‘Tis the season. Not just for shopping and baking and over-indulging. It’s also the time in the calendar when we look back at the year gone by and make plans for the next one. 2018 may have been a good year for you personally, and we hope it was filled with fun, family and friends. But how was the year on the business front?
Now is the time to reflect on what you achieved, what didn’t quite come up to expectations, and what goals you want to set for 2019. Some people are really good at itemizing their thoughts in a list (and checking them twice). However, if you have trouble organizing your reflections in a way that can be helpful in planning for the future, we can help.
Here are 8 questions to ask yourself as you look back on the past months, and then 6 questions to guide you looking forward. Take time to consider your answers and write them down so you have them as a reference for the New Year.
- What accomplishments, breakthroughs, successes and joys did you experience this year?
Don’t just review the ground-shaking events – write down the small recollections. Too often we think that success comes in large packages with bows and overlook the small events that have brought us satisfaction, such as recognition from a colleague. And don’t overlook your team achievements and the role you played in those, because helping others to do well is the hallmark of a good leader.
- What 10 things are you most proud of in the last year?
Pride has often been described as one of the seven deadly sins. But for this exercise, ignore that and give yourself a pat on the back for things done well. And don’t forget to frame what makes you proud in your own terms. If you feel even a little bit pleased about something you or your team members did, then call yourself proud!
- What disappointments, failures, challenges or mistakes did this year bring?
At the risk of slipping into a gloomy mood over the things that got away from you, recognize the incidents that caused you some pain. We’re all supposed to learn from our mistakes, but first we have to confront them squarely and try to figure out what went wrong. Remember to forgive yourself and others for things that were beyond your control, and look for the silver lining in everything.
- What have you learned about yourself and your life?
If you’ve done a good job analyzing your achievements and disappointments, it should be pretty clear what lessons you can learn from them. For one thing, you should appreciate what you did when you were successful so that you can repeat those strategies. As for mistakes, it’s worth remembering the saying that if you keep doing the same things but expect different outcomes, it will drive you crazy.
- What insights have you gained?
As you’ve been answering the questions so far, what have you found out about the way you’re living your life inside and outside of work? Are your relationships healthy? Have you been making wise choices in how you spend your time? And is your role at work enjoyable? Have you identified successes and do you know why you achieved them? Above all, have you found balance between your home and work life?
- What are you grateful for?
Start with the obvious – your family, your friends, your colleagues at work. If you’ve recently overcome a serious illness, then each day is more precious. If you had no set-backs during 2018, then celebrate instead of taking your good fortune for granted. Once again, count the small things. Small is beautiful.
- What are you taking with you into the next year?
Perhaps you’re moving forward with determination to be more successful. Maybe you’re starting 2019 with a clearer understanding of what you need to change. Each New Year brings a sense of being able to start afresh and get things right this time. Be sure to count the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will help you do well. They don’t weigh very much and will serve as a toolkit for the coming months.
- What are you leaving behind?
Ideally, you’re not carrying forward any baggage that will drag you down as you launch into 2019. Once you’ve acknowledged those problems and mistakes and learned from them, put them in a jar and leave them behind. Try to walk away from people who cause you stress and responsibilities that can be better handled by someone else. Lighten your load.
Once you’ve spent time on those first 8 questions, turn the page and think about next year.
- What is your hope for the New Year?
Perhaps you’ve already taken action to turn your wishes into reality. For example, you may have already booked the venue for your wedding, or bought a ticket for a flight to Fiji. But while you’re attending to those practicalities, think about the big picture. Are you hoping for more job recognition? Do you long for a raise in pay, or would you like to negotiate more vacation time – after all 2 weeks in Fiji is better than 1!
- What are the opportunities facing you?
It’s always a good idea to pause and do an inventory of the opportunities that are open to you. Then it’s time to be realistic. For example, if you take a chance on applying for that new job, will it mean you’ll have to move your family across the country? If you’ve been offered a different role in your current company, does it mean extra responsibilities but no increase in pay. It’s all about listing your options and weighing the pros and cons.
- What do you want to be different?
In earlier questions we asked you to recall successes as well as disappointments, and then put negative things in a jar. But before putting that jar on a high shelf, make sure you analyze how you could have done things differently. Think like a project manager – if you want outcomes that you’d like to be better, change the inputs and the process.
- What lessons did you learn in 2018 which will be helpful as you move into 2019?
The purpose of working through these questions is to find useful pointers to greater success in the upcoming year. We all know people who don’t learn their lessons. Don’t be one of them. Just STOP doing what didn’t work, START doing new things that might work, CHANGE old habits that didn’t get results, but CONTINUE with strategies that are successful.
- Fast forward to the end of 2018. You’ve hit it out of the park. What will that look like?
You may be familiar with your corporate vision, but do you have a personal vision of yourself at the top of the league? A vision is comprised of higher goals, and often reflects values such as integrity, loyalty, commitment to the environment. Based on those values, you can set SMART goals, that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Aim to be a winner.
- What needs to change to get there?
Only you know what you are willing to change. An analysis of 2018 highs and lows will be useful in deciding what changes will take you the furthest. It’s possible that 2018 was so successful that you conclude that nothing needs to be done differently. However, if you’re like most of us, you will take the midnight chimes that usher in 2019 as a signal that you can re-invent yourself. Best wishes!
Karen Benz is a member of the coaching team at BetterManager!