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End Of 2015! 5 Effective Ways To Wrap Up The Year And Set New Goals for 2016

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End Of 2015! 5 Effective Ways To Wrap Up The Year And Set New Goals for 2016

For most people, the end of the year is the most unproductive time of the year. It’s an invited change of pace because you get to slow down; enjoying the holidays with family and friends.

While the importance of downtime cannot be overlooked, it’s also the best time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Unfortunately, many of us don’t take advantage of this unproductive time of the year, and that is a mistake.

Why? Because to reach your potential you must be certain that your choices are helping you. Otherwise, you run the risk of dragging around unfinished work and focusing on choices that are not helping you. As you already know unfinished work and misguided focus will only serve to drain your limited energy.

I know this issue all too well. I spent the better part of my entrepreneurial journey focusing on the wrong choices. In part because I never dedicated time to closing out my year, so I repeated the same poor habits from the previous year.

And this is where an Annual Review became my most important tool.

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This retrospective is a powerful tool that allows you to review what went well and what could have gone better this year. More importantly, the Annual Review provides insightful information that can be used to shape your goals for the next year.

I suggest that you be in a quiet place, with a pen, paper, calendar, and any other information that will help you reference the past year.

Answer the 5 Retrospective Questions

1. How did you do against your key goals? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Writing. This year was a good year for my writing. It’s now focused on leadership and personal development. Now while I did not meet this year’s production goals, I am happy that I am a contributor to the Huffington Post and Lifehack. I submitted a pitch to Entrepreneur Magazine so my fingers are crossed that I will be accepted as a contributing writer by the end of the year.

2. What things need to be improved? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Photography. This was a very bad year for my photography. I think I spent a total of two weeks on this personal project. I simply allowed other distractions to pull me away from my photography goals. For 2016, I need to fix this by spending more time making images. I need to set a production goal and schedule time to hang out with professional photographer Robert Rodriguez Jr.

3. What things were missing from this year as you look back? Here is how I would answer it:

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  • Family Time. I have spent too much time away from the boys and wife. My boys are young, and I can not miss these precious moments. I need to schedule more quality time with them. Since the boys have been born the wife and I have not had a date night, and that places a strain on our relationship. So for 2016, I am going to schedule a monthly date night with the wife.

4. What’s things are going well? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Writing. Since I have been focusing on writing about leadership and personal development, my writing has not only gotten better but I am becoming an authority on both subjects. I’ve been asked for advice by other entrepreneurs, and I have been able to improve my habits so I can get the results that I desire.

5. What are your three to five goals that you want to achieve for next year? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Writing. For 2016, I want to increase my writing production. I want to write 104 guest posts. I will pitch Success Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Forbes and the New Yorker. I also want to finish my eBook tentatively titled “A Blueprint to Becoming Highly Successful.”

Set Your New Goals for 2016

So you have answered the 5 questions — now what? Well, you now take those answers especially #5 and you begin to carve out your goals for 2016. I recommend creating 3 – 5 goals. The smaller number of goals respects the fact that you have limited energy, but that does not mean the goals can’t be big.

They should be out of your comfort zone. They should scare you. Otherwise, they are just another to-do list.

I am a fan of templates so this the template that I use when crafting my goals:

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Goal:
As a <type of user>, I am committing to <some goal> so that <some reason>.

Action:
To ensure that <some goal>, I am committing to <some habit>.

Here is my example:

Goal:
As a writer, I am committing to writing 104 guest posts on leadership so that can be viewed as an authority in the space and that will help me secure my goal of 20 corporate speaking gigs.

Action:
To ensure that I write 104 articles on leadership, I am committing to creating a production plan that will focus on leadership and becoming a contributing writer for the top 5 business magazines.

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So Yes, having written down the goal is only part of making the goal happen. You also need to commit to a repeated action that will help you achieve that goal; that is the secret sauce. And the more specific the goal and the action the more you are able to gauge the amount of energy required to achieve your goals.

Final Thoughts of the Year

Now I want you to run through these five questions. Keep in mind that you want to learn what you did well and what you didn’t do well. You then use that knowledge to begin crafting your goals for 2016.

The Annual Review is a powerful tool and when taken seriously it can help you create a better next year. I wish you much success.

Note: Thanks to Michael Hyatt, James Clear and Chris Guillebeau for inspiring me to write this Annual Review article.

Featured photo credit: unsplash/Olu Eletu via unsplash.com

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8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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