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You might be immersed in holiday stress right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few minutes to ponder the year ahead. After all, it is right around the corner, and it’s better to be at least a little prepared than to have it sneak up on you. By putting in even 10 minutes of planning, you can add a little focus and direction to your year, rather than having it lead you around by the nose!

Take charge of your year by sitting down (perhaps with a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine), pondering the year ahead, and going through the following 8 steps. You could undertake this activity in about 10 minutes, but I encourage you to take all the time you need.

1. Write down all your goals

Jot down whatever comes to mind. Don’t edit; don’t pause. Just write down everything (big and small, personal and professional) you would like to accomplish next year.

2. Rate your goals

Once you have your list, go through it and consider which items are the most crucial and which are not. You could give each entry a 1, 2, or 3 rating with 1 representing your most important goals/aspirations, 2 being goals of middling importance, and 3 representing less important goals.

3. Focus on your “1” goals

Take a look at your most important goals (i.e., the “1s”). Hopefully you only have two or three “1” goals (if you have much more than that, consider relabeling some of them) so you can place your focus on these particular objectives. You can still accomplish your 2s and 3s, but they might not be the center of your focus.

4. Work backwards

For each of your top goals, set a specific date for when you’d like to accomplish them. From there, work backwards on your calendar. How can you break up your goal into bite-sized pieces? What are some of the major milestones you need to accomplish? Fill in your calendar accordingly, working backwards from your deadline.

5. Highlight important milestones

Once you’ve completed step 4, consider your important milestones. What needs to be done by certain dates to accomplish each milestone? Starting thinking about the support/resources you’ll need, the tasks you’ll have to accomplish, and the time you’ll devote to reaching each milestone.

6. Create a derailment plan

Life happens. If you don’t happen to meet one of the deadlines for your milestones, what will you do? What’s your derailment plan? Will you sit down and rethink your schedule? Will you commit to working one evening each week (or part of the weekend) until you get back on track?

7. Think of an accountability partner (or several)

List a few people who would make good accountability partners—people who could occasionally check in to help keep you on track. Be sure to list people who will not necessarily let you off the hook if you miss a deadline or are getting sidetracked. Rather, choose people whom you respect and do not want to let down. Once you have your list, reach out to one person at a time until someone agrees to be your accountability partner for the year. If they ask, be sure to return the favor.

8. Set a “go” date!

You have a plan. You’re ready to blast off into the New Year. Now, all you need is a “go” date—a time to begin your launch. This could be the first of the year, or it might be a date further down the road—whatever makes sense with your plan.

Too many people get bogged down by day-to-day life instead of stepping back and taking a bird’s eye view of their work or personal life. It can be immensely helpful to see the forest, instead of staring at the trees. By planning the year ahead, you partake in big-picture planning. You chart your course through the forest, instead of getting tripped up by the roots and brambles that everyday life tends to deliver.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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For many people, the holiday season can be an absolute whirlwind. You move from commitment to commitment—work parties, holiday shopping, meal prep, volunteer activities—all while trying to juggle your normal work and family life. It can be a lot.

Sometimes the holiday season is so chaotic and stressful, you scarcely enjoy it, but instead end up feeling like you need a break to recuperate. That’s a shame because, at their core, the holidays are meant to be a time of togetherness, family, friendship, and kindness…and all of that gets diminished when we’re running around, feeling busy and stressed.

I don’t necessarily suggest canceling all your plans and having a quiet holiday season (although, if that’s what you need to do, who am I to stop you?). What I do suggest is slowing down from time to time, tuning in with how you’re feeling, and practicing a little self-care.

If self-care seems indulgent, you might be exactly the type of person who needs it most! Besides, if you don’t take care of yourself, your fuel tank will run dry and you won’t be able to effectively care for anyone else.

Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or time consuming. Instead, it can be taken in 5-minute intervals. Here are 10 ideas for 5-minute self-care:

1. Try a breathing exercise

If you don’t have a go-to breathing exercise try this one from my blog OR download the Headspace app.

