Don’t Wait. Design Next Year Now.

In January, I posted Your Year By Design. The idea of deliberately designing how you’ll spend your time over the next 12 months. It’s something that really works for me because it gives me a sense that I’m creating the life I want, rather than life simply happening to me.

As I reflect on my year, it’s been a good one. And it’s also tinged with a sense of intentions-not-quite-realised. There were a few things on my list that I definitely intended to do (like finish my book, for example) but I got busy doing lots of other stuff I’d committed to instead. How did that happen?

Here’s what I learned: January is too late to design your year.

Design It Now.

Now’s time of year when, in the southern hemisphere at least, we’re looking forward to a summer break. For many, December is about cramming. Trying to get work deadlines met, going to end-of-year celebration parties, rushing to get the Christmas shopping done. Most people just want to ‘get to the finish line’ and then collapse in a heap!

January then becomes an ‘unhook and recover’ period. The usual pattern is to get to the end of the year, take a break, and then sometime in late January, start to lift your head up and think about the year ahead. By that time, the year is already moving, and before long, you’re halfway through and wondering where the time’s gone.

As the end of this year approached, I got a sense that next year was already beginning to be filled with commitments that I’d agreed to. My calendar was free, so, sure, why not? But I’d said ‘yes’ to stuff before I’d done the thinking about what I wanted my year to be about. If I kept on with that and waited until January to design my year, I’d be trying to fit the important stuff in around the existing stuff. That’s not going to work!

So, I pressed pause and did my year by design early. Here’s how it’s shaping up.


As I head into the summer break, I’m feeling good about next year because I’ve already decided what it’s going to look like. I’ve deliberately given myself lots of time out to do the things that are most important to me. And now I know that I can respond with confidence to new opportunities that come up,  because I’ve already booked in the most important stuff.

Design your year now:

  1. Download the 2018 calendar
  2. Follow the steps in Your Year By Design
  3. Go into the break knowing you’re set up for a great year ahead 🙂


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Flat Mojo? Do A ‘Hell Yeah’ Audit

Got a flat mojo? Do a ‘Hell Yeah’  audit.

Hell Yeah With Text.001
Derek Sivers talks about getting to the point where you only say ‘Yes’ to stuff if it’s a ‘Hell Yeah!’ Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that some of the stuff I’ve been delivering hasn’t been feeling as much of a Hell Yeah as I’d like. So I decided to do a Hell Yeah audit.

I printed a list of my invoices over the last 6 months and rated each piece of work on a scale of 1-5, 1 being ‘crap’ to 5 being ‘Hell Yeah!’  75% was over 3, 50% was over 4, and 30% was a ‘Hell Yeah!’.

Maybe you don’t do invoices. But you probably have a way of tracking your time. Some sort of calendar perhaps. Or a diary, or a notebook. In whatever way works for you, I recommend checking how you’ve spent your time recently, and what activities are giving you the most energy.

Doing this exercise has helped me to take stock of what sort of work I’m saying ‘Yes’ to that I could maybe change. Now I’ve got a choice: I can stop saying ‘Yes’ to it, or I can reframe to be more of a ‘Hell Yeah’.

Just knowing that makes my mojo rise.

Hell Yeah!

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Shine A Light

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When I was about 14 years old, I joined my school’s Army Cadet corps. It was attractive because I’d heard they did cool things out in the bush. I was having a bit of a hard time at boarding school, and I thought it would a great respite.

It wasn’t what I expected. The rule-bound hierarchy, the command and control culture, and the endless, monotonous routines of learning how to march in formation and shining your boots until you could see your face in them was not what I signed up for. For a boy seeking freedom from the confines of boarding school, it wasn’t cutting it. I felt small, unseen and unheard. In many ways, it was worse than school.

However, I chose to stick it out for a year. We actually did do some cool things in the bush, like learning how hike from A to B though rugged terrain using only a compass, map and your common sense. How to light a fire with no smoke so you could stay undetected. But, for the vast majority of the time, it was spit, polish and parade grounds, all the while being bossed around by a bunch of older boys and teachers. Blah.

Towards the end of the year, we had to decide whether we wanted to stay on the following year. A simple choice for me: “No”. Yes, I had learned some good stuff, but the way they did things in the corps was not for me.

A few days later, one of the senior officers came to me and said he was surprised and disappointed that I hadn’t chosen to stay on. He said that they saw me as leadership material. Would I reconsider?

This came as a huge surprise to me. When and how did they see my leadership potential? I had been given very little feedback during the course of the year, other than that I could shine my boots better. I thought they didn’t see me at all. To my mind, my leaving would be of no great consequence to them. And here they are telling me that I’m leadership material?

Of course, it was too late. I’d emotionally checked out a long time ago. There was nothing he could say or do to convince me to stay.

That incident has stayed with me ever since, and has fundamentally shaped my approach to leadership. A core responsibility of leadership is to shine a light on people and show them their potential. Especially if they’re not seeing it themselves. It is nourishment for the spirit. It is a catalyst for confidence and builds courage. When we fail to do this, we not only do them a disservice, we also do ourselves and our organisations one.

Most people think that shining a light is about giving positive feedback. That’s part of it. However the real gift is to let someone know the potential and power you see in them. Whenever someone has done that for me, my self-belief soars and the world opens up in front of me.

Where and how are you shining a light? Where and how could you shine it more?

Some guidelines:

  • For everyone you work with (not just your direct reports), find out something interesting about them.
  • Be actively curious about what makes them tick. Find out what drives them. Ask them.
  • Let them know what impact they are having – on the mission, on the team, on you.
  • Let them know the potential and possibility you see for them.
  • Work with them to set stretch goals that are important to them.
  • Recognise effort, and achievement. Let them know you see their progress.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of these simple things, you’ll know how much they mean, and what they do for motivation, engagement and discretionary effort, let alone your relationship with them.

