New Year, Stronger Connections!

By: Jessica Beckendorf

Welcome to 2018! Time for recalibration and goal setting.

I always feel like there’s something in the air at the beginning of each new year. Everything feels just a little different – somehow I have new energy and the “permission” to change my outlook, to imagine multiple possibilities (and it is always a lot of fun for this productivity nerd to pick out a new planner at the office supplies store!).

Until recently, I never really did anything with that energy. Perhaps it was because my goals always focused on physical activity and January in the upper Midwest is about as pleasant as a brass toilet seat in…well, the upper Midwest. Whatever the reason, I have come to understand how incredibly important it is to set aside time to at least reflect and plan – and a great time to start is during the first week or two of January. I currently do different versions of reflection and planning on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, but I have found the beginning-of-year review to be one of the most valuable for checking in on my goals and to think about where I want to go in the new year.

This year in particular, I decided to focus on what is likely THE most important aspect of my life: my relationships. Inspired by the Working Out Loud and design thinking movements, I came up with the following questions to help me reflect on the past year and plan for the new year. Feel free to use these questions to evaluate your goals and efforts and to think about new connections you would like to make. Improving your relationships and widening your circle of connections is sure to help you have an AMAZING 2018!

Closing out 2017

What new things did I learn about in 2017? What did I try during 2017? Expanding on what we know can both diversify our knowledge base AND help us master subjects we already know about. To maximize effectiveness, we should aim to do both.

How did I invest in myself during 2017? Each of us needs to be intentional about and in control of our own personal and professional development. Write down all the ways you invested in yourself, whether it was intentional or unplanned, personal or professional.

Who did I create meaningful connections with in 2017? How did I contribute to deepening the relationship? Some examples of contributions might include: sharing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, and offering your time and skills (Working Out Loud, 2015).

What will I take with me into 2018? Who will I take with me? Think about ideas and opportunities as well as any other topic you want to take with you. Likewise, think beyond current family and friends when reflecting on relationships to take into 2018.

Thinking Through 2018

If 2018 goes well, what will it look like? What will it feel like? Who will be in my life? What will be possible? Use your imagination and let yourself dream a little.

What would I like to learn more about/What am I curious about? What do I want to try in 2018? Tip: think about this for both your personal interests and your professional interests. 

How will I invest in myself in 2018? You are in control of your own personal and professional development, so think about how will you be intentional about investing in yourself and your interests. Tip: think about all the ways you invested in yourself – traditional professional development – conferences, workshops, classes, and non-traditional such as clubs you joined, informal mentoring, etc.

Who can I connect with to learn about what I am interested in? Tip:  Think about how you would normally approach things and ask yourself how you will do it differently. Consider individual connections as well as groups, associations, or organizations you can connect with. Also consider connections that would help you diversify your network.

Bonus question: What contributions can I make that would help deepen the relationships I have or help forge new connections? Tip:  Some examples of contributions might include: sharing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences, and offering your time and skills (Working Out Loud, 2015). 

Making time for reflection is H-A-R-D, especially when you are just getting started. But guess what? If you want to be more effective, innovative, and intentional you will want to cultivate this habit. Reflection helps you connect with your core values and make connections between ideas, opening up possibilities for us both personally and professionally.

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