What is your favorite time of year? Is it Christmas? Is it when you celebrate your birthday? Or when flowers bloom in the spring? Maybe it’s your summer vacation. Or when the children go back to school. Or the beginning of football season. Or when the leaves change. When is it?
I can tell you mine. It’s right now: the week after Christmas. Every Christmas Day in the afternoon, after the grandchildren have finished opening all their presents and all the hoopla has died down, I can hardly contain myself, because I know it’s time for one of the things I love most every year.
I steal off to my study while everyone else is watching television or napping. There on my desk waiting for me is my appointment calendar from the preceding year and a yellow legal pad. Starting that afternoon and continuing that week up until New Year’s Eve, I spend time reviewing my calendar. I review every appointment, meeting, commitment, and activity—hour by hour—from the previous 359 days. And I evaluate each of them.
Right now, I’m in the midst of this process. I’m looking carefully at my speaking engagements and considering what I should do more of, what I should do less of, and what I should eliminate altogether. I’m looking at the growth opportunities I pursued and judging which gave a high return and which didn’t. I’m looking at all the meetings and appointments I had, to determine which ones I should do more of and which I should eliminate.
This week, I’ll also consider how much time I spent doing things that I should have delegated to someone else. (I’ll also look at what I delegated and reconsider whether I should pick anything back up or delegate it to someone different.) I’ll evaluate whether I spent enough time with my family. I’ll also make a list of all the things Margaret and I did together this year, and take her out to dinner one night so we can reminisce and enjoy them once again.
With this annual process, I try to account for every waking hour I had the previous year. What’s the value of that? It helps me to develop strategies for the coming year. Because I do this every year (and have for decades), I’m continually becoming more focused, strategic, and effective. Even if I have a difficult time or relatively unproductive year compared to what I desired, it’s never a loss, because I learn from it and improve upon it in the coming year.
Most people allow their lives to simply happen to them. They float along. They wait. They react. And by the time a large portion of their life is behind them, they realize they should have been more proactive and strategic. My yearly process is just one method that I use to be strategic and intentional.
I’ve found that this is a perfect time of year for reflecting and setting goals. And it’s not too late for you to do as I’m doing. Start by sitting down with your calendar for 2015, along with any to-do lists or journals from the past 12 months. On a legal pad (if you’re old-school like me) or your computer (if you’re like everybody else), make note of each event, appointment, and activity. Then evaluate every item on your list. What did you enjoy? What were some of your proudest moments? What did you spend too much time on? What didn’t get enough of your time? In what areas were you especially effective? Where did you fail? What can you learn from your mistakes? The key to this exercise is to use what you discover about your past year to inform and guide you in the coming year. This type of reflective thinking can help you discover what worked and what didn’t, and what needs to change for you to become more effective.
I hope you’ll join me in this exercise – whether you do it this week or sometime soon. By spending time evaluating your 2015, you’ll be better prepared to make 2016 your best year ever.