For many years, during the Christmas holidays, I have devoted some time thinking about what I wanted to achieve in the upcoming year and then made my New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, like many of my friends, my determination to stick to and follow through those resolutions faded within the first few months.
So this year, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of making some new resolutions (which always turned out to be the same old ones year after year), I thought about the performance reviews companies request from their employees. I decided that before making a new list of goals, I was going to review what I did and didn’t do in the past year and initiate a personal yearly review.
At a recent TEDx event, shown on Ted.com, Jane Fonda, an Oscar-winning actor and prominent activist, said, in regard to what she calls the “third act” of her life, that “In order to know where I was going I had to know where I had been.”
Following Jane’s advice, I felt that finding out the connection between the beginning and the end of 2011 would help me determine my vision for 2012, and help me define some concrete and realistic objectives for the upcoming year. Otherwise, I could end up at the end of 2012 like Christopher Columbus, who didn’t know where he was headed when he left, didn’t know where he was when he got there, and didn’t know where he had been when he got back.
Where was I and what did I do last year?
To begin the process, I started my personal yearly review by analyzing last year’s results – I looked at the relation between the goals I set last January and the results I achieved by the end of the year. Did I achieve my goals or not?
I asked myself two questions: “What went well last year?” and “What did not go so well?” For each question, I tried to come up with at least six to eight answers per category in my personal and professional lives. And while thinking about the answers, I focused on those over which I have control, like how much time I devote to my personal life versus my professional life.
I also looked at how my needs or circumstances changed during the year, because those changes can (and did) affect my goals. For example, at the outset of 2011, I had planned to take a spring vacation in Egypt. But Egypt didn’t seem like it would be so relaxing last spring, did it? In another case, a goal I had of launching a new business networking event was set aside because, thanks to other efforts, it no longer seemed relevant.
What went well?
Since 2003, I have organized a monthly event I call the Power Lunch, offering executives and managers the opportunity to learn, share ideas and exchange experiences while exploring a diverse range of management and business-related issues. These lunches have always been well attended, but with some additional tweaking and excellent contributions from the participants in the past six months, they are now at full capacity within a couple of days after I send the invitation. The lunches have also become my primary networking activity – new faces are always at the table, and the quality of the participants amply supports my business development needs.
The other result which I am happy about is the updated look of my Newsletter, Power Lunch and Training4Success mailings. The new look has been very well received and contributed to the increased performance of my trainings and workshops in 2011.
What didn’t go so well?
The new look of my mailings was supposed to be just one of the steps in the re-branding of my overall communication. But in the midst of all my activities, the redesigning of my web site ended up on the back burner. That I need to get back on track in 2012.
The other ongoing challenge I face is my ability to deliver my writing contribution to Prague Leaders Magazine and a blog site to which I am committed to a monthly post. I need to take a hard look at how I am organizing my time, in order to meet my obligations to those writing tasks in a timely manner and with less stress.
Overall, though, my 2011 results are more on the positive side than those of 2010 were, which allows me to start this year with a more optimistic approach than the overall economic situation calls for.
Where am I heading?
A friend recently said to me, “I don’t like to plan because it kills the spontaneity,” and I have to admit that being open and receptive to what the world sends your way sounds great. However, in the words of U.S educator and writer Laurence Peter, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”
So after analyzing what happened last year, I then thought about the future and what I wanted to achieve in the upcoming year. And instead of just writing my usual list of resolutions, I took the time to outline a strategic plan to ensure the execution of those goals. Despite the financial turmoil, I am aiming for a happier and more prosperous 2012, and I have laid some plans to get there.
While thinking about the various objectives I want to accomplish in the next twelve months, I took a piece of paper on which I drew three columns:
- In the first column, I wrote (per category: personal and professional) the list of goals I would like to accomplish this year.
- In the second column, I wrote the actions required to achieve these goals, meaning what do I specifically need to do to ensure that I achieve each goal.
- In the third column, I wrote the timing for each goal – the deadline for when I would like to complete each goal.
As one would with a performance review, I have also added some additional columns to review each goal per quarter.
The idea is to design a road map, a guide to the best way to reach your goals, also keeping in mind that circumstances change and things happen – it’s good to have alternate routes to your objectives, just in case.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you give yourself adequate time to reach your goals. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes ten thousand hours to become expert at any given endeavor. If you are working at it forty hours per week, with two weeks of vacation per year, that’s five years to become an expert.
It was Andy Warhol who said “They say that time changes things. But you actually have to change them yourself.” Taking the time to do the goal setting exercise and yearly review are all about changing things yourself instead of waiting for change to suddenly show up one day. Keep in mind that we tend to overestimate how much we can achieve in an average year. By setting attainable goals and designing a plan to accomplish them, you might experience the best year of your life.
Originally published in Prague Leaders Magazine.