And Your Theme for 2011 Is…?

Productivity, Uncategorized — By

Welcome to a new year and a new decade! Now, get to work… 🙂

Well,  how about a way to make this year the best ever? Before you answer, know that what I suggest is more fun than resolutions. And more big picture than goal setting.

You see, rather than focus on the micro (resolutions) lets FIRST focus on the macro (your theme for the year.) Put another way, it’s about focusing on the high level strategy before drilling down to granular items like projects, tasks and goals.

What do I mean by a theme? Well, you’ve heard of the Chinese calendar, right? 2011 is the year of the Rabbit. 2010 was the year of the Tiger.

I look at a yearly theme in a similar way in this context: one word that covers your theme for the year. At a high level, it’s what the year will be about and  stand for. Your theme MUST be short. One or two words MAX. Why? It forces you to focus and prioritize, both good and necessary to live a successful theme.

I’ve been theming my years for a while. It’s a fun exercise that helps me focus on at a high level. Theming your year is also an ideal way to get out of overwhelm as well.

Your Theme = More Focus, More Fun, More Honoring Your Principles

How are those New Year’s resolutions working out? You may be beating yourself up right about now. And it’s natural to see why.

First, we dive head first into all sorts of bright, shiny productivity tools. This gives us a false sense of “I’ve got it covered“ syndrome. Next, we overload ourselves with unrealistic and overly ambitious plans. And before long, we’re blaming ourselves over unmet goals, unfinished to do’s, unrealized outcomes and more.

That’s not failure. That’s reality. A sage business coach gave me this advice and I’ll share it with you: if you meet all your goals, you’re not setting them high enough. If you meet less than 50%, you’re being too ambitious. So keep that in mind moving forward.

What’s a Theme Exactly?

No, not talking about WordPress. A theme essentially brands your year with a singular, overarching outcome. For example, the year I took 7 weeks off and traveled and biked From Texas to Vancouver and back was “The year of adventure.” Other past themes I have include, the year of “action”, the year of “transformation” and the year of “accountability.”

To brainstorm your 2011 theme, do this: sit back, relax, get comfortable and distraction-free, and then ask yourself these questions: “What do I want this year to really be about, exactly? How will I know the year is a true success?” How can I sum up my success in 2011 with a single word and have it speak to all areas of my life?

Next, see what comes up for you. Jot down what surfaces. There are no right or wrong answers. There are some tips to help you birth a theme that speaks to you. (Or if you are visual, a theme that’s the big picture. And for the kinesthetic folk out there, a theme you can really grab a hold of.)

Introducing My 2011 Theme:  “The Year Of Abundance”

Want an important success trait of a winning theme? The theme should cover ALL areas of your life: business, personal and spiritual. And that’s really the dynamic that makes for an effective theme – make it is broad enough to cover all areas of your life, not just business.

So what does this look like in more detail? Here are a few outcomes from me living my theme of abundance in 2011:

  • Business abundance:
    • Launch a new product each month
    • Have my pick of speaking engagements: locally, regionally, nationally and globally
    • Generate an abundance of income via revenue streams from services, products, affiliate marketing, speaking and more
    • Grow my business network from attending more conferences and being more involved in my local community
  • Personal abundance
    • Alter my diet and exercise regimen to have more energy
    • Get married this year!
    • Continue to grow my circle of acquaintances and friendships
  • Spiritual expansion:
    • Start new mediation practices
    • Continue and expand new worship practices

See where I’m going here? Good. Now lets dig deeper into the rationale for theming your year.

Why Theme Your Year? Four Reasons…

There are a lot of reasons yet these four bubble up to the top…

Reason #1: helps eliminate distraction. A theme is a great filter to eliminate distraction as well as activity that does not serve you or support your theme. It gives you the power, the conviction and satisfaction of saying NO when the situation demands it without feeling guilty.

Reason #2: a wellspring of inspiration.  A theme helps you focus your energy and keep your motivation going all year long. So even if you get off track at some point, you have your compass to regain direction, which is your theme.

Reason #3: stand for something. As time goes by, we easily lose track of the day-to-day. In contrast, a theme is all-enduring. You’ll remember if for years, and with it, the accomplishments and victories that supported that theme.

Reason #4: accountability. A theme helps you be accountable to YOURSELF and to others, always a challenge for the entrepreneur.

3 Tips for a 2011 Theme That ROCKS

I’ve themed my years for some time and gained valuable insights along the way. So, here are some tips to successfully theme 2011 (and subsequent years)

  1. Make the theme short and punchy: no sentences, one to three words MAX
  2. The theme should be broad enough to encapsulate personal, professional and spiritual practices
  3. The theme should be consistent with your values, mission and purpose

To get you started, here are a few themes from years past. Notice how each theme was representative of a major thrust for that particular year. (Indicated in parentheses.)

