The time between Christmas and New Year is a real gift of down time from work. Yes there is all the busyness of Christmas but there is time to do some thinking about the things that are important, as opposed to all the urgent things that we spend our days on.

When I talk to my mentoring clients they have a number of issues that they know are important yet never quite get round to. So give yourself a gift this Christmas and think about two important things that never get enough serious thought:

1. Where is my career going?

Generally I mentor very senior people, those who are at or near the top of whatever ladder it is they set out to climb. So you might think that they are very clear about what their next move is. Surprisingly clarity does not arrive with seniority, in fact the future often gets less clear.

If you have made it to the most senior role then what is your next move? If you have missed out on the top job you have been striving for then where do you go now? If you want to move into a different career how do you do it? Have you got to the point where you have enough?

Here is a great exercise that I use with all my clients to help you start thinking.

The important thing about this exercise is that it involves looking back at your achievements rather than looking forward.

Imagine that you are at a point 10 or 15 years on from now and you are looking BACK at your life.

Describe where ideally you are at that point:

  • What is your state of health?
  • What is the state of your finances?
  • Where are you living?
  • Who are you living with?
  • What are you doing?
  • What have you achieved in your life?
  • What are the things you are proud of/sorry about?

Put as much detail as you can around this, discuss it with your partner – sometimes you can find you do not share the same dreams.

The next stage is to look at where you will be and think about what you need to do to get there. A couple of examples:

  • Everyone says that they will be in excellent health. But as you get older you need a plan to stay healthy, it doesn’t just happen. So what are you going to do?
  • One of my favourite clients said that he wanted to have “a flourishing forest garden” in 10 years time. He had the land but had not started planting the trees that would take 10 years to grow.

Forest Garden

This is not an easy exercise but if you can work through it you will have a road map for the future.

2. How do I manage my time?

The more senior you get the more difficult time management becomes. When you are junior you may have too much to do but the things you have to do are defined. As you get more senior things are less well defined and you have to make more and more choices about where you put your effort. The easy thing to do is to deal with the urgent; much more difficult is to deal with the important. The hardest thing is to spend time thinking rather than doing but still staying in control of the business.

Christmas break thinking

So spend some time over the Christmas break thinking about how you manage time.

There’s a great tool for doing this called “Drive, Delegate, Ditch

List all the things you do, ought to do, need to do and decide which bucket they fit into. Ask yourself what the consequences would be of not doing something? If it doesn’t matter put it in the Ditch bucket. Think about what are the things that ONLY YOU CAN DO (OYCD) and make sure that they go in the Drive bucket.

If you can do both these exercises and then carry them through in 2016 then you will have had a very productive Christmas and may have a much happier New Year.