I was walking my daughters to school this week, and my eldest, Leilani, said to me ‘I’m bored at school’. I said, 'okay, have you spoken with your teacher about it?’ ‘No’, she replied. I followed on with, ‘Do you know what would make it interesting for you?’. ‘No’, she said. So I said to her, ‘Have a think about what would make school not boring, and then talk to your teacher about how to make that happen.’ I figured that being term 4, the teacher might be up for new ideas in the run up to holidays.
For those of us that have June year-ends, busy season is well behind us, bonuses have been paid and summer is upon us. In fact, the Christmas parties are getting into the calendar and it feels like silly season is just around the corner! We focus on buying Christmas gifts, what we’re doing for the summer break and how we’re going to deal with the school holidays (and who we’re going to farm our children out to!). It is easy for work to take a back seat.
But that’s not actually what happens. You know this…you do it every year. Without the pressure of a work deadline, we feel good...at first. The break from constant deadlines is a welcome relief - but very quickly it feels quite pointless. While in theory, this is the perfect time to get on top of ‘everything else’ that sits on your to-do list for months, in practice, those things move slowly. Not because we don’t have enough time...in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Without the burning platform of a deadline, without stakeholders breathing down our necks, with some level of freedom around our own schedule, our productivity drops. Our energy and motivation at work drops. We start to wonder what is going on until we finally realise that we’re simply wishing away the days until December 20*.
We’re lacking direction
It’s great to look forward to something - especially when it’s time off to spend with your loved ones. But when we focus on that at the expense of something else, it's not great. In fact, when we use our focus on a particular goal or event to ignore the frustration, pain or boredom of some other part of our reality it’s really not great! So as we look forward to all the Christmas parties and the days we’re taking off, the Boxing Day test match and Christmas lunch leftovers, taking our eye off the compass at work is exactly the opposite of what we need during this time.
Because you want great things. Work is more than just work. You spend so much time at work, and you want to do a great job. You want to learn, grow, help people, and do it with meaning. It is more than just the numbers. So when you are simply turning up to work, doing the hours, without great intent you are doing yourself an injustice. And you know it, which is why this time of year, at work, it can feel quite unfulfilling. Quite ‘blah’.
A New Year full of possibility
In his latest bestselling book, 'When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing’, Daniel Pink explores the concept of a temporal landmark: a point in time that indicates significance of some sort. It may be a milestone or an event, but a temporal landmark has the effect of drawing an imaginary line in the sand in your calendar that allows you to say ’tomorrow will be different’. Temporal landmarks allow you the opportunity to reflect, reset and reenergise: to emerge out of the weeds, to get off the chaos of the dance floor and onto the balcony. A new work year is exactly that.
What will 2020 be like?
So let’s fast forward to 2020. We come back to work at the end of January and we feel refreshed, recharged and reenergised. We have spent time over the holidays reflecting on 2019 and have identified what we want out of 2020. We return motivated and inspired, ready to get the year off to a cracking start.
Then around mid-February or early March, the gloss starts to wear off and a scary reality sets in: this year is going to be the same as last. In fact, consider the possibility that how you feel now about work will be exactly how you feel about work at the end of February. It’s a bit frightening really, because in November most of us feel tired, a bit worn. But if you spend the time between now and Christmas simply wishing away the days, and keeping the ‘noise' at work to a bearable minimum next year won't magically get better simply because it’s a new year.
If we haven’t taken any action towards the change we’re looking for, nothing will change.
When we think big, we achieve big things
Which is why now is the time to do the work. If you want 2020 to be different, if you want it to be the game changing year for you and your career, then you need to do the work now. And trust me, this work is exciting. It’s the opportunity to consider the possibility of a better future, the ability to put in a little legwork now so that you start in 2020 ahead. So you don't have a false start to 2020.
So what can you do? What could you do now to make useful and meaningful change that sets you up to get a flying start in 2020?
Here are 3 simple steps to get you going:
Step 1: What you want
Think about what you want out of 2020. Is it a promotion or pay rise? Is it additional responsibility? Is it to get on the radar of the execs? Identify and be crystal clear around your aspiration for 2020.
Step 2: What it will look like
Ask yourself the following: "In order to achieve that aspiration:
What will I have achieved by December 20?
What will I have learned by December 20?
How will I have grown by December 20?
What change or improvement will I have made by December 20?
Who will I have spent time with by December 20?
Step 3: What to do
Once you’ve answered those questions, answer this final one:
What can I do now to make that happen?
Get the edge
Make the most of this time. Set up 2020 now. Not only will you come into 2020 inspired and motivated for your best year yet, but you’ll also come into it confident that you will make your aspirations happen.
You see, like my daughter, it is around this time that things will start to slow down. And it can become boring…and we can easily and quickly waste away the days. But if there was another option that involved focusing on achieving an exciting goal, and setting yourself up to achieve it, then why wouldn’t you do that? Remove the boredom, introduce the motivation and get yourself on the track to meaningful progress.
At a time of year when most people are slowing down, this is your competitive advantage.
*December 20 is the last Friday before Christmas and is often our last day of work
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Alena is an Advisor to Finance Executives, passionate about helping finance leaders achieve their goals and deliver outstanding results that inspires.
Her mission is to equip finance leaders with the skills needed to find their voice needed to increase their impact at work and achieve their purpose.