Photo: Fabric

There wasn’t anything normal about 2020, so it feels a little out of step to create new year’s resolutions as though the world weren’t upside down. Setting a resolution to simply exercise more is a bit of a lost cause when I can’t exactly go to a gym right now because of the pandemic.

In the spirit of setting ourselves free from the psychological weight that’s dragging so many of us down, I propose this be the year of “intentions” rather than resolutions. What do you want for 2021? What will make you feel the most restored after this difficult year?

Here are some of my top recommendations for new year’s intentions, especially as they relate to our finances and lives as parents.

1. Practice Doing Nothing.
Yes, we all want financial success in the new year! But I’ve found that it’s difficult to jump right into a giant to-do list if you haven’t first cleared out a little mental space. So I’m setting an intention for 2021 to pause every now and then to just absorb. The Dutch even have a name for this! It’s called “niksen” and means the art of doing nothing.

2. Become More Efficient.
In the spirit of making each minute count, use whatever tools you can muster to organize your life, and maximize your time. That might mean hanging a chalkboard in the kitchen or turning to an old-school agenda planner. It could also mean downloading some organizational apps to help you keep your life organized and your sanity intact.

3. Create a Tangible Money-Saving Goal.
In the midst of a historically low employment market, a lot of us would feel more emotionally (and actually) secure with a little more emergency savings. (Experts recommend that family emergency savings cover up to six months of living expenses, ideally.) Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve lost a job or are struggling to make ends meet. But if you are still gainfully employed, use this opportunity to create a concrete goal with as many specifics as possible. For example, instead of “spend less on takeout,” consider a more tangible intention like, “I will feel good about myself if I cook dinner one extra night each week.”

Your individual goals, and your family’s, will depend on what matters most to you going into the new year. Do you need to prioritize spending more time together? Or remembering to actually leave the house for a walk occasionally, now that we’re all stuck inside 24/7? Financially, are you focused on digging out of tough times or are you planning for the future?

Whatever your top-level needs and wants, the new year is a good time to set some intentions. And this particular new year is a stark reminder that looking ahead should be about hope and vision—not about stressing ourselves out further.

As for me, my intention for 2021 is to be, um, more intentional in how I approach my time and energy.