Taking stock of 2020, thinking ahead to 2021

The last two weeks of December are a time to take stock of the year that is ending, and to look forward to a new year that is about to begin. I usually make a list of highlights and lowlights for the former, and a list of goals and resolutions for the latter. Sometimes I even partake in goal-setting retreats

This year, I have lacked inspiration. 2020 is consumed with COVID-19, nothing else seems to matter. And planning for 2021 seems pointless as who knows what the world will look like in 2021… 

In a moment of weakness, I asked my husband if we could just skip this favorite tradition of mine of making these lists and sharing them with each other between 12/31 and 1/1. He looked at me in surprise, and said “absolutely not.”

So I had to find tools to help me through my “blahs” and inspire and motivate me to think about 2020 constructively, and plan for 2021 productively. 

Here is what I came up with. 

To take stock of 2020

From Atomic Habits by James Clear, which I loved, I am using these three questions as a guide (and not allowing myself to put down “COVID-19” as the single word answer to that second question): 

  • What went well this year? 
  • What didn’t go so well this year? 
  • What did I learn? 

From Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo, I am doing this exercise:  

  • List my big priorities
  • Which do I have to do? Choose to do? Want to do? 
  • For which of these would I like to adjust the intensity of my efforts? (increase or decrease)? 

And to start planning for 2021: 

From John DiJulius, I am using the grid pictured above to start planning for the future. 

This will help me plan for 2021 and maybe even think big towards 2031. This is how he explains the three columns (direct quotes): 

“Column A: Do Now Sell Now – may seem obvious. However, when thoroughly examining all your current inventory of products and services, you can really get creative. For instance, when you package or bundle high margin offerings with low margin, increasing the overcall value and attractiveness to the customer, you can increase sales. 

Column B: STOP DOING – is critical to your survival and usually a blessing most businesses wished they would have done much sooner. You can’t chase every opportunity and need to say “No” to everything that is out of your sweet spot (easy to do + profitable). Easy to do means it has been (or can be) systemized and it requires very little tweaking—a rinse and repeat model. This may mean eliminating products and services that aren’t easy to do and profitable. This may mean losing, some call it firing, a percentage of your customers who aren’t easy to work with, high maintenance, and are not profitable. 

As Seth Godin said during his presentation at this years’ Customer Service Revolution, “Firing an unprofitable group of customers (with kindness and care) allows you to focus on your most profitable customers. You need to focus on customers with high lifetime value.” You can’t scale your operations or in some cases survive during these times by being all things to all people.

Column C: Do Now Sell Later – is where the magic happens. It is where the excitement starts, by figuring out how to totally disrupt yourself and the rest of your industry. What should you be developing now that will allow you to grow 10x faster, revolutionize your business model, and leave everyone else in your industry behind?”

With all this help, with all these tools, I have no excuse to forego this favorite tradition of mine…

'Tis the season for a goal setting retreat…

I like to-do lists. I like plans. I like goals. And one of my favorite things about the month of December is the ability to think ahead to the New Year, and to New Year’s goals and resolutions. This year, instead of coming up with a traditional list of goals by myself, I took part in a goal setting retreat (at the amazing Salamander Resort) with 4 BFFs. The format was so different than anything else I have done before (great for both personal and professional goals), I wanted to share, in case you too are looking for a tool to help plan next year, or the next 5 years…

I owe thanks to a Georgetown University friend, Peter, the founder of Netcito, as he shared the two frameworks we used for our retreat.

Peter suggested we write a “Merlin letter” – a letter to ourselves today written by ourselves in 5 years, describing to our today’s self how things are. The goal is to be as specific as possible, and to appeal to all 5 senses.

Merlin Exercise Guidelines

• This is a powerful exercise for articulating 5-year vision that can inform the goals you set today.

• Write a letter to yourself as though you were living 5 years from now.  Imagine the space that you are living in, the people around you, and what you are doing. Make it vivid by capturing what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling. Multiply the feelings 2x, 3x, and 4x to anchor them in your consciousness.

We allotted an hour for each of us, and we read each other our Merlin letters (about 5 minutes), with the balance of the time being used for the group’s input and questions and suggestions and open discussion. It was inspiring, emotional, constructive, and productive.

Peter also shared a worksheet on completing 2013 and creating 2014.

• The worksheet includes questions that provide an opportunity to reflect on what you learned and accomplished in 2013.

• The 2013 questions can help spark some inspiration for which goals to pursue in the upcoming year.

Here are the questions:

Completing 2013

Look at all the areas of your life as you reflect on 2013.  Consider Career, Creativity, Money, Health, Significant Other, Friends and Family, Fun and Recreation, Personal Growth, Spirituality, and your Physical Environment (house, where you live, where you work, etc.).

  1. What were your greatest successes and breakthroughs over the past year?
  2. What risks did you take this year that you are proud of – regardless of the outcome?
  3. What would you like to acknowledge yourself for?
  4. What are you grateful for this year?
  5. Who you are grateful for (and if you haven’t already told them, be sure to do that as soon as possible)?
  6. What was your biggest failure this year?  What did you learn from it?
  7. What was your biggest disappointment or loss this year?  How have you integrated it?  What, if anything, is left to heal or let go of?
  8. What is incomplete that you want to complete in early 2014?
  9. Overall, what was this year about for you (what’s the title of this chapter in the book of your life)?
  10. What lessons have you learned this past year that you want to carry into 2014?

Creating 2014

Use the full power of your imagination to create 2014.  What if it could be exactly as you want it?  What would that look like?  How would you feel?  Who would you be with?  Where would you go?  What would you do? How would you be spending your time?

  1. What will 2014 be about for you (the chapter title, the theme, or the metaphor)?
  2. What do you want to change in 2014?
  3. What do you want to begin in 2014?
  4. What do you want to let go of or stop doing in 2014?
  5. What one significant goal (personal or professional) will you accomplish in 2014?  What other goals do you intend to accomplish in 2014?
  6. Who will you need to be to create the year you envision?
  7. What have you learned that you want to put into use this year?
  8. What support will you need? Who will help you along the way?
  9. What is the risk you must take in 2014 in order to live the life you envision?
  10. What are you ready to commit to doing in the first 3 months of 2014?

Thank you Peter for enabling us to have such a productive goal-setting retreat. And thank you to my BFFs for being a part of it!