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A Simple Process for Planning for Your New Year


Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with a couple of colleagues to do some goal-setting and planning for 2016. The framework was simple, but the learning was deep, so I wanted to share the process with you as a possibility for your own planning

We took the morning to do this work, but you could probably do it in a few hours

I would also recommend doing it with others--friends, work colleagues, your partner or spouse. A good portion of the learning came from talking with each other about what we'd written and getting feedback, validation and ideas. 

Make it fun and social. We did it during the morning, but you could also do it in the evening with some wine and food. 

Highs and Lows of 2015

We started by writing individually for about 15 minutes about our highs and lows for 2015. Some of us included personal high and low points, while others focused specifically on work highs and lows. As someone who focused on just the work-related stuff, I realized that I also should have included the personal, so I would recommend doing both. 

The first thing I wrote down in thinking about this question was "How do I define a 'high' and a 'low'?" Do I define my "highs" in terms of how much money I made or the status of a project? Is it about "accomplishment"? Or "learning"? 

It quickly became apparent to me that in terms of my work, "impact" and the degree to which the project aligned with how I want to work and do good in the world were the primary ways that I defined a "high." Learning from the experience was also in there. Money wasn't even on the list, although it was nice when I had projects that met all criteria. 

This was a quick, immediate reminder of my values--just asking yourself about the qualities you need in something for it to be a "high" or a "low" is a revealing exercise and one that's ripe for discussion

In thinking about my 2015, I also found myself asking some questions, including:

  • What are the themes in my highs/lows?
  • How did I take big risks in 2015? 
  • How am I connecting to new people and new ideas?

As these questions bubbled up, I was reminded of the 30 Juicy Questions I posted here in December 2014. A few were from that list and I plan to spend some time over the holidays considering those for myself.

After the writing, we had a good discussion about what we'd each discovered--that took about 30 minutes or so. 


Goals for 2016

Primed by the High/Low reflection and conversation, we then spent another 15 minutes or so writing about some goals--both personal and professional--for 2016.

I set goals in business/career, physical health, spirituality, and personal life. Most of these were loose right now (I need to move more, I want to run regular creative gatherings) and I will need to return to them to flesh them out into real goals that I can work toward. 

One of my goals is to do regular "screen time" detox periods--maybe monthly or quarterly. I find that I can get caught up in both social media and Netflix binging as a way to "relax," but honestly, I'm not particularly relaxed afterward. More like just numb. So I need to take regular breaks away from my devices for some real relaxation and to get back some of my "focus" mojo, which goes in the toilet when I spend too much time on my iPhone, iPad or laptop. 

As I was writing about my goals, the word "Simplify" floated into my head. A "Word of the Year" is a good way to guide your actions and I think I found mine for 2016.  

As with our Highs/Lows, we then spent some time discussing our goals. This was very helpful as we also shared suggestions and resources for accomplishing the goals. We also saw some places where we could help each other--another bonus. 

Scheduling Goals

The final step was to look at our calendars and put in actions to achieve our goals. If you don't schedule it, you probably won't do it, so this is a really important step. 

Some of my goals are about needing to re-structure my days. For example, I want to move more and one of my colleagues suggested taking 2-5 minute movement breaks every 30 minutes. I need to literally build that into my calendar, at least at the beginning, until it becomes a regular habit. 

Other goals involved moving some projects forward. Here, I'm looking at scheduling in bigger blocks of time to do the planning/thinking that's needed. I also set some deadlines for myself in a few areas. 

Putting things in my calendar means they are more likely to get done. They also show my commitment to making them happen. 

Closing/Thank You

The final step in our process was just a brief closing reflection on what we'd learned, some of the emotions we were feeling at that point and thanking each other for the experience. 

As I said, the process was relatively simple, but just taking the time to think and talk was fantastic. Some things bubbled up for me that I hadn't been paying attention to and I was also reminded of how I want to evaluate success for myself. 

If you're looking for a simple way to plan for 2016, this could be a great process to try. 

What rituals/practices do you use to plan for the New Year? I'd love to hear your suggestions!




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