How to Find Focus with a Word of the Year

January 18, 2022

Reading Time: 9 minutes

How to Find Focus with a Word of the Year

The start of a new year comes with many traditions. We set goals, start new habits and think about how we can put our best foot forward. One simple and fun way to stay focused throughout the year is by choosing a word to represent what you hope to do, achieve, experience or feel – a word of the year.

Grow. Edit. Foundation. Build. Simplify. Restore. Challenge. Adventure. Bold. Slow. Structure. All of these words have a special and specific meaning to different people who have chosen them as their word of the year. 

Maybe you’re tuning in and you’ve already chosen your word of the year? If that’s you, I encourage you to keep listening to find out three things you can DO with your word of the year to stay focused, make better decisions and be inspired every day.

If you’ve never heard of this whole word of the year thing, or you haven’t chosen yours yet, then definitely keep listening so you can find out why they’re so fun, and walk away with some inspiration for yours.

Episode 110 of It’s About Time is all about FOCUS.

Well, it’s about choosing a single word that can help you stay focused despite all of life’s attempts to throw us off course, distract us and pull us in a million different directions. We all know what that feels like, and having a word of the year is a simple and fun way to stay focused despite whatever comes our way.

In this episode, you’ll hear

  • Why choosing a word of the year is so helpful for staying focused
  • What exactly a word of the year is, and what it’s not
  • How to choose your word of the year, especially if you’re drawing a blank
  • 3 things you can do with your word to keep it top of mind throughout the year

Why should you consider choosing a Word of the Year?

So why should you choose a Word of the Year? Maybe it sounds like another gimmicky to-do list item, but I’ve found that choosing a word of the year comes down to one thing. Focus.

Couldn’t we all use just a little more focus in this frantic world?

Every day we’re being pulled in so many different directions. Responsibilities at home. Requests at work. Our kids need a snack. Plus, we’re supposed to get in some exercise, eat right, set goals, pursue projects, keep our house clean and a million other things. And don’t even get me started on all the distractions from text messages, emails, notifications and more. 

Staying focused feels like a daily uphill climb, and the thing about most of our big goals – those really big things in life – they can’t be accomplished in just a day, or a quick 15 minutes. They take time, and the longer something takes – whether it’s saving for a down payment, growing your business or planning that conference – the longer something takes, the easier it is to get distracted and get thrown off course. 

Choosing a Word of the Year helps you stay focused.

Choosing a Word of the Year is a super simple way to stay focused. 

In fact, having a Word of the Year helps you focus even if you haven’t set goals for the year. It gives you a theme to fall back on when life feels confusing – and if i’m being honest, it’s felt confusing a LOT lately. 

Choosing a Word of the Year helps with decision making.

Having a word of the year can be a helpful decision making tool – if you’re faced with a dilemma, you can ask yourself –

  • Does this help me grow?
  • Does this add structure?
  • Does this help me build?
  • How can I make this more fun? 

    Grow, Structure, Build and Fun being example words of the year. 

Choosing a Word of the Year can help you step out of your comfort zone.

Your Word of the Year can also give you inspiration to step out of your comfort zone.

Let’s say you’re someone who has worn busy as a badge of honor in the past, and you’ve chosen slow or steady as your word of the year. When you see the word Slow each morning, it might inspire you to say no to something you don’t actually want to do, or to keep your weekend free so you can relax. 

If you’re someone who knows yourself to be a bit shy, having the word Bold as your word of the year could inspire you to volunteer for that leadership role in your community or speak up about something that’s truly important to you at work. 

Having a word of the year – even though it’s literally just a single word – can be powerful when it’s chosen with intention. 

What is a Word of the Year?

So what exactly IS a word of the year, and what makes a good one?

Well, a word of the year is 

A single word that encapsulates what you hope to experience, do, achieve, feel or be in the year ahead.

It can be a verb like build, a noun like home, or an adjective like happy. 

There are no rules, if you want to use a short phrase – use a short phrase. But it’s got to be something that’s easily remembered. Use the sticky note test. If you can easily fit it on a sticky note go for it. 

A Word of the Year is not a quote.

What it’s not – a quote of the year. A verse of the year. Having a quote or a bible verse of the year is incredible. Another amazing exercise in focus and intention. However a word of the year zeroes in and narrows down your focus to a single word. 

Your Word of the Year is not the same thing as your core values.

Your word of the year is also not your core values. Core Values are a list of 5-7 words that guide the way we act, the choices we make, and how we spend our time. They are steadfast, unchanging from year to year. You can learn more about core values over in Episode 21 – Finding Your Footing Through a Priority Shift: How to do the Next Right Thing. You could choose one of your core values as a Word of the Year, as long as it encapsulates what you hope to create in the year ahead.

A good word of the year is one that enables you to instantly picture yourself living that word in the ways that apply to your life. There’s no question what it means to you, you just know. 

And that’s key – what it means to YOU. This isn’t about what the word means or represents to anyone else. You and your best friend could even choose the same exact word and it could have completely different meanings and therefore results for each of you. 

How to Choose a Word of the Year

So – how do we choose a word of the year?

As you’re brainstorming and setting goals for 2022, pay attention to common themes that pop up. Check in with yourself and consider why you’re interested and excited to set certain goals. 

