December is my favorite time of the year. Typically, we spend time with family and friends, celebrate our religious beliefs, eat great food and let’s face it, people are just a little bit nicer during the month of December. This year, things are wildly different but the magic that is December still remains.
In 2016, I learned one thing, from two very different leaders, that changed my life. While most people are taking a pause and putting their careers on the back burner during the month of December, great leaders do the opposite. These two world-class leaders taught me to use the last week of December as “reflection week.”
Reflection week is used to help you clearly see the great accomplishments that you and your team made over the last 12 months and put you on a path for an even better year to come. This one simple act of reflection can accelerate your team’s momentum in the new year and help advance your career forward.
During this week of reflection, I learned to go through my calendar, month by month, and look to see what meetings and tasks I enjoyed. What caused me heartache? And who did I enjoyed collaborating with and spending my time with most? I reflect, through my calendar, on how I spent my time and where I was successful.
I also reflect on relationships, responsibilities and returns. I want to take a minute to go into more detail about these.
Starting with January 2020, look at your calendar month-over-month. Which relationships helped you grow? Which ones stunted your growth? Sometimes the answers might surprise you. Although you hated every minute of your weekly business operations meeting with a certain vice president, you might find that was the meeting that gave you the most growth. You might remember how in January you held feelings of anxiety before that meeting, but by the end of the year, you looked forward to it. Look at every meeting with team members, peers and other colleagues. What can you learn from these relationships and how can you push for healthier relationships in the coming year? Is it time to gently cut ties with some people who were not a benefit to your future growth?
Our lives are comprised of all the things we have to do. As you look at your 2020 calendar, are you doing the right things? Which responsibilities are truly yours? Are there things you did that could have been better done by someone else, or vice versa? Could someone else grow by doing something you have already mastered and need to let go of? What are the things on your calendar that can and should be done only by you? Plan to spend your time and efforts in 2021 making the most of opportunities that will grow your career and further develop those around you, including your family members and friends.
Beginning in January and ending in December, reflecting on your relationships and responsibilities should show you which items, projects, tasks, meetings and assignments brought you the greatest returns. What outcomes did the choices you made in 2020 produce? What did you love? What did your boss love? Did these choices move you forward toward your ultimate goals? Did the choices you made in 2020 make you hungry for more? Did they move you forward or drain your very existence? Think about which projects, meetings, tasks and people bring you the best return and position you to be greater and reflect on how to do more of those things in 2021.
At the end of the reflection week, consider producing a highlight reel of your accomplishments. It’s easy for your boss (and for you!) to forget all the great things you and the team have done throughout the year. Creating a highlight reel allows you to have documented proof of your successes year over year. This could look like a quick one-pager with bullet points. It could be PowerPoint presentation that you share in a meeting with your boss or peers. It could also be a fun video created by you and the team to kick off 2021 with some celebrations. Whatever method you choose, sing loud and proud. Celebrate everything and everyone!
The year of 2020 was a trying one for us all in many aspects. No matter your title, you were stretched in a way you didn’t plan for this year. You’ve seen some successes and you’ve probably also seen some true disappointments, both in your career and in your personal life. I feel you!
I’m looking forward to my week of reflection. I’ve been reflecting every year since 2016 and I know for sure the 2020 reflection week will be a lot different – more challenging but also a lot richer. I’m more grateful, more thankful and more focused than ever to be successful in 2021. I also know next year is going to be phenomenal for everyone who makes the decision to persevere. I hope you’ll join me in reflection!
Blessings and prosperity to you and yours,
Special thanks to the leaders who taught me this amazing lesson of reflection: Steve Carter, Author of Invitational Life and Brendan Reid, Author of Stealing the Corner Office.