There are a few great equalizers in this world, and one of them just might be the pressure we put on ourselves at the start of a new year. For some, this means a debaucherous send-off to the year you’re leaving behind (in hopes of a fresh start ahead). For others it’s furiously scribbling in a journal, plastering images on poster board, or otherwise hoping to speak intentions into existence. And still there are many shades in between, but the sentiment remains the same: We all want to improve upon the past and look to this time as one of both reflection and opportunity. But is there a right or wrong way to approach a new year? Well, we wouldn’t go that far, but we have asked a variety of successful businesswomen to share the end-of-the-year practices that they count on for grounding, gratitude, and all-around positive vibes moving forward — and it’s probably not a coincidence that they have quite a few in common.
When you consider some of the standard resolutions — eating more wholesome foods, sticking to movement regimen that feels good, or spending more time in nature, to name just a few of the most common — they’re primarily focused on the individual. CEOs, brand founders, and other high-pressure businesswomen’s roles are forced to have a broader view when it comes to Q1, as they have to consider an entire team as well as the future of their business. If you’re like Sheena Zadeh-Daly, founder of celebrity-favorite beauty brand Kosas, you find the challenge invigorating. “As an entrepreneur, I love to start new things, so I get so excited about the beginning of a new year,” she tells TZR. “I get to dream about where I want the year to go and get practical by applying all the learnings from the year before.”
Excitement may be one way to start off on the right foot, but strategizing might be even more important — particularly as many industries find the first quarter of the year to be their slowest. Allison Luvera, CEO and co-founder of wine brand Juliet, explains that this the exact scenario she and business partner Lauren De Niro Pipher find themselves in every January. “It creates the perfect opportunity to take a step back from the everyday grind and dedicate time to reflection and planning,” she says. “I like to think of it as a great moment to reset; to evaluate progress and learnings from the year prior, then define and commit to high-level strategic goals for the year ahead.” This way, even so-called downtime is put to good use.
But it doesn’t have to be all business all the time. As Ripley Rader — founder and creative director of her eponymous womenswear label and teen leadership mentor — tells us, it’s important to allow a moment of celebration. Particularly if, like her, it also happens to be your birthday. Rader throws an annual blowout to acknowledge all her accomplishments from the past year. It’s this balance to which she attributes her success. “New Year's Day gives me the opportunity to explore what I want for myself both personally and professionally for the new year,” she shares. “As the founder of the company, it's very much one and the same.”
Sure, successful businesswomen like Luvera, De Niro Pipher, Rader, and others might have slightly different priorities than you when it comes to kicking off 2024, but their insight as go-getters and goal-setters makes their P.O.V. for a new year one from which we could all take a note. So if you’re looking to manifest your own greatness in the next 12 months (at very least), read ahead to see how they’ll be spending the last week of 2023. Champagne optional.
Start From a Place of Positivity
With so much pressure put upon the beginning of a new year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or focused on things in the past that did not go your way. Forget all that, advises Rader. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge all your victories, both big and small. “I think reminding ourselves of how capable we really are is an excellent place to start a new year,” she says. One way to do this? Positive self talk or affirmations to instill confidence. “I say this to many young founders/leaders: ‘You're nervous to level up? Don't be! You're capable! Historically speaking you've kicked ass at life, what makes you think you can't take on this new adventure/challenge? You can!’”
Kimmy McAtee Bell, partner and creative director for Creative Drinking Agency, has a similar mindset when it comes to starting off the year. “There is so much pressure to give each year a time capsule; when you set new intentions and goals, there is always a part that will look back and be disappointed you didn't get that one work (or workout) goal,” she tells TZR. “For me, it's always a time to go down memory lane and evaluate what myself and my business did well, what worked, and how I can bring more of that into the new year.” The businesswoman shares that she goes so far as to pull out old photos as a physical example of these past wins and a point of focus — “a personal Spotify Wrapped” as she thinks of it.
“As an entrepreneur running a chaotic startup, it's important to make time to celebrate the wins of the year prior”
For some go-getters, including Lauren Wilson, CEO and founder of luxury marketplace Dora Maar, an important aspect of staying positive is not just acknowledging your accomplishments from the past year — it’s rewarding yourself for them. “As an entrepreneur running a chaotic startup, it's important to make time to celebrate the wins of the year prior,” she says. “Recognizing all the things that went well gives me the momentum and the energy to seize new opportunities.” Maar mentions that sometimes these rewards can be grand (like a fun vacation) or more intimate (like a small get-together with friends and family). The crucial component is dedicating undivided time to honor the fruits of your labor.
Show Some Gratitude
The most successful businesswomen know that it takes a village, so part of their annual wrap-ups involve tipping their hats to the team — especially after what for many industries is the most stressful time of the year. That’s why Joey Nix, fractional CMO at CMO POP!, makes sure to use this time to give back to everyone who contributed to the hustle. “Q4 is typically the busiest, most impactful quarter in a sales cycle, so I really try to ease into things and show gratitude to the team for their accomplishments rather than pushing for crunch mode all the time,” she tells us. “If we hadn’t already, we take those learnings to establish goals and also make sure they’re communicated across the board so the company feels like we’re one team working towards a shared North Star.”
Cognizance and clear communication can be effective ways to express gratitude, but another is a good old fashioned holiday party. McAtee Bell loves tying her team’s intimate celebration to their major accomplishments, to make them even more meaningful. “Sometimes it's a dinner or something based on what we are working on that year, like seeing an NBA game after working on the NBA Finals for Nike,” says the creative agency leader. “It always includes a small speech where I tell everyone how important they are to me and I cry, but it's important to me to try and communicate to people how appreciative I am for their role in our wins.”
