Happy New Year! Because I’ve been running my own business since 2003 and coaching managers and small business owners since 2012, I am often asked how I do my annual strategic planning. Many people also know that I continue to make a Vision Box each New Year’s Day. This was a Vision Board adaptation I picked up from my friend, Brooke Emery. Over the years, I’ve hosted parties for the visioning. This year, it will be just me and Peter. After postponing the 2020 event due to holiday travel, we are taking no chances for 2021! It’s time to run the coronavirus out of town and off the planet. Below are some answers to some of the Frequently-Asked Questions clients, colleagues, and friends ask about planning for a powerful year.
Q: I heard you choose a theme, rather than make a list of resolutions. Is that correct?
Yes. Like many people, I found that I often had a long list of things I wanted to fix about myself and my life. I wanted to lose weight, run a marathon, make more money, find a partner who appreciated me, etc. I learned to set specific, measurable goals, and I sometimes succeeded. But I was inconsistent. Later, I discovered my mindset was the cause of some of the failures. I was not setting goals that aligned with my immediate needs or values. Not surprisingly, this caused repeated failures in a couple of key areas. Brooke also frequently quoted Alan Cohen. “Let it be easy,” he said. “Struggle is not required.” I asked what I could do to make my New Year’s Resolutions easier to attain, and I was soon choosing a theme.
I like using a theme to focus my actions. When in doubt, I simply ask, “Is this an example of [theme]?” For example, in 2019, my theme was Celebration. I chose this because it was the year I reached the glorious age of 50. Admittedly, I failed to celebrate many things that year, often waiting for someone or something to give me permission. That was a powerful lesson that I had to keep practicing all year, and I’m still mastering the art of celebration. But I probably did accomplish more to celebrate because that is where I was focusing. Here are some of my themes from prior years:
- Unreasonableness (2012) – I challenged my reasons for not succeeding and pursuing what I wanted. Among other things, that was the year I met Peter.
- Miracles (2014) – I allowed myself to believe in what I couldn’t explain. That year, I was violently assaulted, but I also finally published my first book.
- Polish (2020) – I planned to make my online school and other work shine. The pandemic had other plans for me. First, I had to let go of things that no longer served me, so I could be of greater service to others.
My 2021 Theme is Courage. My friend and trusted colleague, Nina Kaufman of Business Exponential, reminded me that I need not wait until January 1st to start taking courageous actions, and I realize most of us have been taking them all year long. It took courage to give our best when we were living in an epicenter of the coronavirus. It took courage to home school children on subjects you didn’t do well in. It took courage to make the major life changes necessary to ease financial burdens and to do it safely. The virus will probably still be with us a good portion of next year, and like you, I sometimes struggle to keep pursuing what matters most to me. But I will keep finding the courage. Reach out if you need some encouragement.
Q: How do I make a Vision Box?
I’m so glad you want to do this! Here are the supplies you will need:
- Magazines targeted to your interests. When I host Vision Box parties, I typically have at least one magazine each on business, finances, fitness, simplicity, sport, and travel. Guests have brought magazines on architecture, beauty, cars, theater, and more.
- One pair of scissors
- One glue stick
I use a relatively easy three-step process:
- Give yourself approximately 15 minutes to flip through the magazines. Pull out what calls to you, and put it in a pile. Don’t overthink it. Tear out words and photographs, as you are moved to. Let your subconscious have some say. This process can often reveal wants you don’t know you have, even if you’re not fully aware of them until later in the year. I once tore out the word Zurich because I have a friend in Switzerland. Later that year, I found an amazing deal on a flight to Zurich and spent my birthday that year in Bern with my friend. Allow yourself to dream–and to live those dreams!
- Curate the clippings in your pile. Cut them out neatly. Arrange them in ways that make sense to you. Most importantly, have fun! If you’re doing this with someone else, share what you want to achieve and create this year. This can be a bonding experience, as well as a way to set up some accountability.
