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How to Make the Most of the Time Between the Years

You might not realize it, but you are in transition.

First things first: the time between Christmas or Chanukah and New Year’s is the time you should spend with your loved ones. So, do that — and stop reading!

But….just in case you have some extra hours (or for those rare moments your family might be getting on your nerves), here are some suggestions for as to how to use this week professionally as well. It doesn’t mean you have to ‘work’ — the beauty of this time in between time is that it gives you the license to let your thoughts roam and to let your mind wander aimlessly. It’s the rare opportunity to reflect on your career and your desired impact, take stock (of this past year, this past decade), and clarify your intentions for the coming year. You’re neither here nor there, so you’re everywhere and nowhere — not a state of mind you can maintain for long, but one that can be extremely insightful. It’s the perfect time for looking back while looking forward.

Looking back

Be grateful: By now it’s well-known that expressing gratitude boosts happiness — both for those whom we appreciate as well as ourselves. As you remember the many social interactions you’ve had this past year, think about who supported you; inspired you; challenged you in a constructive, respectful way; and gave you energy. Strengthen the strong ties. Get back in touch with the weak ones if you still feel compelled to maintain or grow them. Make a commitment to keep all these people close in the new year.

Take stock: If you had to give this year a headline, what would it be? Did you achieve what you had set out to accomplish? What were some of the magical moments when you came fully alive — and how? Why? What were some of the disappointments you suffered? What is some unfinished business that you want to pick up again in 2020? What is some of the unfinished business you want to leave behind? Make sure to bury ideas that didn’t materialize and that are not essential to you, so you’re open for new ones in the new year.

Looking ahead

Study trends: The end of year is when the foresight and trend departments are having a ball, and the rest of us are suffering from future overwhelm. Amy Daroukakis has done us all a great service by singling out the forecasts that are really worth reading, from Frog Design’s “Aesthetic Futures” to Food & Wine’s 2020 Biggest Food Trends. And to get yourself future-ready, study LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report or follow the good advice from Danny Forest’s article, “The 3 Most Important Skills to Learn Now to Thrive in 2020”, specifically, manage your learning, remain curious, and increase your capacity to retain important information.

Create a plan: My favorite tool for organizing new year’s resolutions (and in fact any intentions or objectives) is a mind map that presents information in an intuitive, visual way. You can add and delete content quickly and drill down to most granular details, while never losing sight of the big picture. I promise you, your plans for 2020 will look intriguing on a mind map. Sadly, life is not a mind map though, and reality will disrupt even the most thoughtful and well-organized plan. But hey, isn’t that the whole point? Plus, mind maps are a great way to impress clients in meetings. And no, I’m not getting any commissions from producers of mind mapping software (but, full disclosure, I used to work for one).

Read books (or write your own): As you plan your book menu for the new year, keep in mind that there are books you read to learn and those that simply make you feel good. Sasha Sagan’s For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World does both and is highly recommended. If you haven’t yet, check out the Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year winner Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez or Sir Paul Collier’s pragmatic call for reinventing The Future of Capitalism. And if you need a reason for hope in the new year, Nicholas A. Christakis’ Blue Print: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society will remind you that we humans are social beings and have an innate desire to cooperate (in defiance of the greed and self-interest some economists try hard to convince us of).

If you want to write a book yourself, as 200 million Americans apparently do, now is a good time to start. Most people who think they have a book in them never get it out, much to the chagrin of some book doulas. Use the time between the years to jot down thoughts, flex your writing muscle by penning a blog post or diary entries, create an outline, and then share your project with friends and colleagues, and, if you seriously think it has potential, with an agent. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide.

Ask yourself the question: What question, you might wonder? Well, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have a question. It’s a ritual I’ve been practicing for the past few years: frame one question about the world or yourself or both that you want this coming year to answer, or at least to give you some cues about. It could be something as obvious and important as “What can I personally do to fight the climate crisis?” to a practical inquiry into foreign territory (“How does quantum computing work?”) to more of an inward-looking exploration (“What does it mean for me to live dangerously?”).

Live the life you want to live: Recently, the strategy firm SYPartners, famed for its work re-envisioning IBM or Starbucks, held a workshop at an event I curated in Lisbon, in which it took the five most common regrets of the dying as starting point for a discussion about new definitions of value or “The business of what we truly live for.” Reading the recap of the session and the list of the regrets may set your own compass straight about what really matters. Hint: it’s not money, status, or power.

Come to think of it, the time between the years is a time in transition, it’s what psychologists call a liminal space, one in which you are in two worlds, two identities, two states of being at the same time. It’s the Schrodinger’s box on the calendar. You might assume it’s an extraordinary time, but the thing is: most of us are in it all the time. We are constantly in transition, always at inflection points, perhaps even more frequently than ever before in these times of constant, exponential change.

This makes this week even more precious, as a way to understand the sensations and mechanics of transformation, as an individual, a professional, and as a leader.

The in-between time, the in-between space — it’s the workplace of the future. Use this week to make yourself feel at home in it.

This article was originally published by Psychology Today.

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Co-founder and co-CEO of the House of Beautiful Business; author of “The Business Romantic” and “The End of Winning”

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Tim Leberecht

Tim Leberecht

Co-founder and co-CEO of the House of Beautiful Business; author of “The Business Romantic” and “The End of Winning”

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