I know, I know, who’s thinking about leadership when you’re trying to figure out which last minute gifts to get (handmade from the local shop or stuff from Amazon Prime?) and what you can make in bulk for the five holiday parties this week?  And what about wrapping up your year-end reports? It hardly seems like the time to focus on your personal ambitions.

But the holidays are a great time to practice a skill that will serve you for the whole year, and I’m not talking about setting a goal to eat only five sugar cookies in one sitting. 

This tip is about setting bite-sized goals of a different sort.  This time of year is perfect to practice the habit of setting mini-goals, the kind you can set and achieve in a day, even in an hour.

Let’s rename mini-goal and call it intention.  It sounds more holiday-like.

You can practice setting an intention this holiday season and carry it over to your intentions on the job.  Whatever your leadership goals, you’ve got to be good at hitting your mark at work.

So let’s start with your intention for the holiday party?  Connect with the neighbors you only see when shoveling snow and walking the dog?  Visit and work a little (hiding in the bathroom while checking emails) at the party? With intentions, the whole idea is to be clear with yourself before you get there.

Decide ahead of time the experience you wish to have during the holiday season, says Peter Bregman, author of Four Seconds:  All the Time You Need to Replace Counter-Productive Habits with Ones That Really Work.

“Do you want undistracted time with the family?” Bregman asks.  “Do you want to spend just 30 minutes a day checking email and disconnect the rest of the time?” Decide the outcome you want, set an intention, and create the physical environment to make that happen.

  1. Decide the outcome you want (meaningful time with the family)
  2. Set an intention (looking at family pictures or a walk together)
  3. Create the physical environment that makes it more likely that you will follow through on your intention (brew some nice coffee, turn your phone off vibrate and ring)

I’m a big list maker so my approach to setting intention will be to write them down.

The problem is I have a few notebooks going at all times, scattered on table tops, stuffed in a backpack, tucked in a purse.  At one point I kept the personal, journal type notebook separate from my work notebook but in recent months the inspirations, revelations and procrastinations have been co-mingling across multiple books.

It’s great, it’s fluid, and it works for me.  I add sketches and color to illustrate an idea or just be arty.

But this season?  I want an easier way to write down—and find—those intentions.

So this month, I’m going to write my intentions on a small scraps of paper and put them a in a jar with a ribbon.  I’ll set it on the table as a festive reminder to set intentions in small, achievable pieces.  The idea is to use the holidays to cultivate a career practice that I can use all year long.

Want to join me?

Once we get in the habit of setting our intention for the day or the hour, we can tape them together to see what we’ve done.  We’ll be so good at setting mini-goals or stating intentions that we’ll be on our way to achieve something even bigger in our careers.  In a couple of weeks we’ll  be pros.

By then, the looming “New Year’s Resolution” question will be, to get back to our sugar theme, a piece of cake!

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