November is that month where there is enough left of the year ahead to still be present in it, and enough behind us to be able to evaluate how it’s gone. We can see the new year starting to appear on the horizon, but we can’t quite put this current year to bed yet. November is the month where we become most aware of whether this year has worked for us or not, and what we might need to adjust as we head into the coming year.
Have you noticed that it’s true what they say about change? It’s constant. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus asserted so hundreds of years ago, and it seems today is no different. The expression “the only constant is change” is one we roll our eyes at when we’ve had a gut full of moving goalposts and reordering our plans, and yet the acceptance of it is what allows us to readjust our mental attitude to one of agile calculation.
When we stop expecting anything to be constant, we can move into a mental space capable of going with the flow more. We can put aside some of the mental gymnastics of clinging onto how we’d decided things would be.
Peter Drucker, (management consultant, educator and author) suggested that 5-year goals were effective when 1965 looked relatively similar to 1960, but that the rate of change of more modern times are too high paced for us to look so far ahead in our planning. Most people, teams and organisations now look towards annual goals at best, and understand that they will still need to make changes, deviations and course corrections on the fly to maintain any kind of consistent direction. Any plan further than a year ahead is considered a vision.
November is a fabulous time of year to be asking ourselves what’s worked and what hasn’t worked. What do we need to leave behind, and what can we take with us, adjusting for the new tack of the coming year? In the business world, that would be called a “Stop, Start, Continue” analysis. There’s no reason why we can’t use that analysis to assess all arenas of our lives.
When assessing ourselves and our achievements in this way, we must also understand the difference between effective and efficient. To quote Peter Drucker again, “Effectiveness is the foundation of success – efficiency is a minimum condition for survival after success has been achieved.” That is, effectiveness means doing the right things; efficiency means doing things right. Efficiency must be based on a foundation of effectiveness. It is the speed we gather when we’ve achieved an even keel for a period.
There is no point in being efficient at doing the wrong things. Pausing to take stock of whether the things we’re currently doing are the right things, whether they are effective or not, is the first step to discernment in this exercise. If something (a method, system, communication) is not effective, then it no longer works towards our success, no matter how long we’ve been doing it for. It has become more of a coping mechanism than an effective strategy.
What do we need to stop doing?
By November, everyone is generally starting to run a little ragged. Either you’re in the thick of juggling the momentum that this year has created (for better or worse), or you’ve already tapped off a little, perhaps feeling a little resignation or requiring self-management to guide yourself through the remainder of the year. It’s not necessarily comforting that another year is on the horizon.
Alternatively, perhaps this year has been a freeing one – allowing you to shake off or put down previous norms and take a walk down a different path. Perhaps it’s caused you to ask some questions about what might come next and how you’d handle that.
Whichever the case, November is a fabulous time to ask ourselves what we need to stop doing. What hasn’t worked for you this year? What’s been IN-effectual? What were the moments that pushed your buttons and what was it about that situation that wasn’t working? Clearly identifying what we need to stop doing because it’s not working for us is the first step towards cleaning up, even if we’re not sure what we’d replace it with or how we’d do it differently.
What do we need to start doing?
What are the possible new ways of filling any gaps left by the things you need to stop doing? Perhaps some of them can just fall away, but perhaps some require some balancing or replacing. Finding new ways may require some trial and error, so any ideas are welcome thoughts at this stage.
What are the things you’ve thought about doing and not implemented yet this year? What are the things you tried and enjoyed, but didn’t have time to do more of? Are there more EFFECTIVE ways to do what you’re doing? Ways that allow you to assess your course more quickly or frequently and that would help you correct or change that course more effectively? How can you be more agile, and less at the mercy of the tides and moving goalposts? Being agile is a mental choice you make to bend and renavigate, rather than being at the mercy of whatever is oncoming. They may both feel like dodging, ducking and diving at some points, but the mental approach is different.
What do we need to continue doing?
What HAS worked for you this year? Where have the pleasure points been; what are the things you’ve celebrated? What and who has made you smile? What’s stood out as being less effort than you’d anticipated it being, leaving you breathing out? Where have you managed to combine effectiveness and efficiency – building on those right things to gain some momentum?
This is an exercise we can do for ourselves in our professional and personal lives. It’s also an exercise that allows a great deal of unpacking, reconnecting, shedding, and reconditioning for teams of people – be they family or work colleagues.
Before this year draws to a close, clean out your own mental space by deciding what can stay and what must go. What has been effective enough to build on, and what hasn’t allowed you to move forward with grace. What continually snags you up, and how can you build in new systems of management to assess, pre-empt, and change course where necessary. How can you be more free-flowing, less locked down to the perception of needing to control an aspect and more open to the probability that change will need to be a factor as you progress?
November is a month for reassessment. For cleaning up. For shedding what’s not needed, assessing what remains and planning for what is lacking. What is it time you put down, or said goodbye to (systems, ways of communicating, rules, relationships, methods, equipment etc)? And what’s working for you and can be celebrated (systems, ways of communicating, rules, relationships, methods, equipment etc)?
by Christen Killick
November 1st, 2021