing, and do it daily, hopefully at the same time each day as part of your morning routine, in order to get the most benefit from it. 

I started this practice several months ago, and it’s been a really positive addition to my day, which takes less than a minute and provides a world of good. Don’t skip this one! 🙂 

3 things you should write down to start the year off right by A Lady Goes West - 2020

(Here are my jeans, top and my lipstick from these photos.)

Here’s wishing you a great start to 2020

There’s always a ton of motivational and inspirational content out there at the start of a new year, and you’re free to consume as much of it as you see fit. But if you really want to make some positive progress in your life, you have to take action.

While I would never suggest a strict diet or crazy workout routine in order to improve your life, I would wholeheartedly stand behind these three writing exercises to drive positive behavior change, which when added to your daily routine, can be incredibly powerful for your life and overall well-being — way deeper than just your fitness or appearance, of course. Good luck to you, my friends!

P.S. I’ll be back later this week with an update on what’s been going on in our world so far this year. Have a great week, and thank YOU for being here! Happy New Year! 🙂 

Additional resources you may want to read …

Questions of the day

What’s one goal or intention you have for 2020?

What’s one new thing you want to start this year?

How do you plan out your workouts?



  1. So much wisdom here, Ashley! I need to get better about actually writing things down pen to paper. What you said about the value of making small changes is so true. Trying to do a “big thing” or a giant step to get us closer to it can seem impossible so we put it off, do nothing, and then wonder why nothing changes. Taking small steps toward our goals count for SO much. Most of the time we don’t realize it at the moment but those consistent little steps get us to that big thing. Great post! Picking out a new notebook pronto….

    1. Hi Diane, How funny that a writer like you doesn’t write things down as much as she should! 🙂 I’d get on that hahah — it’s such a forgotten practice. And yes, the smaller goals are not only more doable, but they often fit into our life better too, so they are not to be overlooked. Thanks for saying hi and reading. Happy New Year! Also, did you get your Beautycounter from your family yet?? 🙂

      1. Yes!! I got my order when I was back in FL visiting my parents before Christmas! I got the eye cream (forget which one) and the brow tint (the mascara wand for the eyebrows, blanking on official name). I love the eye cream. I’m picky about that stuff and love the texture. It goes on really smoothly and absorbs so the area is hydrated and concealer goes on flawlessly. 10 out of 10. Some eye creams just sit on the area or slide off and don’t really absorb. But the BeautyCounter stuff really preps the area beautifully, and I don’t say that lightly.
        The brow tint is also good but it was a product I’d never used, of any brand, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect I put it on after I use my eyebrow pencil and it adds a little volume. Figured I’d try something new although it’s not a product I love in general, nothing to do with BeautyCounter. Was just curious so figured I’d try. But that eye cream was a fantastic surprise!

        1. Hi Diane! Yay! I love to hear this! Thank you SO much for ordering, and I’m really glad you’re a fan of the eye cream — you got the Countermatch line, which is a good one.

  2. Hi Ashley!
    I love a hard copy planner myself. I switch up the brand I buy every year to give myself a little change.
    I also have a notebook where every 3 days I write down 5 things I’m grateful for and 5 manifestations for things I want to put out in the universe. It feels good to state things I want to happen as if they actually have happened. While nothing has come fully true yet, writing it down that way makes it seem possible and sometimes even likely.
    Happy 2020, my beautiful friend!

    1. Hi Courtney! I could have guessed that you’d be a hard-copy planner girl as well! 🙂 I remember when you told me that you do the manifestations, and I think that’s such a powerful practice — one that I should try out too. Thanks so much for saying hi, my friend! Here’s to an awesome 2020 for you!

  3. Yes for paper planners!! I am a huge list and plan maker. This year I have a planner and a journal I’m using as a quasi-bullet journal. Both make me so happy 🙂

    1. Hi Jessie! Yess — I did quasi-bullet journaling for a couple years — it’s a nice organized way to do things if you make it work for your needs. 🙂

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