I can easily recall a time when myself and the managers around me found ourselves in the joys of October to December (Q4) where performance reviews, budget completion and preparation, annual objective planning, salary assessments and goal evaluations all merged into weeks of lengthy emails, complex spreadsheets, endless meetings, discussions, videos and debates. There never seemed to be a period of “winding down” towards the end of the year. In addition to the increased expectations and multiple deadlines, managers also had to think about resources and talent pipelines or redundancies or recruitment plans and make sure they kept their “manager” happy and approachable face on at all times.
Working in a global organisation further complicated each process and policy and brought about passionate discussions for fairness, transparency and simplicity. It was, and I am sure still is, a tough time of year to be a manager.
I’ve worked for organisations since I started Anything Is Possible that have eliminated the annual performance review, or appraisal process completely but I have yet to find a company that has managed to find a way to ease the organisational pain of the critical business needs on managers during Q4.
How to survive?
My observations and advice for this crazy time of year for managers will I am sure be greeted with a little confusion when I suggest that it is during this really busy time that managers should STOP and instead of thinking about others and planning for the next year and future plans, instead should pause to reflect on what has happened in their lives during the past 10-12 months. Why would you stop when you are at your busiest?
Well the answer is simple – there is never a good time or right time to stop and reflect when you are really busy BUT in my experience, you gain so much more by a little time looking backwards and inwards than if you just keep going. The problem I have is that the vast majority of managers won’t even stop to read this blog so I’m aware I am probably missing my target audience so if you know someone who could benefit with the following advice then perhaps you could send them the link or tag them in the comments section ?
Approach to refection
Firstly, this reflection time should be a minimum of 2 hours and it should not be when you are tired or waiting to do something else. It should be a planned period and protected – i.e. don’t cancel it – respect your commitment to yourself as you would a commitment to others around you.
Secondly, it should be in a place that is free from all interruptions – turn your phone off, make sure people can’t disturb you and ideally don’t use a laptop or tablet – where notifications will catch your eye. Old fashioned pen and paper is all you need.
Thirdly, acknowledge you are fitting it into a very busy period so if you have good energy in the morning then start your day with reflection, if your energy levels are better in the afternoon then finish your day with reflection. Don’t wedge the 2 hours in the middle of everything else just because you have “free” time as you won’t be able to focus and the time will be wasted.
What to ask yourself
Please do not use ANY questions like:
- What went well this year?
- What could have I done better this year?
- How did I do against my goals/objectives
- What are my strengths/weaknesses?
Don’t get me wrong, there is most definitely a time for such questions but your reflection time during Q4 is not the time to assess your performance as a manager or your delivery of projects or work towards goals. This reflection time is about how you have felt about being “you” this year.
Take a notepad/paper and pen and do the following (note there are no time allocations to these questions. You will know when it’s right to stop writing and move on – trust the process):
- Imagine it is New Year’s Eve – are you gladly waving goodbye to 2017 or are you holding on to every last second? Now write a few notes on why you feel that way.
- Next write down times you laughed (a lot) or occasions where you can remember being exceptionally happy. These can be tiny things like watching a video or one-off events you experienced during the year. Do not look back at calendars or anything else to remind you what you did at what time this year – just write down what comes back through your memories.
- Now list names of people you spent time with this year that you don’t usually get to see or people you reconnected with after a break of some time (either virtually or face to face) or people that you really enjoyed being with
- Think about what made you feel proud this year – something you did or indeed did not do yourself, something a family member, someone who works with you, or a friend did. Again, write them down. Why were you proud?
- If you had a short period of time with no commitments – FREE time – what would you choose to do? Not to benefit anyone else necessarily but just because it’s how you want to spend that time. Write down whatever comes to mind even if you think it’s impossible or impractical.
- Finally, if you could go back to January 2017 knowing what you know now and give yourself some advice for the year ahead what would the advice be?
Now you’ve finished answering the questions take a few minutes to read back what you have written. Write more if you want.
THIS was your year.
These were the things that mattered. Are there too many blanks, or missing sections or did you end up writing way more or way less than you expected? Have you got so involved in your busy life you simply forgot some of these details or do you still hold them close by? Do you have the right balance? Do you have the right perspective? Are you forgiving and understanding of yourself? Do you appreciate just being yourself?
And the point is…….
You will have just spent 2 precious hours in your busy life reflecting inwardly and that time is like a renewal process starting. It helps you be appreciative of who you are as well as know what needs more of your attention or where you may need a helping hand.
You see when you end the year doing this exercise – particularly when you are frantically busy – it does something really important. It STOPS you. It makes you PAUSE. It makes you THINK. Reflection brings you wisdom (insight, understanding, sense, curiosity) and with wisdom you can make better choices and rejoice more and find inspiration for your challenges, so the future can be welcomed with excited anticipation.
Reflection also regenerates you and gives you renewed energy to face the end of the year. It gives you the perspective you need to be the Manager, colleague or partner you want to be to those that need your experience, expertise or support.
Trust me – two hours out of one of your manically busy days IS the difference that will make the difference.
Go on, find that time.