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Your Greatest Gift as a Leader

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At 71 years old, I don’t need many gifts at Christmas. I have a good home, a good family, a good team, and my life has never been more fulfilling than it is right now. The opportunities I’m seeing for partnerships and transformation are greater now than at any other time in my life.

Now, I don’t share that to brag. I am where I am because of the people who help me, and together, we’re seeing incredible momentum around the world. And because of those people and this moment, the only gift I truly need is the one that requires the most stewardship on my part.

The gift of time.

You see, there’s only so much time to go around. I’m 71, and while I believe I have many, many years ahead of me, I also understand that I don’t have as much time as I once had. In truth, I’ve only got the time that’s in front of me today—and the same is true for you.

We all get 24 hours in a day, and we all have to determine how we’re going to spend them. Some of the choices aren’t really choices at all—especially since we all have to sleep at some point—but it’s still up to us to make the most of what we’re given.

That’s why, for this holiday season, I want to give you the greatest gift you’ll ever receive. I want to share with you the secret to making the most of your time.

It’s no mystery that I end every year in the same way: at home, in my study, going through my year-end review. I’ve talked about this process for years because it’s one of the best ways I know to keep my focus on what matters.

My team has produced a few different tools to help people embrace the review process, but whether you use one of those tools or not, I want to encourage you to embrace the practice of a year-end review. There’s no better way to truly understand where you’re going than by looking at where you’ve been.

As Socrates once said, “The un-examined life is not worth living.”

The seven days I spend reviewing my year are the most productive days I’ll have in any 12 months. They help me focus on what I’ve accomplished and have yet to do. They help me identify habits or patterns that need attention. They help me refine my daily schedule so I can continue my journey of personal growth. Nothing else I do compares to the return on investment my year-end review brings me.

So, now that you know the secret, here’s how you can put it into practice:

Set aside time to review. Good intentions aren’t enough here—you have to make time for the process. If you’re just starting out, you won’t need a full-week; a solid half-day (4 hours) will do.

Gather the right materials. You can’t review how you spent your time without a record of that time. Whether you keep a paper calendar or a digital one, find a way to look back over every day of the last 12 months. I also leverage my personal journals and checkbook so I can get a complete picture.

Ask the right questions. You can’t just stare at your review materials and expect insights to leap off the page. You need to interrogate your calendar to make it talk. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Was that a good use of my time?
  • What made that a win for me?
  • What lesson did I learn from that?
  • What’s missing that should’ve been there?
  • What’s there that should’ve been deleted?
  • Who didn’t get enough of my time?
  • Who got too much of it?
  • What will I do differently this year?

Write down what you learn. This is the crucial step in the process. You need to record your thoughts as you have them, or else they’ll get away. You don’t have to write long, flowing paragraphs—you can capture a word or a phrase as it comes into your head, or you can jot down a sentence or two. The point is to not just think the thoughts but get them down on paper for later use.

Look for the patterns. Between your calendar and what you write down, you will notice patterns emerging from the data. Grab onto them because they become your roadmap for action.

Plan out next year. Once you’ve had time to interrogate, think, write, and discover, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into motion. Go ahead and develop your calendar for next year. Start with your biggest priorities and put them into your calendar first. Schedule family events, date nights, strategic meetings, conferences you want to attend, or give yourself deadlines to meet. Once those big events are in, everything else will find its place.

(And if you find that a year is too overwhelming, turn your energy towards planning out your most effective day.)

 

While re-gifting may get a bad rap in many circles, passing along helpful wisdom is never out of style. I’m excited to share this teaching with you once again because it really is the secret to my continued growth.

And I hope, with 2019 on the horizon, it will be the secret to yours as well.

19 Comments

  1. David Owo on December 18, 2018 at 9:52 am

    This is great,
    Am blessed connecting with your grace,
    The Lord Honour you More and More in Jesus Name.

  2. Peter Connell on December 18, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Thank you John. Your practical wisdom and use of time is inspiring. I have planned to set aside an end of year review. The timing of your teeet was impeccable.
    Regards,
    Peter

  3. Paige Wescott on December 18, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Thank you! Perfect timing! I very much needed this RIGHT NOW! Defending my Dissertation this week and I need to take inventory and plan, but I need to devote substantial time and focus to this! Thank you!

  4. Swaraj on December 18, 2018 at 10:54 am

    John,whole year (2018),I was doing major in minor things.2019 is for me either a making or breaking year. I am 62,spendthrift,keep no account..yet to have financial stability.

  5. Sharon Holt on December 18, 2018 at 11:59 am

    John,

    What good insights you have. Instead of simply being frustrated about what I haven’t accomplished that I wanted to, I need to look at my patterns and see what I can do differently. Sometimes it is the simple things in life that make the greatest differences.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

  6. Paul Kranz on December 18, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    A great book for asking the right questions is Berger’s A More Beautiful Question. Paul sends…

  7. Percy on December 18, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Thnx John inspiring always when I read books my life changes I get motivated I see life differently thank you

  8. Funmi Fasina on December 18, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Thank you, John. Surely great insights to follow and the gift came at the right time as I plan to review, check on what’s next to pursue in my personal and professional development. Having the right questions and inquiring from Holy Spirit is an excellent way to jump-start in the year 2019.
    Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas in advance sir

  9. Denise Taylor Gruener on December 19, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    You were in my beginning and still with me now! When I was working for a company that kept me away from my family and the life that I wasn’t living @70 hours a week and in airports on a regular basis for 10 years, I would always pick up a John Maxwell Book at the airport! Why is this important? I am sure many people pick up John Maxwell books…..It is important , because I really HATE to read books…..except your books. Mr. Maxwell -your books resonated with all that I thought, felt and believed. I was not alone in my thought process- in being the best that I could be at what I was doing. You Sir-thought the same way that I did…I wasn’t alone in my belief system . Often, the companies I worked for didn’t share OUR same enthusiasm for what makes a good leader(you know, those procedure manual types of people).Before I was on the JMT I impacted those on my team in positive ways and I was a change maker, I helped those that trusted and supported my leadership be all that they could be. I still have relationships to this day. I was mindful of operations, because that was my job, the difference was I was mindful of people as well and believed and still believe that ,this Sir, is what true leadership is all about. It does no good to lead a parade if no one follows you to the destination. I believe that every obstacle presents an opportunity to change our condition-thank you for helping me to change my condition! I look forward to certification in March 2019

  10. Austine USHIE on December 19, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Sir Thank you for this Treasured Gift. Well appreciated!

  11. Bruce Deslippe on December 20, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Thanks John.
    I was cleaning up our home office and found myself going through a stack of old Success magazines. In flipping through the pages I came upon an article you wrote entitled “People Do What People See” (June 2013). A very timely gift indeed. The past few years I have been working towards a career goal which I finally achieved this past October. I found that since achieving that goal, that I stopped writing, reading and working on my personal growth. This article has given me the push I need to continue on that path. What was old is new again. Thank you for continuing to give of your time and helping me manage mine more effectively.
    Merry Christmas and God Bless.

  12. Adam Nagy on December 20, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I am just about to start the process. As the only active Hungarian John Maxwell Team member yet, it is an honour to follow your footsteps. Thank you John for the great advice!

  13. Juan on December 21, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    waaoooo! lo sencillo no quita lo profundo… cualquiera puede pasar por alto este articulo que hoy nos regala; pero solo los que hemos sentido que tiramos un año a la vez podemos entender lo invaluable que es este articulo, y si lo ponemos en practica se podrá convertir en nuestro secreto para el éxito… gracias John por compartir de manera gratuita esta herramienta y su manera de aplicar… mi deseo es que en la revisión de cierre del 2019 pueda mirar hacia atrás y alegrarme de poner en practica este articulo y no tener que lamentar otro año perdido. Gracias John

  14. Jessica Garcia Zayas on December 23, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Thank you John, great advice. At the age of 30 (me now), lots of times I feel overwhelmed, and by reading everything you share with us, it really helps me in a better way. Thanks for your wise advices, ready for a new year, new goals, better plans. We’re all so grateful for what you do. Many blessings and Happy Holidays to you and your family!!

    Jessica

  15. Joshua on December 25, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    This post is inspiring me to finally keep a leadership journal in 2019. Excellent post!

  16. Evelina on January 4, 2019 at 8:13 am

    will try to make use of my time wisely…

  17. Kwaniri on January 11, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Great leader of leaders John C, your thought and directives on use of time management are vital to your followers including me . I do appreciate all your books especially winning with people that I came across this year 2019. Am proud to be connected with you and look forward in having your useful resources to empower myself and my community . Long live to keep nurture the growing generation .

  18. Ebenezer on February 14, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for this sir

  19. Dan Williams on November 7, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Thanks John I use your materials along with others to help me teach. I am a senior Sunday school teacher who lets The Holy Spirit guide me in studying. Your materials help me each day to put those things in order. Thank you John for all your help. Have a wonderful and blessed day

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