If you’re still not quite sure of your word of the year based on the goals you’ve set for yourself – or maybe you haven’t set specific goals this year – which totally happens. That was my reality in 2021. You can tune in to episode 105 to hear about what happened when I didn’t follow through with setting goals last year.

But If you’re not sure about your word of the year, ask yourself 

  • How do I want to feel this year?
  • What do I want to do this year?
  • When I look back on this year, how do I want to describe it to someone else?
  • What do I need to be reminded of this year?

As you come up with ideas, capture them somewhere – a google doc, a note in your phone, a blank sheet of paper.

If none of the words you wrote down feel quite right, whether you grab a thesaurus or head to Google, take a look at synonyms for some of the words you’ve come up with so far. 

Sometimes, when you look for synonyms for your brainstorm words, you can find an amazing word that you just didn’t think of. 

That’s actually what it took for me to decide on my word for this year, but more on that in just a sec.

The last thing I’ll say here is – don’t overthink it. Please remember that there’s no such thing as perfect, and there’s no reason why you can’t change your mind a few months in. Maybe you start your year with Structure, but lots of life happens and you change your word to Adapt or Flow. Remember – there are no rules, just helpful tips. 

What do you do with a Word of the Year?

Ok – so now that you’ve got your word of the year. What do you actually DO with it?

Here are three things you can DO with your word of the year to help you stay focused, use it to make decisions, and to be continuously inspired to live your word.

Keep it visible in your work space.

I already mentioned sticky notes – so put your word on a sticky note near your workspace, on your wall, on your monitor. Wherever works. You could also make your word of the year your computer background so you’re reminded of your word every time you sit down to work.

Put it somewhere on your vision board.

Put your word somewhere on your vision board. I’ve said before that I used to think that creating a vision board for the year was a dumb waste of time. Now it’s one of my favorite things to do each year. Just like a word of the year is a single word to keep you focused, a vision board is the visual representation of what you hope to create in the year ahead and when you see it often, it keeps you focused on what you hope to achieve. 

Post it where you’ll see it at the beginning of each day.

Finally post your word on your bathroom mirror or somewhere else you’ll see it at the beginning of each day.

They say “out of sight out of mind” for a reason. When your word of the year is visible, it helps you remember what you want to do, even when the going gets tough and life gets crazy.

My Words of Year

I started this word of the year tradition back in 2017, when I learned about the Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets, a goal setting workbook that walks you through fun process for choosing goals for the year ahead. Even though I haven’t used PowerSheets every year, I continue to choose a Word of the Year because it’s such a powerful tool to have in your back pocket.


So, In 2017, my word was grow. I grew new friendships, grew our family’s financial freedom by paying off about 13 grand in credit card debt, and learned a LOT about myself by trying new things.  


In 2018, I chose edit. I very intentionally added things – like taking a coaching certification course, and intentionally cut other things like unnecessary guilt and doing too much.Overall, I carefully considered what was currently in my life and needed to go, and what was missing and should be added. Kind of like an editor taking a red pen to a rough draft.


My 2019 word was foundation. With a brand new baby in January, I wanted to create a strong foundation of family values, family traditions and good routines. And as a new coach, armed with my coaching certification, I wanted to lay a solid foundation of processes, workflows, and long-term goals in my business. Anytime I wanted to get distracted and chase something shiny, I asked myself – Will this build my foundation? 


For 2020, I went with the word build. Build is a lot like growth, but it requires a blueprint. It requires planning and intention, and it requires a strong foundation. When I chose this word in December of 2019r, I envisioned building this podcast with amazing guests, content and loyal listeners like you, building my business by improving upon how I serve clients and creating new ways to serve more people, and build my team through intentional outsourcing. Despite the craziness and constant change we all experienced in 2020, it was an amazing year in so many other ways.


In 2021, my word was Simplify. When the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Day, we were in the process of closing on a house in a new city, and preparing to welcome our second baby girl in just a few short months. Because of all of this upcoming change, I knew that I wanted to keep life as simple as possible wherever I could. That looked like downsizing, donating, and making intentional decisions about purchases and plans. One thing I’ve learned about myself in the past 5 years is that while I can be very strategic with my decisions, I can also sometimes overcomplicate things. So I asked myself on an almost daily basis – How can I make this simple? How can we make this easier? 


Now, in 2022, my word is delight. Delight. I want to have FUN this year. I want to delight in the everyday small moments. I want to delight in simple pleasures like hot coffee with peppermint mocha creamer. I want to delight my girls with fun, memorable activities. I want to delight others by bringing joy and maybe even peppering in some surprises along the way.

In my personal life and friendships, I’ll be asking myself – How can I be a delight to others? How can I create and seek our experiences that are delightful? 

In my business I’m asking – how can I delight my clients? How can I create an experience that is delightful? How can I bring joy to this podcast?

And just like I mentioned having a quote or a verse of the year, mine is Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself in the lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. This verse reminds me that finding worth or joy in wealth, status, material possessions will always leave you wanting more. 

So – now I challenge you to find your word of the year if you haven’t yet, and I’d love to know what it is. 

Hop over to Instagram and send me a DM and let me know YOUR word of the year. 

Links & Resources Mentioned in Episode 110

What will it take you to get from chaos to calm?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hey Anna! I'm looking for an episode about...

Hey Anna! I'm looking for an episode about...