One of the exercises I ran with those who attended my ‘Plan Your Year’ seminar at the beginning of the year, was to look back at the year past and note down all the things they did with any consistency.
What we do is often a reflection of our priorities, whether it’s conscious or not and, therefore, I wanted those who were attending to list out the main things they spent their personal and professional time on, especially the things they did regularly and repeatedly.
For example, for me, my professional list will include my regular weekly writing, talking to clients, a new coaching certification (and joining an advanced programme), setting up new and experimental online and in-person workshops, the Impact Circle I chair and my contribution to organising and speaking at RSA Coaching Network events. These are some of the things that come to mind that I’ve done with a fair amount of regularity throughout the year.
I wanted participants to do this because:
— what we show up to do without a lot of thinking doesn’t take up much mental space. Therefore we sometimes downplay our achievements. One of the participants said, ”Wow, I didn’t think I’d done much this year because I’ve been in transition but when I list it out I can see that I did way more than I thought!”
— what we show up and do without a lot of thinking is a reflection of where things come easily to us — which, again, reflects activities we don’t have a lot of thinking about. I write regularly for example and, of course, sometimes I have a passing thought about whether it matters, whether I’m expressing what I mean, what people will think, (how many typos I’m making!!), etc etc. BUT those thoughts flow in and out without sticking around which means I do the writing, post it, and boom, it’s done. #next.
— it’s interesting to reflect on what we did and how some of those things came about. Often it’s a different list than we might have created for ourselves if we’d projected forward at the beginning of the year. As Thomas said, ”I didn’t achieve ANY of the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year.” Here’s the thing though, I seriously doubt he sat around the whole year doing nothing. What did he spend time on? What presented itself without him thinking about it? What things became a priority because they were effortless and felt right? It’s too easy to beat ourselves up for the things we didn’t do, rather than focus on the things we did.
— when we want to add something new to the mix, which of course is part of the process of reflecting and renewing, we need to make space for it. There are only so many hours in the day and the more we try to cram into that time, the more something will give — either we’ll start to feel rushed, we won’t complete everything, or we’ll begin to cut corners. As humans we’re not great at estimating the time that something will take, therefore, if you want to add something new, you have to re-engineer what’s already taking up time in your day. Whether that’s as obvious as cutting down your hours on Facebook or cutting back on some of the activities that no longer feel like the fit the person you are today.
— I wanted the participants to see that achievement and productivity can be easy. One of the participants said that she didn’t feel it was an achievement if it wasn’t hard, and I know from the comments in the chat and the emails I received afterwards, that she wasn’t alone in this.
But why does it need to be hard?
What if achievement and success were meant to be effortless? What if we were meant to be in flow more of the time, rather than battling those imaginary dragons I so often write about? What if the year ahead was easy? What kind of difference would that shift in perspective make for you? I know for me, when I’m not spending time engaging in those battles with the imaginary dragons I get a lot more done!
— I wanted the participants to be able to make a conscious decision about what they wanted to leave behind so that we could move forward with some new intentions and direction for the year — without over-planning what those would be!
If you want to set yourself up for success this year, then who not run through this exercise? If you were to do it now, what would that list for you?
And how does the list inform your year ahead? How can you move ahead with more intention and more creativity? After all, you can spend your time in your head thinking about all the things you want to do, or you can spend time having fun and actually doing them.
Which is it going to be?
About the author
Cathy Presland is an expert in transformative leadership. She has more than two decades of experience in government and international organisations and her focus as a coach is to support impact-driven individuals and organisations to improve their performance and leadership so that they can make more of a difference with the work they do. Find out more at https://cathypresland.com