With the chaoticness of the holidays behind us, many will start to plan for the upcoming year. Setting goals, strategizing, filling all those empty spaces in the crisp new planner. The promise of a fresh new year motivates and allows for a perspective not muddied by the previous year’s weakest points.
However, as ugly as those weak points were, or how much we wish to sweep them under the rug, it is those flaws that create the path forward. We learn more from our missteps than from our successes. They allow for change, force us to readjust, and prevent us from becoming stagnant.
As I take a look back with the intention of creating a foolproof plan for success for my new year, I find that I must create three buckets. These organizational spaces allow me to objectively evaluate what I need to keep doing, what I need to do better, and what I need to stop doing in order to be the most productive, organized, and happiest that I can be.
Out with the old, in with the new.
What worked well: Did it feel right? Did I accomplish what I set out to get done? Maybe I’m a martyr, but short of simple wins this bucket is fairly empty. I am my own worst critic and even something that seems to have gone off without a hitch, leaves me contemplating if a minor shift can make it even more successful. Achievement feels great, but take care not to overfill this bucket, always leave room to reevaluate what worked yesterday as needs may change.
Over the course of last year I completed a huge home project. My original deep red walls throughout the kitchen had character, but they made the space seem smaller and dark. What began as a relatively small project snowballed into painting the entire first floor, the stairway and the lower level, including giving the fireplace a fresh new modern look. When I made that final pass with the brush, I sat and stared at my accomplishment. I was proud. The job was done and it looked amazing. While this task grew from the original plan, it is one that I can check off and call done.
What didn’t work at all: Sometimes it’s worth throwing in the towel and starting over. You try and try, make adjustments, and bend the project to make it work. But if the shoe doesn’t fit, stop trying to shove your foot into it.
Through most of last year, our technicians were responsible for managing their own case loads. Think of a grocery store with ten checkout lanes but no lines, just a cluster of customers standing in an unorganized huddle waiting to be taken care of. There was no traffic director, no adhered-to process of who to help first. The customer with the squeakiest cart got helped first.
With a revamped process, those days are gone. There is a managed workflow now that provides faster service to our customers, while providing a sense of organization to the team.
What could have been better: This is my favorite bucket. Typically much of what falls into the “What went well” category has at least a toe dipped into this one. Consistent evaluation and tweaks are what keeps us growing. There is no room for the ol’ “We’ve always done it this way”, or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I strive for constant improvement and innovation, looking at new and better ways of succeeding.
Last summer we built a garden. It was just reused shelving that had been removed. It served its purpose as a box. My vegetables grew. I had more tomatoes and cucumbers than I knew what to do with. I also apparently provided an all you can eat buffet to my local chipmunks.
At first glance (and taste) the garden was victorious. It did its job by staying standing, the boys got some great target practice in, and it kept the big animals out. But it was mediocre. It could have been better. It was thrown together out of reused products that were made to fit.
That garden frame is now gone, and in its place is the measured, planned framework for this summer’s oasis of vegetation.
As you begin to plan for this upcoming year, take a look back before you set any future plans and goals in stone. Be ready to shift gears if something goes astray. Be open to mistakes, and be willing to own them.
Our failures make us stronger, smarter, and give us the fuel to get better everyday.