It’s not rocket science. It’s uncommon sense.

Make it common sense. Shine a light. Every day.

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Photo: Digby Scott

Avoid The Flat Line


What’s better: when good stuff happens to you, or bad? Mull on that for a bit as you read on.

I’ve just spent three days on an emotional rollercoaster. I was attending a workshop with Thought Leaders Business School to help me sharpen my thinking for how I run my business. Hugely beneficial. But not always fun. I reckon I experienced the full range of human emotions, from elation to anger, and everything in between.

Here’s a cross-section:

  • The morning of the first day (full of swagger): “yeah, I’m energised and engaged. This is good”.
  • Lunchtime on the second day: “this is doing my head in. I hate this. This is bad”.
  • The end of the last day: “I’m focused and calm. This is good.”

What’s interesting about this is not so much the range of emotions, but the judgement I was putting on them.

For instance, at lunchtime on the second day, I was like a fly in a jar, bouncing around trying to get rid of the frustration and anger I was feeling. I wanted to run away to somewhere that gave me back that ‘good’ feeling I had on the morning of the first day.

I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I checked in with a mentor, who helped me to stand back and see that what I was experiencing was pretty much normal. I began to realise that my angst was a signal that I was at my learning edge. I was being challenged to examine some of my beliefs about what I was about. And a part of me didn’t want to do that. My mentor encouraged me to sit with the feeling, be curious, and let go of everything needing to be OK.

And of course, that made all the difference. If I didn’t stick with it, I doubt I’d have grown from the experience, or got to the focused and calm mindset I had on the third day.

Back to the initial question. A trick, of course. Loaded with judgemental words. Better, good, bad. It’s not about what’s better. It’s how you use the experience.

Our western culture has a meme, and it goes like this: move towards ‘good’, move away from ‘bad’. I say “No”. Life will throw you ups and downs. That’s what makes it interesting. Flat line = death.

Those highs and lows are where the opportunities lie to show what you’re about. How you use those experiences, how you grow from them, is what makes you, you.

Savour the peaks, embrace the troughs. And avoid the flat line at all costs.


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Are You Trying Too Hard? (Part Two)


Version 2

I recently wrote about the idea that when you stop striving, you maximise performance and enjoyment.

If you missed that post, I was training for a mountain bike race (done now, loved it) and I’d been tracking my times. I noticed that when I relaxed more, my times got better.

Since then, I diligently continued my training and kept on collecting data on my times. As a result, some more interesting ideas about optimising performance came to light.

Here’s a visual analysis of my times on one of the trail segments over the past couple of months. The grey dots represent each time I went for a ride. The higher the dot, the faster the time.

Tumeke Analysis 2

There are three patterns jumping out here:

The Practice Effect:

Early on in my training, it was all about getting my fundamentals right: fitness, skills and confidence. Checkout the line sloping upwards. Over those weeks, each time I went out, I was consistently hitting lower and lower times. Fitness, skill and confidence were all on the rise, translating into better performance. On the segment shown in the graph, my personal best time is down to 2:31, with plenty of other recent times around there. Back in early February 2016 my personal best was 3:51. The foundation of that improvement is simply down to time on the bike.

Lesson: There’s nothing like practice to get you to where you want to be.

The Social Effect:

Later in my training, I regularly teamed up and rode with a couple of friends who were doing the race with me. We’re all about the same level of fitness and skill, and we’re all fairly competitive types. Whenever we rode together, all of our times tended be faster than when we rode alone. And we had a good time doing it. The red circles show those sessions. By riding with others, I’ve got even faster, and stayed there.

Lesson: Team up with other motivated people, and you’ll go even further than you thought you could.

The Coiled Spring Effect:

There were some days where I had a particularly big day at work (e.g. running an intense workshop), and there were other times where I didn’t ride for four or five days. In either case, I’d get to the trail with a bunch of pent-up energy. And then I’d bust out a great time. Just like a coiled spring. Boom! The green circles are those sessions. They really stand out from the ones around them, showing me, at the time, what I was capable of.

Lesson: Let your down times fuel your up times.

All useful lessons for many areas in life, right?

One last observation. My training had a purpose: to be fit and fast enough for the race. Now it’s done, I’m noticing my motivation for riding is flagging just a little. I still love getting out there, but I’m left wondering whether I need a new goal to keep me motivated as I head into the colder winter months? That’s one for another post…stay tuned.


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Photo: Digby Scott

Do You Need Confidence, Or Courage?


Lately I’ve noticed a little trap that people can fall into. One they set themselves up for. Like so many barriers to our own success, it comes down to a choice of words.

That choice is between ‘confidence’ and ‘courage’.

Example: A client says she needs to build up the confidence to put a contentious issue on the table with her executive team. I ask her does she need confidence, or courage?

What’s the difference, you might ask? Surely we’re talking semantics? Let me suggest otherwise. (more…)

Five Questions To Guide You

Here are five simple questions to keep you on track over the next twelve months:

  1. How do I want to spend my time?
  2. What do I want to learn?
  3. What do I want to achieve?
  4. How do I want to be?
  5. What’s my theme for the year?

This last one is powerful. In many ways it is a compression of your answers to the previous four questions. By giving yourself a theme for the year, you have an anchor, a focal point, to help you choose and make wiser decisions while staying true to yourself. For example, a couple of years ago, my theme was ‘follow my nose and do what excites me’. I didn’t do any work that didn’t excite me. What a difference that made!


Write your answers down. Don’t rush, come back to them frequently during the course of a couple of weeks.

Keep a journal of what you’re doing, thinking and feeling.

Every month, revisit the journal and questions. Update your answers if you need to.

Notice what happens over time.




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