Want 2021 to be Different? Re-thinking Priorities for the New Year

What do I want my 2021 to look like? You may be reflecting on this important question as we close out one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced. Business professionals should always make time for reflection, reassessment of their strategy and goal planning. I would suggest this approach is more critical than ever if we wish to break out of the rut many of us may feel we are in. By now, it is likely you have largely completed your 2021 business goals and strategy planning. If so, I would encourage the readers of this post to expand their thinking about the coming year in terms of time and priorities (both business and personal). The business priorities and goals may be clear, but how about your personal priorities?

Time is a finite resource, yet we often foolishly behave as if there is an endless supply of it to accomplish everything on our daily to-do lists. For most of the professionals I know, working from home with no (or reduced) commute time has not created an abundance of extra free time, but instead these windows have been filled with more meetings and busy-work. Another unintended consequence of working from home in 2020 has been the increased challenge of turning work off at a decent hour.

As I ponder how to make 2021 a better year and prepare for what I hope to achieve on both a personal and professional level, I have come to realize that everything hinges on how effective I am with managing my priorities and the precious resource of time. Below is a list of five priorities outside of the typical business objectives requiring an intentional time investment from me in 2021 (and beyond):

  • Invest in self-care.  As I have written before in other posts, you cannot share with others from an empty cup. I am no longer the Superman I was early in my career and I have to watch my diet and exercise more. I also need some quiet time each day to think, read, be creative and restore my batteries. I need time for daily prayer and reflection. This time goes on the calendar like everything else of importance and I have to zealously guard it or watch it be easily sacrificed to other demands on my time. “Covid burnout” is real and a problem for many. If we want to give more to others, we have to take better care of ourselves.  In 2021, how will you take care of your own needs in these critical areas?
  • My family is the main priority. I am fortunate to own a growing business doing work I love. However, I absolutely love my wife and sons more. I must exercise discipline and intentionality to ensure my work exists to serve my family and avoid asking my family to serve my work. This means turning work off at an acceptable hour and being fully present when we are together. How will you make your loved ones feel like they are the main priority in 2021?
  • Invest in those around me. As an executive coach working with dozens of senior leaders and their teams each year, this should be obvious. But, I need to be intentional and go deeper in other areas of my life. I have a sophomore in college and have a narrow window to help him prepare well for the years ahead. My oldest son has high-functioning autism and needs me to be fully invested with my wife in helping him learn to be as independent as possible. I also mentor a number of young leaders who have asked for my guidance and I want to show up with my best effort for each of them. These time investments require careful calendar management and prioritization or they will not occur. How will you make time to develop others in the coming year?How will you invest more time in taking the emotional/mental temperature of those around you?
  • Nurture key relationships. I am grateful to know a lot of wonderful people and am committed to spending quality time with them throughout the year. With the challenges of pandemic-induced isolation and social distancing rules, I have had little opportunity to connect in person with the people in my network and Zoom is not an ideal substitute. But, until the pandemic is under control, we have to make do with virtual coffees/happy hours, do more phone check-ins and even send more handwritten notes. One of the great casualties of the pandemic has been the damage done to relationships inside companies. When you observe eroding trust and poor collaboration in an organization, you can often trace it back to neglected work relationships. Who are the key relationships in your world and how will you creatively invest in or re-invigorate them in the coming year?
  • Serve the community and causes I care about most. Long ago, I learned the hard way to only be involved in the organizations that match up with the causes I care about most…and I will only serve up to three non-profits at any given time. This keeps me engaged in a manageable way and allows me to give my best effort to important causes that are making a difference. In addition to my personal donations, I can promote these causes to my network, recruit new board members/donors and find other ways to add value. Which causes will benefit from your time, talent and treasure? How will you best serve the community in the coming year?

I shared my personal 2021 priorities to encourage you to make an honest list like this for yourself. You may have a very different list as we all may approach this topic in different ways. I could have shared sales and profit growth goals for Serviam Partners, the subject of my newest book or the other strategic work projects I want to tackle, but those are all givens when it comes to business planning for a new year. The financial goals are easy, but try writing down all the other priorities you have that never seem to get fully accomplished with your current approach to calendar management. When this is completed, I challenge you to conduct a calendar audit of one month in 2020 when you were particularly busy. How successful were you in accomplishing the expanded list of priorities you wrote down?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I often struggle to stay on top of this issue like most business people I know, but I keep trying to improve. I also know that I am determined to enjoy a different year than the one I just experienced. Time is a precious resource and I am encouraging everyone I know to stop assuming the important priorities like the ones I shared will get done by accident with scraps of time left over from our busy workdays. Intentionality, focus and self-discipline are the keys to making this attainable and workable. If we are successful in making this a reality, life and work in 2021 will be richer and more enjoyable because of our efforts.

What will your list of priorities look like for 2021 and how will you find the time to ensure they happen?

Better days are ahead.

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