- Glue your art to your Vision Box and keep it somewhere you will see it every day. I use clear shipping tape to effectively laminate my Vision Box, and I keep it on a table near my bed. Inside are things I love to revisit each year: cards from loved ones, trinkets from special trips, etc. Throughout the year, I put additional cards and trinkets in the box so I have more to enjoy on New Year’s Day. Some have been in the box for years. Others cap the prior year and get recycled. There’s no one, perfect way to do this. Do what works for you. If you want to show me what you’re up to in 2021, post a photo and tag the Third Ear Conflict Resolution page on LinkedIn.
Q: How can I start the year off better at work?
- Start each day with gratitude. Make a quick list of at least 10 things you like about your work. Be specific. Is it the name recognition of your employer? Your salary? Title? Health insurance benefits? Co-workers? Free coffee and snacks? Vacation policy? Commute time? Something else? After doing this for several days, you will start to see a trend and will be better identify what you value most, as those things will often reappear on your lists.
- List three things you would like to change. Again, be specific. Do you want a raise? By or to how much? Would you like the opportunity to work on different projects? What are you willing to do in exchange for that opportunity? Would you like to work from home occasionally? What would you need to make that work as effective as when you are at your usual work location?
- Brainstorm for 10 minutes (on paper or with a friend) about small actions you could take in January to jump start your career. Do you need more training? Can you take a course through your current employer? A continuing education or professional development provider? Is a career, business, or life coach available? Have you requested a mentor? Do you need a vacation—a real one, during which you are completely vacated from your work? Are you getting enough sleep and exercise? Does your diet maximize good health, mental clarity, and energy?
Q: How do you set your day up for success?
My morning ritual involves:
- Reviewing my weekly goals and affirmations
- Planning the 10 most important things for me to do today
- Writing 10 things I am grateful for
- Reading something inspirational
When I do not get this in, I often find myself drifting throughout the day. I also tend to accomplish less on those days.
At the end of my day, I move to the next available time anything on my electronic calendar that still needs to be done. This is an old Franklin-Covey technique I learned in my management training at UPS. It still serves me well.
Q: How and why should I keep a gratitude journal?
I have been using a gratitude journal for more than a decade. Naturally, I also coach my clients to use one and often discuss the benefits with colleagues and loved ones. Like me, my gratitude journal is relatively simple. I write whatever comes to mind each morning when I consider what I am grateful for. Sometimes, it’s sunshine and a clean apartment. Often, it is a relationship with my partner, a friend, a family member, a business colleague, or a vendor. Other common things on my list are health, fitness, financial freedom, or specific experiences. There is no right or wrong way to make a list of something you are grateful for. Just be grateful for all the wonderful things in your life. It will shift your focus and mood—and it only takes about three minutes!
Q: What’s the best template for a gratitude journal?
I have used a variety of templates and prompts over the years, and each of them have given me new insight about myself and what matters most to me. These tools include Dan Miller’s Rudder of the Day and 48 Days to the Work You Love, T. Harv Eker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, Mary Carlomagno’s Secrets of Simplicity, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and my own book, DIY Conflict Resolution, or the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process. I still reach for these occasionally, when I am looking for a breakthrough in a specific area, but I mostly just list 10 things I am grateful for each day to balance the 10 most important things for me to do the same day. I find this reminds me that although I have many responsibilities, it is because I have many blessings.
There is no one journal that works best for everyone. Some people like unlined pages they can also draw or doodle on, maybe even in color and with stickers. Busy people might function best with a lined notebook that’s easy to fit in a pocket. Computer programmers or technicians might prefer electronic journals. It’s okay to experiment. The purpose isn’t to make the journal a work of art as much as it is to free you and your life to be a works of art.
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep you out of court and build your conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She helps managers and business owners have empowering conversations about emotionally-charged issues such as gender, race, religion, and disability. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).