This career coaching and life coaching piece originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:
Another year has gone by. What are the highlights of last year? What did you intend to do but didn’t finish (or start)? Take an audit of what has already happened, so you can repeat what works and refine what didn’t. Regardless of your specific goals for this upcoming year, you want to be more deliberate, intentional and proactive in how you focus. Here are 10 areas to focus on:
Your morning routine
Look at what was missing last year, and set aside time in the morning toward this objective. It could be exercise, working on strategic projects, quality time with family, or even quiet time alone.
Your evening routine
If you normally come home from work frazzled, develop a new routine. You might stop at the gym, read or listen to a different genre during your commute, or spend a few minutes alone before checking mail, jumping into dinner preparation, or catching up with the family.
Your information diet
You might have subscriptions, including e-newsletters, that are no longer interesting or helpful to you. Don’t just read things that arrive in your Inbox. Be deliberate about what gets your attention, and unsubscribe/ cancel the rest.
Your online activity
Similarly, you might have jumped on Pinterest, Google+, and other platforms as they were introduced for the fun of trying something new. But what do you actually use? What do you like to use personally? What is an effective way to maintain your professional network? Do you have time for much more than that?
Do you spend time with the same people, in the same functional area, in the same industry, at the same level? Do you attend conferences that have grown stale? Are you part of professional associations that no longer fit your needs? Prune your relationships. You can still be friendly with old connections, but you may want to build new connections or deepen other relationships. If someone asks you for a dollar, you aren’t just going to say yes. But if someone asks if you have a minute, many people default to yes, giving away time that is irreplaceable. Instead, be deliberate about who you give your time to.
Looking back at last year, when do you do your best thinking? What days of the week are busiest? What months or times during the year are projects due or personal commitments at their highest? Write your year-end review now, and set your calendar against these goals. Then look at when you normally do your best work, as well as when your company and personal obligations peak, and refine your planning accordingly. This way you pace yourself and aren’t caught by surprise.
Your daily habits
Using your projected year-end review and/or your personal list of resolutions, think of small daily actions you can take in support of these goals. For example, I want to eat better so I will add a glass of vegetable juice to my daily routine. I drink it first thing in the morning so it can become as routine as brushing my teeth.
Your food intake
Just like your information diet and becoming more deliberate about how you dole out your attention, you want to be more conscious and selective about how you dole out your calories. It could mean adding a healthier choice, such as the vegetable juice example above. Or it could mean raising the bar on quality – you may decide to only eat high-end chocolates, thereby saving your splurge for a true splurge.
Try to sleep within the same hour each night. Or wake at the same time, even on weekends. Schedule vacations now. Construct your morning and evening routines to include refreshment. Rest is often an after-thought but good rest is required for good focus and energy, so it is a competitive advantage professionally and personally.
Your leisure activity
In Laura Vanderkam’s “What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend,” Vanderkam makes the case that “rest time is too precious to be totally leisurely about leisure.” Vanderkam makes a persuasive case on the benefits of being more deliberate and forward-thinking about how to spend your days off. She provides helpful examples and suggestions on how to make the most of your weekends.
Happy 2013! What area(s) will you focus on?