No matter the manner in which it is communicated, the practice of giving gratitude has been proven to boost one’s own happiness, according to several studies. So even if you don’t have a team to celebrate this holiday, you could try it for yourself through a simple 15-minute journaling exercise, sending notes to loved ones, or even simply being more specific next time you give someone “thanks.”
Give Yourself Grace
They say pressure makes diamonds, but there’s a fine line when it comes to self-motivation and burnout. Just like the rest of the world, even the most successful businesswomen can feel held to an impossible standard, and with so much end-of-the-year messaging around “becoming your best self” it’s easy to be overcome with ideas of perfection; to mistake healthy and sustainable goals for those that only leave women comparing themselves to others. As Rader explains, “Being a leader/CEO and really putting oneself at the forefront of a company is a lesson in courage and vulnerability.” How does she deal with it? By actively giving herself grace, acknowledging the fact that the responsibility of being a leader is hard. “Leading without heart gets me nowhere, so recognizing my humanity within leadership fills my cup to enter the new year with a renewed sense of purpose and passion.”
Nix similarly tries to practice extra patience with herself as the year comes to a close — particularly as she tries to balance her work life and home life, as a mom of two little ones. “On a very real note, by New Year’s Eve, I will have had two weeks without childcare and both my young children also have their birthdays in that time,” she explains. “Not to mention all of our extended family obligations around the holidays. Our home is overridden with toys, we’ve all gorged ourselves, and I am counting down the days until school starts and praying that I might have just one day to sleep in before starting work again.” It may not be very glamorous, but spending December 31st at home in your pajamas, simply trying “not to lose your cool” (Nix’s words) is not only a reality for many businesswomen, it’s a form of self-care and self-preservation.
Balance Personal With Professional
For many entrepreneurial women, the balance between personal and professional life takes a lot of effort. Too much attention to one area could easy cause a deficiency in the other. In the case of Jillian Romero Chaves, that means being as persistent about her goals as founder and CEO of dating app Clara as well as her goals to find a partner and start a family. “I leverage Clara (yes I am a super user of my own app) to hold myself accountable to my dating goals, actively seeking and setting up at least one date a week and actively reflecting during this time period,” she tells TZR. “The holiday season tends to be a time when people are more relationship-oriented, making it an ideal period for intentional dating and nurturing the desire for a partner or family.”
While Nix’s goals for a personal/professional balance may look a little different than Romero Chaves’, she similarly uses her businesswoman savvy to tackle them. Her tactic? Put a number to it. “I like to make my goals quantifiable instead of more general,” the mom-of-two explains. “I find that adding a more concrete target helps me actually achieve them. Instead of ‘have more adventures with the family’ I’ll plan to take a 5-day road trip and fly long haul at least once.” As someone in a leadership role, applying that familiar business acumen helps Nix (and many like her) feel accomplished and productive even in her off-duty life.
Unplug (No, Seriously)
With more responsibility on their shoulders, women in leadership roles often find it difficult to power down work mode (literally) and stay in the moment. While it’s not always possible to indulge in a full-on digital detox, many businesswomen make it an end-of-year goal to try and disconnect — at least for a week or two.
Wilson, for one, subscribes to the end-of-year-unplug philosophy. “I think it's so important for myself and my team to disconnect from the daily grind of running a fashion startup and recharge the batteries for the new year,” she says. “Everyone comes back refreshed — and usually with more creative ideas — when we step out of the echo chamber of our day-to-day.” For the entrepreneur, this means literally getting out of town. “I really encourage people to travel and expand their experiences beyond the four walls of Dora Maar.” Wilson created her company to reflect what is happening in both fashion and culture as a whole, so traveling helps provide important feedback which is particularly useful heading into a new fiscal year.
“I find that adding a more concrete target helps me actually achieve them. Instead of ‘have more adventures with the family’ I’ll plan to take a 5-day road trip and fly long haul at least once.”
As the founder of a buzzing beauty brand, Zadeh-Daly also finds value in slowing down and finding some much needed separation from her work life. But instead of jet setting at the end of the year, she prefers to create some quality time at home. “This time is all about hunkering down, being cozy, lighting fires, cooking hearty meals, baking sweet treats, spending as much time on the couch under blankets with my family as I want,” she explains. “I want the feeling of being in a cocoon so that I can emerge at the beginning of the year feeling rested, renewed, and ready.”
Get (and Stay) Grounded
While the idea of getting grounded ahead of a new year is a common goal of successful businesswomen (at least the ones we talked to), it can take a few different forms. For McAtee Bell, it’s all about therapy. “I always schedule a few extra slots in the holiday season,” she says. “Without it, I would never be able to bring the wins of my year to the forefront, but instead get stuck in the imposter syndrome cycle or focus on all the negatives.”
Luvera’s most grounded self is a result of time devoted to her nearest and dearest. “I always prioritize spending time with my family around the holidays as their unwavering support reminds me to be grateful,” the CEO shares. “It also gives me perspective on how far I've come in life from growing up in a small town in NY and helps me enter the new year with a fresh, optimistic attitude.” As for her business partner Lauren De Niro Pipher, sticking to a daily routine of transcendental meditation, writing, and exercise keeps her feeling most connected to herself.
Such grounding practices have a multitude of benefits. When specifically used at at the dawn of a new business year, the ultimate pay-off is a much-needed sense of clarity and renewed inspiration. “The creative process then comes naturally and I approach work from a more clear and balanced perspective,” explains De Niro Pipher. But you don’t have to be a CEO or entrepreneur to take a page from their books — advice from anyone who’s a pro at setting and crushing goals is something anyone can use, no matter how they define a successful new year.