If you’re not dusting off that Christmas tree in the loft, you’re probably thinking about where to get one, along with a decent sized turkey, chocolates and maybe a cheeky tipple of eggnog. But it’s worth knowing how this time of year also offers a rare chance to take stock, reflect, and perform what productivity experts like Tim Ferris call a ‘past year review’.
Yep. Amongst motivation science aficionados, taking time aside to celebrate wins and learn lessons is key to building a work life to be proud of, and a great way to ensure you reach future goals. It's what some researchers might call a 'reflection condition' — which is a practice proven to:
👉🏾 Enhance focus, learning and performance (by 23%)
👉🏾 Help your brain shut off from work (the 'Zeigarnik effect')
👉🏾 Improve wellbeing as part of a journaling practice
Which is why I refuse to belt out my best Auld Lang Syne soprano until I’ve done one. And why I coach others on how to do the same.
Here's my system...
Forget work life balance, build on the science of human needs
Balance is overrated!
Yeah, I said it. No one should make their job their whole life, but trying to pretend that work and life are separate continents is a ginormous red herring.
You’re not a machine. Your work life and personal life are connected. It’s by intentionally shaping how they intersect that you can thrive in each.
Here’s a quick and easy 3-step method to help you get started. It’s based on three fundamental human needs:
🔗 Connection - interactions and relationships with others
🎨 Craft - a specific skill, interest or discipline to be focused on
💪🏽 Growth - the ongoing experience of development
We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience
The year review method
Step 1: Connection
Whip out your 2022 calendar, then take a few moments to jot down your experiences of connecting with others over the last year — evening dinners, nights out, shared hobbies, long phone chats, whatever.
Ask yourself, which of them have felt especially enriching or positive in some way, and which have felt unnecessarily draining or negative. Don’t over think it. List the first experiences that come to mind into each category.
You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Now, pick out the stuff in that enriching green box, and schedule more of those experiences into your 2023 calendar right now. Aim to get at least one of them into your diary for each month up until April — you’ve got to ringfence the time, just like you do when you schedule a FLOWN ‘Flock’.
How Flocks work
Now, take what you’ve listed in the red draining box, and decide on how you’ll do less of them. Time is a currency. Choose to spend it wisely in 2023.
When you’re done, seal your commitment with yourself by setting an implementation intention, just as you do at the start of a Flock. You can do this by using the FLOWN planner to complete the following sentence:
This is a contract with yourself. What you’ve journaled above are the reasons for enforcing it. So, complete your commitment by signing you full year intention (or FYI as I like to call it) when you’re done. For bonus points, have a buddy on hand to witness your signature (you’ll love the extra accountability, or, depending on the friend, having someone to tease you on your way to your 2023 thriving peak).
Step 2: Craft
To thrive, we all need a skill or craft we can feel invested in, whether that’s a profession or a hobby. So…
Reflect on stuff you’ve done — professional or recreational — over 2022. That kickass project at work, the scuba diving trip to the Maldives, a new sketching hobby, gardening, whatever. Which of them have felt genuinely exciting, fun or positive in some way, and which have felt unnecessarily taxing or negative. Again, don’t over think. Just jot down what comes to mind.
How you feel about what you do is a big deal. Studies show we’re over three times more likely to stick with a job when we derive a sense of meaning or personal value from it (this trumps career growth, learning opportunities, work-life balance, and, according to separate research, even money).
It has got to be something that you're passionate about because otherwise you won't have the perseverance to see it through.
This means finding meaning in your work needs to be a priority in 2023 — whether that’s a side hustle, passion project or even a favoured pastime.
With this in mind, use your reflections above to decide how you’ll create opportunities to do work — professional or recreational — that carries personal meaning for you. When you’re done, commit to follow through on what you’ve decided by 1 April 2023. You can do this by completing the sentence below on a pad or in your planner.
That’s your second FYI done. Don’t forget to sign it!
Step 3: Growth
Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it
Business and management expert Daniel Pink defines mastery as “the urge to get better at stuff”, before going on to cite it as a fundamental human need in his book Drive.
And he ain’t the only one. Everyone from renowned American psychologist Abraham Maslow to Kurt Vonnegut (literary author) has recognised ‘getting better at stuff’ as a deeply embedded human instinct we’re all wired for. This makes keeping track of genuine learning experiences essential to living your best 2023 life.
So, for your final FYI take a few moments to think about how you’ve grown or regressed over the last year. What have been positive learning experiences, and what have been ways in which you’ve felt stunted?
Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow
Now, ask yourself, how can you create more opportunities for the experiences you’ve listed in the green box, and do less of those you’ve jotted down in the red? When you’re done, sign your contract, and schedule at least one opportunity into your 2023 calendar before 1 April.
Well done! That’s 3 FYIs in the bag. You’ve created some powerful implementation intentions to kick off your 2023 in style.
More importantly, by promising to uphold them, you’re committing to practices and choices that can massively impact your work and life.
But imagine you could join with a community of likeminded others to do all this. Well, it turns out that you can.
Join the FLOWN December Challenge, get your free downloadable FLOWN planner, and start building the 2023 you want today!