I am still learning this process of self-reflecting of the past and goal setting for the new year. Here, I am going to share with you what seems to work over the years, what doesn’t, and what my plan for 2008 is going to be. Let me tell you upfront what does not work: not planning for the new year at all. To borrow a Chinese idiom “一年之計在於春,一日之計在於晨” (loosely translates to “a year’s plan lies in spring [i.e. the beginning of the year], a day’s plan lies in the morning”), now is a good time to plan ahead. For those years that I did not plan, I have no recollection of what I have achieved.
I remember when I was in my twenties, I used to have this one-worded theme for each year. Such a theme is easy to remember, relevant, and if chosen right, it seems to stick into my mind throughout the year, in everything I do. Let me give you an example. One year, I reflected upon my 16 to 20 working hours a day, 7 days a year and I said to myself: enough is enough. I could earn all those overtime paid and achieve all the career progression I wanted but I was missing all that life has to offer. So, I picked a theme “Balance”. Mind you, it was not easy to seek a work life balance back then. When I did come home while the sun was still up, I became uneasy not knowing what to do or where to do. I ended up having the feeling that I have wasted an evening not working. Miraculously, with that theme “Balance”, I seemed to have every single and small decision made based upon that word “Balance”. It worked way too well. I rejected overtime requests or did all that I could to prevent myself and my team going down that path of long hours and no life. It went so well that it me took a couple of years to find the balance. These days, I work and do my best to make sure that the people in my network work the most effective way during the office hours and in most cases, we all go home on time. Picking the right theme can be powerful. And this can work for you too!
Last year was interesting not just because I only worked for the later half of the year, I did my planning in a scorecard style. As you may notice, I stop posting the monthly result after the first three months. You may wish to know that I did track my progress till the middle of the year but I found it quite boring to publish the results in my site every beginning of the month. I thought I did pretty badly over the year on this rather ambitious scorecard but it is not quite the case. OK, I think I only achieve a 40% which to be fair, under my “wonderful” color coding system, it is a yellow that means “a mix of ups and downs”. And it is because of this scorecard, I did climb the Mount Kinabalu and started my oil painting hobby that count as two extraordinary projects. Also, I did take the initiative to plan the visit to Melbourne, my surprise visit to Jakarta, and my visit to Hong Kong/Macau. By now, I think I have hit the travel budget target over and above. I seriously have cut down my computer gaming hours a lot (my big, big problem in year 2005/6). The target set somehow worked as the “Balance” theme to me. I have this cautious warning in my head of not hitting the said target every time I played. Lastly, hitting the career fulfillment index is a bit of a luck factor. But then again, I did put effort in finding what I want. Based on just these four tiny achievements, I can say 2007 has been fruitful to me.
So, what’s my plan for year 2008? I want to go back to my theme driven way of life. After much consideration with candidates such as “Take Risk, Be Bold” or “Be Bold, Take Risk” (both are different by the way) or others, I have decided on …
Yes, parking ideas of things that I want to do at the back my my head or at the bottom of my to-do list is not good. I need to … “do it”. If I need to be bold, so be it. If I need to take calculated risk, so be it too. The most important thing is, I have to action on what I have set to do, or rather what my heart has set to do. I shall count the number of achievements – however small or big – over the year as an indication of success. Hopefully, this theme will do wonders to me, the same way as “Balance” did to me years ago.
As for the personal scorecard way of life, I am not ready to ditch it completely as yet. Over this few days I am going to revisit the measurements and targets and to rethink how it can be aligned to my new theme. I have learned that this way of monitoring progress has two main challenges: the constant stress to meet target and the day-to-day chore of taking down the actual measurements. I have to find ways to make this monitoring progress a fun process (perhaps tie the increment progress to small rewards) and I have to find ways to record the measurements in the most convenient way (such as a calendar by the rice cooker to tick off days that I have home cooked meals). Scorecard way of life, I believe, is still a good way to discipline my rather undisciplined life. Stay tuned.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you think this is going to work for me? And what is your plan going ahead?