What if I could help you taking stock of what you are really spending your time on each day, so you saw how much was wheel-spin versus what really mattered?
So as you reflect back on the year 2010 that was, what are the predominant thoughts? Disappointment? Guilt? Regret? Failure? Ambivalence? Satisfaction? Exuberance? Success?
And what is the outlook for 2011? Worry? Fear? Hope? Anticipation? Excitement? Momentum?
You know how in business we have to “take stock” at least once a year, whereby our accountants make us go through our entire inventory of assets and stock and record the existence and value of each item to verify the numbers in our balance sheet? Whilst nobody particularly likes doing this, it’s one of those things we “just have to do”, right? And as we head for the end of this year and perhaps reflect on how it went for us, perhaps we want to “take stock“on our own personal performance?
So, what about your “balance sheet?” What shape is that in? Have you allowed the liabilities to grow this last year? You know, your debt, or some guilt or some drift in your attitude or behaviour or performance, or perhaps some relationships you could have invested more in? Or have you “reigned them in” and reduced them, maybe according to a goal or a plan?
What about your assets? Did you perhaps make good money but spent it all on consumption and lifestyle? What did you invest in yourself last year? Can you honestly say that your personal investment in yourself was sufficient to merit your expectations of your performance and financial results? What equity have you grown?
What have you “got left in the tank” for next year? What about your health and your energy levels? Are you pooped and can’t wait for the break or are you still fired up? Is the tiredness weary and “burned out” because it “just was” or is it tired but excited because it was “one hellova ride”?
A great story
I was inspired during the week by a story one of my clients shared with me. About 6 months ago he chose to get serious about his finances in terms of “It’s not what you make – it’s what you keep” and so he and his wife decided to start recording every single dollar they spent for a month to “see where their money was going”. They were amazed at the triviality of some of their spend and how much money that added up to each week. They bought a PC based cashflow program and set up a household budget. Having responsibility for a very significant corporate P&L, he was most familiar with budgets and KPI’s and monitoring and measuring tools and techniques we all use in business, but they had never done this at home.
Well, domestic fiscal control led to frugality and more focused consumption and at the end of the year they had actually repaid an extra $40,000 off their mortgage, creating additional equity they required for a further investment property. Now that’s exciting!
What if you took stock of your household finances and recognized and capitalised on the opportunities that created? What difference might that create on your outlook for the new year ahead?
Taking stock of what we (love to) do
It was interesting for me how a theme developed in a few coaching sessions over the last few weeks, and I thought it relevant to share this with you in the above context. It went around taking stock of our strengths and the things we love doing best.
Most of my clients work through a pre-coaching questionnaire, the results of which we often base the agenda of our coaching program on. One aspect of that is my “SCLH list” which is mnemonic for Strengths, Challenges, Loves and Hates which like the more widely used SWOT analysis in business has the individual “take stock” on the extent in which these factors play out in their life’s work.
I also get them to ask some people close to them that they trust to give them some insights into their strengths, as we are usually notoriously poor at “blowing our own trumpet”. And so we use this tool to identify some “signposts” in terms of things they are really good at and things they really love doing, professionally and personally. The challenges often give us some things we can work on to improve and the hates are important in terms of making sure any role has a minimum number of these attached to it for that person. A very useful instrument in any career management. And it starts with “taking stock”.
Why don’t you have a go at this exercise for yourself? Go on, what have you got to lose?
In the case of two of my clients, I urged them to carry out a similar exercise at work my above client did with his home budget. I suggested that for one month they capture every task and activity they perform each working day (and if they take work home) and record the amount of time they invested in each task in the form of a “scratchpad” or a “cheat sheet”. They decided on the granularity themselves. A five minute task wasn’t recorded, but if it was performed multiple times a day it was, and so on.
At the end of each day I had them transcribe all this data into a spreadsheet they had created with all the emerging tasks down the first column and then a time slot for each task in a column for each day. It wasn’t so much the amount of hours they worked each day or week, albeit that can sometimes be useful too, but what proportion of their time they actually spent on which tasks. My clients are usually amazed when they analyze this outcome. They are amazed at how much time the “trivial” tasks consume and how little time they often actually devote to the “things that really matter”. A real productivity revelation. A measure of how effective we are at what we are actually doing versus what we should or would want to be doing. And it starts with “taking stock”.
If you were to do such an exercise, how effective do you think you would come out as?
In my performance management grooming and training I have my clients reflect on how they have done in the period about to be reviewed. I have them “take stock” and find facts and anecdotal evidence that outlines as objectively as possible the (say) 80% they did great in or exceeded expectations in as well as to reflect the (say) 20% that can or needs to be improved.
I have them plan to dwell about:
a) 30% of the impending performance review conversation on the 80% strong performance
b) 30% on the 20% to be improved, however I get them to break this part down further into:
- what they couldn’t control and subsequently didn’t or couldn’t perform in
- what they could control but failed to deliver
- of that, what they plan themselves to do next year to be sure it doesn’t happen again
- of that, what they need the organisation to bring to the party so that it won’t happen again.
c) and making sure to keep 30% on planning the following year (“driving their bus” towards the things that they want to achieve personally)
My experience (both personally) as well as that of my clients that adopt this approach has been one of excellent outcomes in that vital performance review conversation every time.
So with the impending period of rest and relaxation over this Festive Season, will you devote some time to reflecting, “taking stock” and planning the year ahead, or will you simply forget about the year that was and worry about next year when next year comes?
Will you set some goals for your life and your work or will you end up drifting through another year like a yacht without a rudder at the mercy of the wind and tides? Choice or Chance?
What if you did and what if you could?