  • The year of “Transformation” (career change)
  • The year of “Growth” (Adding professional speaking to my repertoire)
  • The year of “Adventure” (traveled for 7 weeks that year)

One more thing…

A theme for your year is one piece of the puzzle. You still want to set goals, and look at doing things differently and better as a way of evolving your effectiveness. I’ve talked about theming your year at length because the concept is new to many. And if you’re like me, once you do it, you’ll be hooked—for life!

So get after it people! Share your theme with me in the comments. I look forward to your inspired actions and can’t wait to see some mind-blowing themes.

Please comment: what’s your theme for 2010? And how will you manifest it?


  • Marc Harty says:

    Want a great follow-up to your theme for the year development? Once you have it, share it with someone and see how it lands for them. Make sure it’s someone you know fairly well. I look forward to those responses as well!

  • Anonymous says:

    My Theme is to “Optimize” …everything I do tis year. Be it Relationship @home, Business, or Community.

  • Ken English says:

    Thanks for explaining the concept. I think it’s a better way to begin than to grab a few topics and make them resolutions, which are never solutions to the basic problems. People tend to want quick fixes, rather than lasting resolution to an issue. Creating a theme is a nice idea. Mine is going to be “Action.” The year of taking action. I’ve been willing to watch other people do things, even when I know I might be able to do the same, or better. I’ll take some action each day and do the things I know I can, and learn how to do the things I can’t, but want to. I see in the word “Theme,” the word “ME,” and I realize I don’t have a theme without ME, do I? Looking forward to meeting you along the way…

  • Anonymous says:

    My theme this year is LEVERAGE. I want to make sure professionally and personally, I’m using all my resources to their fullest potential.

  • I love this idea, Mark! It feels so much better than making dozens of small “Resolutions.” My theme this year is “Living my dream life.” That means that I truly embrace the life I am creating while I am on the journey each and every day, because success is a journey, not a magical destination far off in the future.

    All the best to you in 2011 and may Abundance flow to you in all areas of your life:)

  • John O'Hara says:

    I think this is a really great idea, I gave up having New Year’s resolutions a long time ago because for one reason or another they just never seemed to work for me.

    It’s a really cool concept to ‘theme’ your year – it just makes so much sense to me. It’s like a light bulb has just gone off in my head. I’m going to go somewhere quiet for an hour or so and come up with a theme that I will apply to 2011. Happy New Year to you Marc, thank you for sharing this idea. Regards John O’Hara (United Kingdom)

  • Jim Bowman says:

    Focus. That’s what struck me immediately about creating a theme as I read your article. I hadn’t properly thought about this on a personal level, but it’s not so different from corporate planning, in which operating units align with overarching corporate strategy.

    An executive I used to work for expressed succinctly how to make our corporate growth plan real: “If you’re doing something that doesn’t attract a new customer or keep a current one, stop it.” That was an operative definition of a theme. It helped us focus our thoughts and plans as we asked ourselves if a contemplated action met that simple test.

    Thanks for a great, thoughtful post, Marc. I will use this in 2011.

    Jim Bowman

  • Marc Harty says:

    Great idea! Please keep me updated on your progress..

    ~ Marc

  • Marc Harty says:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your comments. First, never noticed the “me” in theme! That’s a really cool observation. Second, I too have utilized “Action” as a theme. It’s a winner.

    Just make sure you detail which actions you want to take and be sure and execute.

    I look forward to meeting up along the way. I speak at different venues across the US. Where are you exactly?

    ~ Marc

  • Marc Harty says:

    Hi Shannon,

    Happy 2011! I know how busy you are and really appreciate you sharing your theme with us. I know I can help you leverage our relationship for the good of us both!

    ~ Marc

  • Marc Harty says:

    Hi Meghan,

    Thanks for sharing your theme! From the tone of your comments I just feel the inspiration in your words coming through. Make sure to journal those victories that are proof you are indeed living your dream life.

    ~ Marc

  • Marc Harty says:

    Hi John,

    You hit the nail on the head! That’s why I do this…to help make a difference in people’s businesses and their lives. Please come back when you’ve got your theme.

    And if you’re like me, once you do this, you’ll theme every year from now on.

    ~ Marc

  • Marc Harty says:

    Hi Jim,

    Love your theme! Can you see ways to apply it on a personal
    and spiritual level as well?

    ~ Marc

  • Neill Neill says:

    My theme for 2011 is ACTION. This will be my filter as all the shiny objects come flying by. I’ll know by the four new products, including a book, that are generating income by year end.

  • Marc Harty says:


    I like action. And with action comes focus. I’ve learned to focus on seeing one thing through to completion and then on to the next. Good luck with your four new products. Keep me posted on your progress.

  • Anonymous says:

    Awesome Marc. Love the part about new meditation practice. That’s where the creativity will flow.

  • Marc Harty says:

    Hi Pam,

    Thanks for the feedback. What’s your theme for 2011?

    ~ Marc

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