OK so we almost made it, to the end of 2013.
How has the year been for you? Did it live up to your expectations? Did YOU live up to your expectations? How do you know the answers to these questions… unless you knew what you expected, in terms of the year and what it had to offer.
This last working week is hopefully a good time to sit and reflect on what did or didn’t work out over the past year as well as to think about what lies ahead – but all to often the final few days of our working year get absorbed in a weird mixture of finishing stuff up, hopefully catching up on neglected admin and of course all the seasonal socialising one expects.
Interestingly the catch-up stuff can be a good psychological clearing of the decks (or desk), but we tend to get caught up in the moment a bit and the physical tidying and checking things off on a list, rather than taking time out for the bigger picture. So, we ticked everything off – the desk is clear, the shredder full, the file-pile at least stacked tidily… but did we really accomplish everything we set out to do this year?
Never mind defining our expectations for 2014. After all, that lies off in the dim and distant future space known as ‘after Christmas’ and as such it’s hard to visualise and imagine yourself into, in a meaningful way.
But, sorry for the intrusion of a reality check on this office party and winding down week, here I am afraid is the thing: you can read all the self-help and productivity books you like and tell yourself you will have the best year ever, but unless you actually define what you want to accomplish and organise your activities and habits to align with that, it’s not going to happen.
So, you can if you want create huge lists, mind-maps, hierarchies and systems that are going to map out every inch of 2014 for you – and then somehow try to reconcile that with what actually happens in a time that is by definition completely unknowable, then possibly abandon the lot when unexpected stuff comes up… Or, you can decide from the outset to keep it simple.
How about defining and committing to just 3 things? Before you switch off, put your ‘out of office’ on or otherwise wind down for 2013, think about three big things for 2014. Call them goals, dreams, plans or targets – people can get very hung up on the nomenclature: are ‘goals’ too constrictive, are ‘dreams’ too non-commital? Whatever – I mean three things you want to look back on in a year’s time, and see as having happened or been accomplished.
Start with a professional one, related to your business or your career. What one outcome would you like to be reflecting on in a year’s time that would mean you had had a successful year? It might be something incremental that builds directly on what you are doing now, it might be a change of direction or job, it might be a specific business metric or a financial accomplishment. By all means break it down into stages later on but for now visualise this time next year looking back: have you done it, and if so what did that look and feel like?
Now what about your commitments outside of work – your family, your loved ones, your community? What do you want for them in 2014? What one specific thing do you want to do for the people that matter? Maybe it’s a huge thing like a relocation, maybe it’s a subtle shift like to all have a more active lifestyle or to plan a holiday together. What would make you look back and think, that was good for us all and moved things on in a meaningful way, made things better than the year before.
And for the third big goal, what about YOU? No one else, whatever myriad commitments and accountabilities you have in your professional and personal life, what is going to make YOU better and happier in 2014? What one outcome are you going to commit to for your own benefit – never mind that others will benefit too from that better and happier person you deserve to become. Are you going to lose weight, learn a new skill, adopt a new activity or hobby or creative pursuit? This one should be utterly personal and selfish – in a good way. It might impact on both your relationships and your professional development but that should be by way of added value rather than the aim: Number Three is all about you.
So that’s all I am suggesting, can you make time to think about three things this week, that will make 2014 your best year ever? Think about them, write them down – on page one of next year’s diary or on a post-it note on that lovely clear desk. Tattoo it on your forehead or write it on the back of your hand, pin it on a noticeboard or put it on the homescreen of your phone or laptop where you will see it daily.
If you can keep these three big ones in focus all else will follow. Plan to make 2014 your best year ever – and before then, have a great break!
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