We are a short 24 days until 2015 is in the history books. Every year at this time, I give my clients an assignment that I learned long ago to help me and them to refocus and prioritize for the coming new year. I would like to challenge you to do this exercise and then let me know how it works for you. Here is the exercise:
- Set aside some quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s Day to be undisturbed.
- Bring a beverage, your calendar from 2015, a pad of paper, a pen and your 2016 calendar.
- On your pad of paper draw a line down the middle of the 11″ side.
- On the top left write this: “Things I will not participate in 2016”
- On the top right side write this: “Things I found of value in 2015”
- Now open your 2015 calendar to January, and day by day, or week by week, look at your schedule. Look at the meetings, appointments, conferences you attended, deadlines which you faced, courses you may have taken, personal days off, vacation, routine appointments etc.
- If you say to yourself: “…I will never go to that event again…or…this had no value to me and does not move me toward my personal or professional goals….”; then write that item on the left column as stated in #4 above.
- If on the other hand you feel a smile and excitement come over you during this glance at the days and weeks in January, then place those items under the right hand column as stated in # 5 above.
- Repeat this process for February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November & December. Yes, this will take a while to complete, but it is important. Why ~ When you set your goals and intentions for 2016, you do not want to go down that same path of doing things that have no value to you, and the only way to know this is to do the work described above.
- Now take another sheet of paper and on the top write this: “Things I wanted to do in 2015, but they never happened.”
- Begin to list all those things which were worth-while in 2015 which you didn’t seem to have either the bandwidth or the white space [this means blank spaces on the calendar because it was already filled with things] to do.
- What’s on the list you just made in #11? Did you not attend some important family events? What about taking all of your hard earned vacation? Was there some educational opportunities which you missed out on that would further your career? If you are married, were you able to consistently keep “date night”? Did you forget something really important in your personal life, due to over scheduling in your professional life?
- Revisit the list again in #11 and add those items which may have been spurred by the questions in #12.
- Okay, take a short break right now. Get up and walk around, perhaps take a short walk, or get another beverage. While you are taking this break, let what you have just done sink in. You may think of some other items you need to add to one of those 3 lists. If you do, make sure to write them down.
- Now that you have had a short mental break. Close 2015 and put it in the history books.
- Open your 2016 calendar.
- First insert all the knowns in pencil if you are using a paper calendar. These are the things that occur every year, such as birthdays, anniversaries, perhaps an industry conference you always attend, the start and stop of your children’s school, perhaps you already have vacation time blocked out, holidays, etch.
- Now remember that list up in #7, if you have inserted one of those items in that column in your 2016 calendar, TAKE IT OUT! In your notation area, you might want to write a note to yourself as to why this event is no longer a priority for you.
- Do the same thing with those events that you found great value in, in # 8 and put those into your calendar. Here’s the rub in all of this, sometimes there are conflicts between your professional value items and your personal value items. You and only YOU must decide which holds the greater weight. Remember that our relationships are the most important things we have. Events will continue with or without us, relationships do not. Poor relationships do not happen overnight, they deteriorate over time by small absences.
- You are done now. Yes, these 19 steps do take some time but the also do several other things in our lives.
Many of you may feel totally drained by the time this holiday season comes around each year, both professionally and personally. This comes from several areas: one area is the over scheduling of ourselves, and our families, another area is our own unrealistic expectation of what we want out of something or someone and the unrealistic expectation of ourselves in each and every event in our lives. Still another reason this happens is the lack of “WHITE SPACE” in our calendar and lives. We must have 8 hours of sleep every night in order to function properly, for our bodies to repair and recuperate from the day, to allow our brain to figure out those pondering questions which are still lingering from the day, and we need to take a break from our daily routine in the form of long weekends, and taking our vacations. Life is not about just working, it is about living and building and deepening relationships and that cannot be done when we are over scheduled.
Here’s something I have noticed lately with clients, people I know and strangers that I meet and talk to: “I see an attitude of assuming responsibilities and burdens that are not theirs to take.” What do I mean by this? Well, there are times in our frustration, we just assume the responsibility, or do the job, or head something up, or complete something that has “no owner”. This is a sure-fire way to derail you and your goals. Next time you feel yourself about to “jump-in” or the “be the savior” in a situation or on a project…..S-T-O-P….and think about where you want to go and what the “sacrifice” will be if you take on the responsibility. This is exactly how we fill up the white space in our lives. If you look long and hard at the times you did assume responsibility for something, if you had let it go, the world will not have ended. What you will find is that perhaps, the thing you let go of, went on without that certain something happening or being “perfect”, the fact that you felt obligated to jump in did not make or break it. Sometimes there are things that we do need to “rescue”, but most of the time this is not the case. Parents like to “rescue” things, in the misconception that their child/children will somehow have “less” of an experience if they do not jump in ~ this is in fact never the case. It is okay for a child or group to experience disappointment when others do not step up and volunteer or do what ever it is that has no name beside it. Life is not perfect and tied up with a pretty bow.
In closing here, I would like to challenge you to have 104 white spaces on your calendar [that equates to every weekend], then another 14 white spaces for that 2 week vacation, we are now at 118 days of white space. Now add in all the holidays and you have about another 12 [which you may or may not observe], and now our white space is up to 130 days out of 365 days in 2016. If you are doing the math on this, that number of 130 days is just shy of 30% of the year in free time! We spend roughly 2/3rds of our time working and 1/3 free.
Be smart in 2016, leave the white space, when you work, be fully present, when you are with those your value and spend time with them, be fully present, and when we do this exercise in December 2016, just perhaps there will be fewer items under the column in #7!
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!