I don’t know if I’m alone in this thought, but I’m glad that 2018 is over. Last year not only flew by, but it did so with so many whips and curves that my neck has developed a permanent kink.
The one thing that keeps coming to me is the fact that I didn’t take any time to prepare for it. I did two things instead: 1) I looked back on how well 2017 went and I assumed it would be the same for the next year, and 2) I charged into 2018 with a reckless abandon and foolish übermütig. I failed to plan and as a result, the year grabbed me by the throat and savagely whipped me from side to side. Why didn’t I plan? Because I didn’t have time; I figured I could handle anything that came my way. I didn’t leave any space to think about what to ask for. More importantly, because I didn’t know what I was chasing, I also had no idea what not to chase, or, more importantly, what to say “No” to. As a result, I got a lot of things thrown my way that overwhelmed me. I faced them all with a level of success… but it was at my own expense. Looking back, I kept waiting for the time to make a plan, but the time never came.
I once flew business class on Qatar airlines. When I sat down, they asked me what I wanted, and I said champagne because it’s the only thing that I connect with business class. Later I saw them bring a cart down the aisle and shake a cocktail for the guy in front of me. I think they even had caviar for him. He knew what to ask for, where I didn’t know where to start. When the flight attendant said I could have anything, my “anything” was much smaller than my fellow passenger’s. I vowed that the next time I flew business class, I would come prepared. This opportunity has yet to arrive.
The good news is that we are in the beginning of a new year and there is still time. The parties have been thrown and the feasts consumed. Folks are still reeling from 2018 and you can catch some time while everyone is on their heels and put some real effort into building a good 2019. Rather than make it overly complicated and/or abstract, there’s really only one point to drive home:
The simple principle to take away is to make space. While there are a million self-help books, videos, classes, and programs, really none of it is worth anything if you don’t make space to figure out what you actually want. Make real space, not ten minutes in front of a calendar but a half day as a minimum… a bare minimum. I actually recommend two days. Categorize the time as a planning or strategy session, and I’m sure you can find a means of expensing it into your life to make it worthwhile.
“How in the world,” you may be thinking, “would I ever know what to do with two whole days of time?” Well, my friend, I have a basic model that should suit the bill. It’s a five-step process, complete with time allotments, that you could copy and paste into an agenda.
The process is as follows:
- Figure out what happened last year, what was good and what was bad. What made the good things good and what made the bad things bad? The purpose of this is to set a baseline on what you want more of and what you want less of. (4 hours)
- Use the question, “What am I trying to do here?” to determine at a high level what you need to do for the year. Is your goal to elongate your lifespan? Is it to acquire new knowledge? Is it to increase your market share? (4 hours)
- Think of how many ways you could accomplish the above goal in a fun and meaningful way. Don’t be stingy with the ideas, think of as many as you can. (4 hours)
- Pick your best ideas. Pick the attainable ones, pick the meaningful ones, pick the fun ones. (4 hours)
- Act on the ideas. Turn them into reality. Plan it out, block out your calendar. Use an accountability partner to keep you honest about whether you’re executing, if you need help staying on track. (All year)
Even if you start off with nothing, it’s like that high school exercise where your teacher would ask you to take out a blank piece of paper and just start writing… even if you have nothing to say immediately, something useful will come out of it.
The next push-back I generally hear against the assertion that you need to make space for this planning is, “We do these things already as part of our business operations or way of life.” And to this, the only appropriate response is, of course you do… of course you do. But let’s be honest, did you really take the time to think everything through, or did you fly through it absentmindedly, like when you brush your teeth in the morning?
2019 promises to be very interesting, to say the least. There are some indications that it will be wilder than 2018 and possibly building up to an even crazier 2020. No matter how you slice it, wouldn’t now be a good time to do this, before yet another year happens to you instead of the other way around?
Even if you already know everything…
Even if you’ve seen it all before…
Even if you don’t think you need it…
Make the space!