How to End the Year Well

Regardless of your thoughts about the effectiveness of New Years’ resolutions, most of us want to better ourselves and the organizations we work with, whether for profit or nonprofit.

Personally, we want our careers to progress. We want to develop deeper wisdom. We want to cultivate stronger relationships. We want our health to improve. We want our bank accounts to grow.

Organizationally, we want to reach more people. We want to effect more change. We want to execute on our missions.

To that end, let me make a couple suggestions to help you end this year well so you can start next year well, whether you use goals, resolutions, or just hope and prayer.

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Review Your Past Year

Before you get your Moleskine or your Ecosystem journal out to bullet point your big dreams for the upcoming year, take some time to look back at the past one.

Do this exercise for both your personal life and your work life. While I generally believe we shouldn’t separate the two, we might benefit from specific input from each. Further, we might note how the two bleed together anyway.

What did you accomplish?

Give yourself a pat on the back. Maybe even ask a coworker or your spouse or a friend so you don’t succumb to that false humility thing.  Celebrate what you did right.

Where did you fall short?

Most of us can list this one out pretty good, but if you have a confidant, talk through where you could have done things better. What big opportunities did you miss or fail to capitalize on?

What did you learn?

What big ‘a-ha’ moments did you have? What books did you read? What new skill did you develop? What life lessons did you learn?

Take notes as you go through these questions. Exercises such as this benefit from actually writing them out.

Leverage Your Past Year

I listened to an online class by Michael Hyatt who suggested that you take your year’s review and simply turn the page and start working on your preferred outcomes for the coming year.

He advises that simply reflecting puts a period on the year and allows you to proceed with fewer loose ends.  We tend to let things accumulate without thoroughly dealing with them so we can move on. I love this benefit.

While I fully agree that the exercise does allow us to more easily proceed forward,  we should also leverage what we learn for a more effective new year.

The Good

Leverage the good going into the new year. Too often we spend all of our time trying to improve our weaknesses. New Year’s resolutions are notorious for this: lose weight, stop smoking, or get out of debt. I suggest taking the areas where you got stronger and get even stronger.

Our areas of strength are where we can really add value to those around us.

The Bad

If we fell short in important areas, we need to do some work to understand why. Otherwise, we’re doomed to repeat the same patterns. This can happen personally and organizationally. Excavate the bad for clues about bad habits, false beliefs, or process inefficiencies.

Further, some of us wear ourselves out regarding our failings. If you weren’t as attentive as a parent as you wish you were, make a decision to do things differently. Forgive yourself (or even ask forgiveness) and move on. You can do this for everything from wasting time to eating too much french fries.

The Lessons

Be thankful for what you learned and start getting excited about what’s around the bend in the upcoming year.

Get Excited about the Possibilities in the Upcoming Year

Giving yourself an hour or two to go through the year’s review will prepare you for planning the upcoming year.

We tend to pile on new goals without evaluating what we’ve done. We do this as individuals. We do this within our organizations.  But if we review the year, we’ll manage the risk that we repeat the same bad things during the upcoming year without taking clues from our successes on how we should proceed.

End the year well by taking stock. Then turn the page. Take a pen. Start dreaming.

Questions:

  • Do you have a process to evaluate the year? What is it?
  • Does your organization spend time reflecting before engaging in strategic planning?
  • What are some of the things you’re most proud of from this past year?

(Please Note: This post was inspired by Mr. Hyatt’s Platform University Master Class, December 2013. His process is much more complete, thorough, and worth looking into.)

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