Taking Stock

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New Year’s has a magical hold on us. It’s the only time we talk about resolutions. It’s the only time that most of us sit down and think about how things are going and how we’d like them to be different.

Social scientists refer to New Year’s and some other dates as “temporal landmarks.” They’re times that help us mark off the passage of time and so they take on special significance.

That makes New Year’s an excellent time to take stock. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. About a week ago, I read an article that purported to tell me how to take stock and plan for the coming year. The article’s instructions themselves ran to almost 10 pages. Neither of us need anything that complex and effortful.

Nothing Fancy

You don’t need to make this a big deal. In fact, you’re more likely to do it and act on it if you make it simple and easy. Here’s what I suggest.

Go for doable instead of comprehensible or rigorous. The most incredible complex system in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t use it.

Write down your judgement of where you are on various dimensions of your life. Write down what you’d like to be different.

My Categories

Just about every self-help author has his or her set of categories you should analyze. Well, why let them have all the fun? Why not make up your own?  Here’s my list of five categories:

  • Financial
  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Work
  • Relationships

Those aren’t permanent categories. They’ve changed as my life and situations have changed. So, don’t be stuck on anybody else’s list and don’t be stuck on the idea that you must get it right. There’s no right set of categories. The only categories that matter are the ones that work for you right now.

Making It Work

Simple and easy beat complicated and hard. You want results that you can turn into actions for improvement. Keep it simple.

Something to Think About

Consider a more frequent review. Several years ago, I discovered that annual and semi-annual reviews were not working for me. At the time, I was fortunate to be working with Stephen Lynch on his book, Business Execution for Results. Stephen introduced me to the concept of “rolling reality checks.”

Since then, I’ve done a simple analysis every 90 days. That seems to be about right for me, at least right now. Things could change.

You don’t need to wait for some external temporal landmark to kick off your analysis process. Take stock as often as you need to make your life what you want it to be.


It’s good to take stock of your life from time to time.

Go for simple and easy instead of comprehensive and rigorous.

My categories are financial, physical, spiritual, work, and relationships.

Use my categories or make up your own. There’s no “right” list of categories.

Your categories may change over time.

Consider less-complicated reviews more frequently.

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