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Sandra Wiley
Five steps to a 2013 career action plan

As 2012 draws to a close, it’s time to slow down, review what’s working and where business refinements are needed, and put a plan on paper.

December 17, 2012
by Sandra Wiley

It is the time of year when individuals and firms begin to review their progress and make adjustments for the year ahead. While the process can be uncomfortable, most visionary leaders know that reflecting and reworking goals and strategies is a healthy habit. 

To consistently increase your effectiveness, it’s critical to make this year-end reflection a personal project.

Here are five simple and effective ways to make the most of December to improve your life and business:

1. Do a day-by-day review of the year. I pull out my calendar for the past year and write down every engagement I had, listing them all on a single sheet of paper. For each, I include: (a) the length or date of the engagement, (b) my client’s name, and (c) what the firm earned.

Then, I look at the entire list and ask myself what I want to do more of and what I want to do less of. This is part one of my New Year strategy. If you feel overwhelmed by writing down every client, write down those that were among your top 20% in number of hours billed or total revenue collected.  

2. Identify a new area to master. Last year I decided I wanted to write a book. I have had a vision for the book for several years, but the thought of jumping in and getting my project moving was absolutely overwhelming. I struggled with where to start and how I would fit the project into my already very full calendar. But I knew that writing a book was an important milestone in my career, and I thought the topic would be very important to our profession. 

Today, I am halfway done with the book, with a goal of completing it by May 2013. Thanks to supportive partners, a brilliant editor, and a process that I learned from my personal coach, I have broken through the barrier of not believing that it would ever really happen. I am not yet where I want to be, but I have made real progress. What will you choose? Pick something that you want to master and make the commitment.

3. Identify your business goals for 2013. Identify your goals for 2013 and then set quarterly milestones to track your progress. I like to work with a long-term goal in mind, but also set quarterly timelines that are not so overwhelming and are much more manageable. Also, ensure that your personal business strategies align with the overall firm plan. Progress and success are forces that collide only if you make a conscious effort to tie them together. What are your strategic business intentions for the first half of 2013?

4. Use downtime over the holidays to reflect. I count on slow moments, naps, quiet reading, early morning walks, and special times with family to bring me the distance and peaceful joy I need to take a wider view of life. Free time is extremely important to professional success.  Downtime will give you the opportunity to recharge and be ready to take on those new—and old—tasks that await you at the firm.

5. On New Year’s Day, create a two-page document that pulls all this together:
    1. The one-page list of all your engagements.
    2. A new area to master.
    3. Personal business strategies for the next six months.
    4. Personal reflections on life.

There is something powerful about the simple act of documenting your intentions. In fact, each of these five simple acts is profound in its impact and the synergy of the collection is extraordinary. To achieve an exceptional life, reflection is mandatory. The intersection of the start of the new year is perfectly fitted for it. Draw on the natural rhythm of the calendar and use it to your benefit.

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Sandra Wiley is chief operating officer of Boomer Consulting in Manhattan, Kan., and is a popular speaker who addresses topics such as team building, talent development, and performance improvement.