January 2, 2004
Despite what some people might think, the New Year
is not some magic wand that can wave away all the problems of the last
year. Was it only so! Instead, the New Year is simply a demarcation,
a line in the sands of time, a pointer that reminds us where we are in
our lives. The usual problems will still be there awaiting our attention
on January 2nd, but we can use the New Year as a gentle reminder to rededicate
ourselves to our families and our careers.
Getting your house in order
So, today is January 2nd, the beginning of a whole new year. Where should
you focus your attention today? One of my first steps each year is taking
stock of where I am and what needs to be done. More than likely, you have
lost yourself in the holiday season. You have focused more on joy and
happiness than budgets and the “bottom line.” There is nothing
wrong with this. In fact, I would say that it is important that you allow
yourself that kind of break from the day-to-day realities of business.
Now that we have had our respite, though, it is time to do a little thinking
about where we have been and where we are headed.
Do you have any issues that have lingered over the last year? Too often,
we spend most of our time fighting the day-to-day fires at the expense
of more difficult and more damaging on-going problems. Is there a server
that needs to be upgraded, a router that regularly crashes, a printer
that jams every tenth page. These issues are destroying productivity,
but are often ignored as more pressing work, that work that is “in
your face”, garners your attention.
Start a list today of every single on-going issue, no matter how large
or small. What might seem small to you could be a major priority to the
person who has to deal with it every day. Putting these issues down on
paper (or on screen) gets them out of your head and into a place where
you can be reminded of them and manage them. This list will allow you
to review these issues on a regular basis. Then whenever you have a few
minutes in the schedule, a few minutes when your phone isn’t ringing
and your email isn’t chiming, you can glance at this list and find
one, small issue that you can complete in that amount of time. Without
the list, you might spend your free moments trying to remember what needs
to be done, instead of simply doing it.
You shouldn’t consider this list yet another burden on your mind.
In fact, it is just the opposite. Since you are not trying to keep all
these issues in your head, it frees up your thinking. Even if you can’t
accomplish anything on the list right this moment, you know that it will
still be there to remind you tomorrow and the next day. More importantly,
you will find that maintaining a list like this is a sure way to complete
some of these tasks. I find that every time I take a few moments to define
my work, some of that work suddenly gets done. I think you will find it
works the same for you.
Me, myself and I
The second part of this New Year’s review is personal. Too often,
we throw ourselves back into the whirlwind of work without thinking about
what we need in our own lives. Do you want to take some classes in art,
music or other areas? Do you need to carve out more time in your schedule
for your family? Do you need to look for a new job that makes you happier?
Spend some time thinking about these ideas and creating some personal
Feel free to dream a little. What would you “really” like
to be doing at the end of this year? What would make you happiest in the
long run? You may not reach your dreams this year, but it is important
to strive for them. It is in this striving that you find the day-by-day
improvements in your life.
The New Year has arrived with its reminders of success and failure past,
but the time has come to look into the next year. What do you need to
do to make this year better than last? Take some time, find a quiet place
and do a little thinking. This could be the best investment of time that
you make all year.