Well, we’re almost at the end of a year. I type that with a bit of a sigh. And yes, I know that many of you will be very glad to wave 2016 goodbye, and your plans to do that might well include some combination of too many mince pies and too much mulled wine.
But if things are slowing down for you as December winds down, how about using some of that rare ‘white space’ in your calendar for bigger picture thinking about the year just passed, and how you’d like to engage with 2017?
Here are some questions to noodle on:
What should I celebrate that I haven’t yet?
We spend most of our time necessarily focused on the future. If I’m interested in being productive, this forward perspective is important, of course: am I ready for that meeting tomorrow? When is the best time to call the client about the proposal? Do I need to order a turkey?
But let’s do a bit of psychic back-patting. What did you get done this year? Have a look through your calendar or, if you have one, your projects list. How did the things you chose to focus your energy on change the world in 2016, in big ways or small? You might even choose to make a list of those things, to enable future celebrations.
Do I have any tools (including apps) I should get rid of?
Think about the tools you’re using day-to-day, whether they be physical devices or apps. Anything in your tool belt that’s not serving you well? Maybe it’s not serving you well because you find it an unhelpful distraction, or because it’s just no longer relevant, but in either case it should go.
Any really cool tools I’m not sure whether I need, but they’re so cool I can’t resist them?
Maybe there’s a tool or an app you’ve been salivating over for a while that you just have to have your hands on. You might not have a great idea how it’s going to help you, but Its. Just. So. Cool. If so, and if it won’t break the bank, go get it. How it’s going to help, either as a support for productivity, or as a source of relaxation and entertainment, might only become clear over time. Some of my most important tools started out only as bright baubles, but they now serve in key roles in my system.
Why has that thing been sitting on my desk/in my handbag/in my briefcase/right next to the door for weeks?
Got something hanging out in your world that isn’t where it belongs? Is it a reminder that something needs to be done? Pull out the clarifying questions – is this thing actionable? If so, what’s the next action? If it’s not actionable (if it’s something you’d like to hold on to for reference, for example), then where does it belong?
Also keep in mind that these long-staying things in our lives are sometimes long-staying because our practices for handling them need refining. Do you have a defined place to capture things that aren’t in the right place? Do you need an in-tray? Do you need a better way to organise reference material? Anything that’s hanging out might represent a refinement opportunity for your organisational system.
Which of my loved ones should I be talking to about making 2017 as productive and enjoyable as possible?
As you consider the future, the longer the timeframe you’re considering the more likely it is you’ll want to involve others. How about a family brainstorm of things you’d like to do together in 2017? Whether it’s days together at sporting events, walks in the countryside, or two weeks in Spain over the summer, getting ideas out on the table can be a great start.
BTW, for you black-belt GTDers out there, the Natural Planning Model can provide a great framework for doing this kind of thinking.
Do I have enough mince pies?
Oh, yes, and there’s that little holiday that’s just around the corner. Anything need doing to ensure it’s as relaxing and joyous as you’d like it to be? Whether you’re just about done with your gift shopping and holiday prep or you’re just getting started, get clear about those open loops, and then determine your next actions and outcomes to move toward them.
From all of us here at Next Action Associates, many thanks for your support and enthusiasm this year. We do what we do because of the positive impact we’ve seen it have on people’s lives, and it’s been our pleasure to serve you in 2016. We wish you all the best for a peaceful and joyous holiday season, and for a productive and stress-free 2017.