I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. It’s when the world starts to both pick up and wind down. It’s a great time for reflection and review and that’s why this week I wanted to share with you one of my all time favorite leadership and performance habits: Capturing Your Year.
Now, I hear so many people talk about 2020 like it was a “lost” or “throw away” year. The focus on the fact that COVID robbed many of us of new experiences, change, growth, or variety (not to mention the mental and physical toll). But that is a terrible way to view any amount of time, much less an entire year.
Even in the midst of challenge and adversity and upheaval (that sometimes felt like the “same old, same old” every day), we grow and change and progress. It might not be the way we are used to growing or changing or progressing, but I don’t know a single person who is the same in 2021 as they were in 2020. It’s just that they might not have registered the changes or growth or progress concretely.
And what a waste that is. What a waste to look at a day, a week, a month, a year and think “Man, I’m glad that’s over.” Sure, there might be things we’d like to forget, but let’s not throw away the proverbial baby with the bath water! No matter what you think of any 365-day period, it’s always worth investing a bit of time to reflect on what has happened.
So, as we get towards the end of another year, here’s a step-by-step plan for how you can make the most of all that has happened this year:
- Block out a 60-180 minute chunk of time in your calendar before the end of the year where you can be distraction-free and interruption free. Go somewhere quiet, peaceful, and enjoyable, and bring a journal or a pad of paper (or computer) with you.
- Review your calendar. Literally look at every single day from 1 January 2021 and look at all the meetings you had, appointments you made, people you met with, webinars you attended, events you went to, vacations you took, and start mentally reliving some of those moments. This will: a) remind you of just how-damned-much you did this year, and b) start to prompt your brain for what comes in Step 3
- Capture your biggest lessons learned, mistakes made, and successes achieved. They can be big, small, mega, micro, or everything in between. They just have to be significant for you.
- Write it all down in as much detail on a separate sheet of paper/e-document for each category (lessons, mistakes, successes).
- Sit and reflect on each list for a while. Let the successes sink in. Let the accomplishments and holidays and all the FUN things you did sink in (and if there isn’t that much, then please gift yourself and plan some things you enjoy into your diary now… life is not just about doing and hustling all the time). And let the mistakes and the lessons you learned from making them sink in.
- Distill the lists into your “Top 10-15 Lessons Learned in 2021”
- Think about any changes you want/need to make in your work, life, relationships, health, etc that will make it harder for you to repeat any mistakes and make it easier for you to move forward better, smarter, stronger.
- If any of those changes require other people’s input (in your business, say), or if there is anything you need to eliminate or adapt or add (a new gym membership, for example), then PLAN IT INTO YOUR CALENDAR and think about how you will implement your lessons learned in the years to come.
- And finally, if you are feeling generous, share your Top 10/Top 15 list with other people. You can share it with friends, family, co-workers, or just a trusted friend. But I find that by sharing our lessons, we relearn them and they get embedded that much deeper. It’s also a really nice way to make sure that others around us can learn from our experiences, good and not-so-good.
- Repeat each year!
I have done this exercise every year for almost a decade now, and each time I do it, I am glad I did. Because I am forced to to confront hard facts (instead of my unreliable memory!) and am reminded each time of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, how much I’ve grown, and how much I’ve done. In one short year. Our memories are painfully inadequate at remembering things accurately, and too often we think a year (month/week/day) was a “waste” when a Capture Your Year exercise proves it was anything but.
So don’t rely on your memory. Join me this November as I sit down to do the same. Crystalize the key lessons and takeaways from your year. Make them concrete by writing them down. And share them (if you want to!) so that others can learn from your generosity and honesty. I’ll be sharing my Lessons Learned in 2021 with you, starting next week, so stay tuned!