December 31, 2015 3 Comments
A new year is upon us, which means it’s time to break out the champagne and decide what we want to change about ourselves in the new year. It’s only natural to think in terms of fresh starts and new opportunities when the calendar changes, but as many of us know, resolving to change is one thing. Making those changes stick is another.
Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Do a Year-End Review instead.
This is the time of year we all do self-reflection and resolve to improve ourselves in the new year. As most everyone knows making resolutions like “I’m going to lose weight” rarely are successful. The main reason for this is these goals are not put in a context that will allow for long-term success. Once the initial “eat better and get to the gym” wears off and we are stuck in the daily grind of our lives we revert to our old habits.
Research suggests that one-third of all new year’s resolutions are abandoned within the first month, and fewer than half survive to the six-month mark. How can we keep our resolutions going all year long? If you really want to resolve to accomplish something and truly make a commitment with yourself, then you need to create an environment for long-term success. This means adopting GTD and incorporating your desired outcomes into your trusted system.
The first thing I recommend is to do a “Yearly Review” to reflect on last year and project into next year. Then if something comes out of that self-reflection that you really are willing to commit to, you need to incorporate it into your system and work your system every week via the Weekly Review. This has to be come a habit for long-term success. By using this approach (as opposed to a new year’s resolution) you will have a much better chance of long-term success.
The year-end review is similar to a weekly review but at a much higher level. Here are the questions I ask myself:
Looking back on 2015:
- What were your wins for the year?
- What were the risks you took?
- What is your unfinished business from this year that will carry forward to 2016?
- What are you most happy about completing?
- Who were the people who had the greatest impact on your life this year?
- What was your biggest surprise?
- What did you do to give back to your community?
Looking forward to 2016:
- What would you like to be your biggest win to be this year?
- What are you planning to do to improve yourself?
- What would you be most happy about completing in the coming year?
- What would you most like to change about yourself?
- What are you looking forward to learning?
- What do you think your biggest risk will be?
- What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving?
Then, I do a thorough review of my Someday/Maybes to see if there is anything on there that I want to commit to accomplishing in the new year. Perform a review of your higher-level horizons like your Areas of Focus to see if they still reflect your commitments and responsibilities accurately.
Next, it is critical to assess how you have allocated your time over the course of the last year. This is critical because time is your most valuable asset. There are only 24 hours in a day and therefore you need to make the most of each one of those hours. To complete my Year-End Review, I schedule my calendar for the new year. I schedule all of my recurring meetings to stop recurring at the end of the year so I will have a blank calendar in the new year. This way I get to reassess the value of those meetings and decide if they are still necessary.
Open your calendar and look back at your recurring meetings. Were they worth the time you invested in them? I’ll bet they started out with the best of intentions and actually provided value but over time, they decayed into less value. Take a critical look at your recurring meetings and ask yourself if they continue to be worth the time investment. Ideally, you will delete these from your calendar. If you’re not comfortable with removing them, then maybe you can reduce their recurrence from daily to weekly or weekly to every other week or monthly.
The next thing you need to do is to schedule your priorities. This is absolutely critical! If you don’t schedule your priorities, your calendar will get filled up with other stuff and you wont be spending your time on the highest value items. Schedule the things that really matter first. For me, this is my family time, my weekly review, priority projects, 1:1s with my direct reports and any major commitments I may have.
Schedule these items in the morning and don’t make them more than 90 minutes. Why? Because if you schedule them in the morning and you get “overtaken by events” and have to do something else you can bump a lower priority item off later in the day. Also, there is ample evidence showing that people’s energy, concentration and effectiveness is greater in the morning than the afternoon. There is also lots of evidence that after an hour and a half people’s effectiveness drops off significantly so if you have a large project you are much better scheduling multiple 90 appointments than to try to slog thru a multiple hour task.
Schedule multiple 30 minute appointments to process your “inboxes.” For most people this is email but if your honest with yourself you have multiple incoming queues of stuff. If you follow GTD then you have your “unprocessed” queue of stuff. You may have an “inbox” on your desk for physical papers, you may have incoming calls, you may have RSS feeds, you may have the incoming stream of social media or other incoming queues of “stuff” that needs to be processed. Schedule time to process your stuff to zero.
Once you have added these items to your calendar, then whatever free blocks of time are left can be filled with meetings and other lower priority items.
Do a Year-end Review and I guarantee you will feel better and you will start 2016 off on the track to success!