Happy New Year! I hope your year has begun well.
What is your favorite time of year? Is it Christmas? Is it when you celebrate your birthday? Or when flowers bloom in the spring? Or 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 the week after Christmas.

On 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.

I look carefully at my speaking engagements and consider what I should do more of, what I should do less of, and what I should eliminate altogether.

I look at the growth opportunities I pursued and judge which gave a high return and which didn’t.

I look at all the meetings and appointments I had and determine which ones I should do more of and which I should eliminate.

I consider how much time I spent doing things that I should have delegated to someone else. (I also look at what I delegated and reconsider whether I should pick anything back up or delegate it to someone different.)

I evaluate whether I spent enough time with my family. I also make a list of all the things Margaret and I did together that year, and I take her out to dinner one night so we can reminisce and enjoy them once again. That’s a romantic evening that always ends well!

I try to account for every waking hour I had the previous year. And 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 become more focused, strategic, and effective every year. 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. There’s no substitute for being strategic. To maximize growth, you must develop strategies. That’s the Law of Design.

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. I hope that hasn’t been true for you. If it has, then I want to encourage you to develop a stronger sense of urgency and a pro-strategic mind-set. These things will help you plan and develop strategies for your life and growth. It’s not too late to maximize growth in 2013.

Adapted from The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

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