You must engage in periodic strategic reflection. It is the only way to consistently increase your effectiveness. After all, you are the only one who lives your life, knows your experience, and is capable of truly changing yourself for the better. The end-of-the-year is the perfect time for strategic reflection. The calendar's conclusion is a natural time to look back.
Here are five simple and effective ways to make the most of December's end to improve your life and business:
1. Do a Day-by-day Review of the Year. I pull out my calendar for the past year and write down every engagement I had, listing them all on a single sheet of paper. For each I include (a) the length or date of the engagement, (b) my client's name, and (c) what I earned. Then, I look at the whole sheet and ask myself what I want to do more of and what I want to do less of. I put little pluses (+) next to those that represent what I want to do more of. This is part one of my New Year Strategy.
2. Identify A New Area You Want to Master. Two years ago it was writing for me. I found writing a challenge, difficult. My first 1400 word article ruined a perfectly good week-long vacation with my wife. I really struggled. But, I knew that writing was an important way to communicate and I determined that I would master it. Today I write 12 blog posts per week in less than 3 hours, keep a personal poetry journal, publish the FreelanceFortune newsletter  twice per month, and I just finished the final edit of my first commercially published book, coming out this May. I wrote the book in 2 1/2 months of disciplined writing, about 90 minutes in the morning 5-6 days/week. It is not always easy. But, I have watched myself improve steadily. I am not yet where I want to be, but I have made real progress. What will you choose? Pick something that you want to master and make the commitment. This is part two of my New Year Strategy.
3. Identify Your Business Growth Intentions for the First Half of the Next Year. I like to work with a six-month timeline because I find it manageable. In order to achieve my goals I have 2-3 months to ramp up and 3-4 months to get results. In the second half of 2009 I focused on reaching two groups: association CEOs and Independent Consultants. I now have significant and growing penetration with both. What are your growth intentions for the first half of 2010? This is part three of my New Year Strategy.
4. Use Downtime over the Holidays to Reflect. I count on slow moments, naps, reading quietly, early morning walks, bird watching, and special times with family to bring me the distance and peaceful joy I need to take a wider view of life. I look forward to these personal experiences, knowing their power to be both immense and subtle.
5. On New Year's Day Create a 2-page Document that Pulls All This Together:
- The one-page list of all your engagements
- A new area to master
- Business growth intentions for the next six months
- Personal reflections on life
This short doc is a great reference for gong forward. There is something powerful about the simple act of documenting your intentions. In fact, each of these five simple acts is profound in its impact and the synergy of the collection is extraordinary. Time to reflect and listen to your inner wisdom is irreplaceable - you must do it. To achieve an exceptional life, reflection is mandatory. The time when the end of one year meets the beginning of another is perfectly fitted for it.
This work is deep and elemental, with a quiet power. Draw on the natural rhythm of the calendar and use it to your benefit.
Seth Kahan (Seth@VisionaryLeadership.com ) is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a year-long learning experience for CEOs in Washington, DC. His next book, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, will be published in Spring 2010 by Jossey-Bass. Visit his other blogs, GettingChangeRight.com  for content from his upcoming book, and FreelanceFortune.com  for techniques on how to succeed as a free agent. Follow Seth on Twitter . Learn more about Seth's work at VisionaryLeadership.com