2. Stretch

You can stretch at your desk, while you’re waiting for the turkey to cook, or even in bed before you get up in the morning.

3. Make yourself a hot chocolate

Don’t forget the whipped cream!

4. Indulge in a 5-minute dessert

You’d be surprised what you can whip together in just a few minutes. Bonus: Several quick dessert recipes are kid-friendly, so you can also provide a little entertainment for little ones.

5. Have a foot soak

Maybe you don’t have time for an all-out bath, but you probably have a few minutes for a relaxing foot soak. Fill a tub or a basin with hot water, add some Epsom salts and/or essential oils, and give your feet a little pampering!

6. Read a few pages of a book

It’s helpful to download an eBook app on your phone so you’ll always have quick access to a book.

7. Doodle

Let your mind wander for a few minutes as you sketch with a pencil, pen, colored pencils…whatever you have handy.

8. Journal

Jot down whatever’s on your mind in a notebook. Or, choose a writing prompt (like these), set a timer, and write.

9. Walk around the block

Enjoy the scenery and appreciate your neighborhood.

10. Dance!

Take a 5-minute dance break. You never know, the whole family may want to join in!

Self-care is possible in brief intervals. The real trick is remembering to pause and having a quick self-care activity at the ready.

Wishing you a relaxing, fun, and joyful holiday season!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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In my experience, there is no better way to support and nurture your work team than through mentoring. And mentoring is not just for new hires or people switching roles within the organization; it’s helpful for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill, change roles, or climb the ladder.

There really is no substitution for working with a mentor.

Mentors can offer:

  • Personalized guidance
  • A roadmap for obtaining a new position
  • Lived experience and real-life lessons
  • A bridge to other resources
  • A chance to expand a person’s network

I’ve written about mentoring benefits in a few past blog posts, but today I want to talk about something slightly different: starting a mentoring cohort.

What is a mentoring cohort?

Companies can approach mentoring cohorts differently, but in essence, they are groups of people who are moving through a mentoring program together. That might sound formal, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Typically, each mentee will be assigned a mentor, who will work with them for a certain period of time (3 months, perhaps, or 6 months).

The mentees might occasionally meet up and offer each other support, as well. This often makes sense if the mentees are new in the organization and could use the same type of support or resources. Typically, the mentors have been with the organization for at least a few years and are well-respected and knowledgeable.

How do you start a mentoring cohort?

First, it’s helpful to identify the mentees’ needs. Are they interested in learning more about the organization, in general? Do they have their sights set on leadership? Are they seeking guidance in a particular area? You might send out a survey to discover what type of help people need most.

After you’ve pinpointed needs (and have drummed up some excitement about the program!), start compiling a list of potential mentors. Do your best to match the mentees’ requirements with the mentors’ experience. Then, send a personal message to each mentor, inviting them to participate in the program.

In your email, don’t forget to mention the reason you’ve chosen this person—their expertise in X, their reputation as a top salesperson, their enthusiasm in collaborating with others. Then, be sure to specify the time commitment. Since many people are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities, it’s best to keep this at a minimum (say, 45 minutes every month or half an hour every two weeks).

Once you’ve paired your people, give some mentoring guidelines (suggested questions to ask, suggested meeting times). Then, take a step back and let the mentoring commence! You may want to check in every once in a while (at the midpoint, perhaps), but this should mostly be hands-off for you.

When the program concludes, take a survey to see how it went AND ask your mentors if they would be willing to stay active in the cohort program. Then, start the whole process over again with your next batch of people.

A mentoring cohort is a great way to connect batches of people with appropriate mentors. If you think several people in your organization could benefit from mentoring, I encourage you to initiate an in-house mentoring cohort. And the bonus? You will also gain recognition as a leader, a doer, and someone who is actively trying to improve company culture. A win all around.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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