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The most wonder-full time of the year
The most wonder-full time of the year
Daniel Forrester, CEO
By Daniel Forrester, CEO
December 16, 2013
The store windows are festive, the music jingles, and all over signs point to the fact that it will soon be Christmas. It’s a magical time for my children. I love seeing their eyes light up as they take in the wonder of this season.

The store windows are festive, the music jingles, and all over signs point to the fact that it will soon be Christmas. It’s a magical time for my children. I love seeing their eyes light up as they take in the wonder of this season.

But there’s another reason why I love this time of year, unrelated to their joy: the last two weeks of the year have been a consistent time to stop and ponder my life, career and the spaces in between. Beyond the reason for the season – connecting with your family and God – don’t forget to take time out to simply wonder.

I’d be willing to guess (unless you’re in retail or healthcare) that most of your jobs slow down in December, too, whatever your faith. Think of the reduced pace as a chance to recharge and reconnect.

The technology around us often creates Pavlovian habits of checking our emails, smart phone addiction and constant connection to the web, even as we lament the compromise on family and personal time. It’s important to find ways to resist that urge and not let the final two weeks of the year pass you by. If you have the self-discipline to carve out some ‘me’ time, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed by the results. In fact, you will ask: why do I only do this but once a year?

Here are some tips and tricks from my playbook:

  1. You are used to being on autopilot; take the time now to disengage. Confront the behaviors and routines that normally allow you to be a super-worker: turn off your email notifications, log out of social media on your phone, and unplug. (If someone is emailing you on the Christmas holiday, their priorities are skewed – don’t let them bring you down too!)
  2. Be realistic: don’t pick five books to read, just pick one – that book you’ve been meaning to get to all year – and really commit to it. Resist the urge to turn on the TV or surf the web and tackle those chapters instead. But don’t just read passively. Take notes on it and, in the words of former Poet Laureate Billy Collins, seize the white perimeter as your own. As you engage with those pages, you’ll learn how to focus again and probably enjoy the time while you’re at it.
  3. Record your ideas, big and little. Many of the things that pop into your head will be about work and tied to your daily habits. Don’t resist that stream of consciousness, but don’t give in to it either: put it down on paper and keep it for January. Soon enough you’ll also have a second list, one that comes from the space you’ve created to think and reflect. These ideas won’t necessarily be related to the daily grind, they’ll be grander and maybe unrealistic, but they can lead to a new business venture, an important realization, or renewed purpose and energy for things you already do. The second list is what excites me the most.
  4. Be self-critical and ask, “What is the return on investment from my social media habits and urge to be in constant contact with work?” Maybe you have it all figured out in this area, but if you’re anything like me you need to review and adjust. Challenge yourself to name three relationships your time on Facebook or Twitter has strengthened, or define the opportunity cost of spending time online. If you don’t take this time to reflect and (if necessary) change, you’ll repeat the same (potentially destructive) behaviors in 2014.
  5. Schedule meetings with yourself now in 2014 for daily, monthly, and quarterly ‘think time’. Revisit your lists and resolutions from Christmastime, and evaluate what’s changed since December. Be self-critical and identify what you need to do to do things better.

After using Christmastime to reflect, I decided to launch my own company in 2013. It was scary, but now I own my work; I wouldn’t have been able to take a measured risk unless I took the time to think and act deliberately.

This time of year (and the slightly less aggressive pace that surrounds it) is a gift you can only open if you stop and wonder.