At 71 years old, I don’t need many gifts at Christmas. I have a good home, a good family, a good team, and my life has never been more fulfilling than it is right now. The opportunities I’m seeing for partnerships and transformation are greater now than at any other time in my life.
Now, I don’t share that to brag. I am where I am because of the people who help me, and together, we’re seeing incredible momentum around the world. And because of those people and this moment, the only gift I truly need is the one that requires the most stewardship on my part.
The gift of time.
You see, there’s only so much time to go around. I’m 71, and while I believe I have many, many years ahead of me, I also understand that I don’t have as much time as I once had. In truth, I’ve only got the time that’s in front of me today—and the same is true for you.
We all get 24 hours in a day, and we all have to determine how we’re going to spend them. Some of the choices aren’t really choices at all—especially since we all have to sleep at some point—but it’s still up to us to make the most of what we’re given.
That’s why, for this holiday season, I want to give you the greatest gift you’ll ever receive. I want to share with you the secret to making the most of your time.
It’s no mystery that I end every year in the same way: at home, in my study, going through my year-end review. I’ve talked about this process for years because it’s one of the best ways I know to keep my focus on what matters.
My team has produced a few different tools to help people embrace the review process, but whether you use one of those tools or not, I want to encourage you to embrace the practice of a year-end review. There’s no better way to truly understand where you’re going than by looking at where you’ve been.
As Socrates once said, “The un-examined life is not worth living.”
The seven days I spend reviewing my year are the most productive days I’ll have in any 12 months. They help me focus on what I’ve accomplished and have yet to do. They help me identify habits or patterns that need attention. They help me refine my daily schedule so I can continue my journey of personal growth. Nothing else I do compares to the return on investment my year-end review brings me.
So, now that you know the secret, here’s how you can put it into practice:
Set aside time to review. Good intentions aren’t enough here—you have to make time for the process. If you’re just starting out, you won’t need a full-week; a solid half-day (4 hours) will do.
Gather the right materials. You can’t review how you spent your time without a record of that time. Whether you keep a paper calendar or a digital one, find a way to look back over every day of the last 12 months. I also leverage my personal journals and checkbook so I can get a complete picture.
Ask the right questions. You can’t just stare at your review materials and expect insights to leap off the page. You need to interrogate your calendar to make it talk. Ask yourself questions like:
- Was that a good use of my time?
- What made that a win for me?
- What lesson did I learn from that?
- What’s missing that should’ve been there?
- What’s there that should’ve been deleted?
- Who didn’t get enough of my time?
- Who got too much of it?
- What will I do differently this year?
Write down what you learn. This is the crucial step in the process. You need to record your thoughts as you have them, or else they’ll get away. You don’t have to write long, flowing paragraphs—you can capture a word or a phrase as it comes into your head, or you can jot down a sentence or two. The point is to not just think the thoughts but get them down on paper for later use.
Look for the patterns. Between your calendar and what you write down, you will notice patterns emerging from the data. Grab onto them because they become your roadmap for action.
Plan out next year. Once you’ve had time to interrogate, think, write, and discover, it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into motion. Go ahead and develop your calendar for next year. Start with your biggest priorities and put them into your calendar first. Schedule family events, date nights, strategic meetings, conferences you want to attend, or give yourself deadlines to meet. Once those big events are in, everything else will find its place.
(And if you find that a year is too overwhelming, turn your energy towards planning out your most effective day.)
While re-gifting may get a bad rap in many circles, passing along helpful wisdom is never out of style. I’m excited to share this teaching with you once again because it really is the secret to my continued growth.
And I hope, with 2019 on the horizon, it will be the secret to yours as well.
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast