When I looked at Trending Topics on Twitter, I saw that the second most popular trend at that time was #IThinkItIsTimeTo. Scrolling down the page, I saw a number of interesting ideas—some serious, some frivolous. My mind was already moving in the same direction, but I want to take it a step further than a simple tweet.
I think it is time to look at what to do better next year, beginning with the excesses and expectations of Christmas. Then it is time to move to what will make the entire New Year more meaningful and more productive. It is time to develop a plan for specific activities to make a difference for ourselves, our families, our groups and organizations. Then, it is time to place those activities on a calendar for concrete action next year.
Just as organizations recap the highs and lows of marketing campaigns or critical events, leaders of families, groups or organizations want to consider what went well and what failed so they can create a better future.
Some important questions I want to consider are:
- What was meaningful for me or my group this year?
- What was successful? What brought stress or tension?
- What can we eliminate next year?
- What should we be sure to include?
- What will be our primary focus?
Based on the previous answers, what specific actions will we initiate next year, and when will we complete them? (What activities will go on the calendar?)
Personally, I want start by looking at holiday observance and celebration. We hear music that tells us this is the “most wonderful time of the year.” Why is it wonderful? Why is it not? What are we going to do to make it more wonderful or meaningful next year? What activities will we put on our calendars now to make it so? What activities will we avoid next year? What policies or practices will we put in place next year to help others enjoy and feel good about this “most wonderful time?”
After making notes about what to do and not to do for the holidays, what about the rest of the year? Why not make each season the most wonderful time? If time with family, friends and coworkers is important, why not schedule regular activities that will bring everyone together? What events will go on the calendar to ensure the important things come first?
If giving is the thing that makes one feel good, consider a schedule that includes finding worthwhile projects and helping other people throughout the year? These projects do not have to cost money. I have included below a few I believe can make a difference not only for the recipients but also for the people who contribute time and money to them.
- Collect warm coats and blankets to donate to an organization like the Salvation Army.
- Shovel snow or collect money for people who cannot pay for heating oil or electricity.
- Sponsor or host a Valentine’s Day dance at a low-income senior citizen center.
- Sponsor a random acts of kindness week or month. Ask people to write about random acts they have observed.
- Ask retired or retiring employees to go through their closets to donate work clothes to organizations that help people find jobs.
- Organize to help senior citizens do home repairs they cannot complete.
- Collect children's clothes, book bags and school supplies for organizations that support children in schools.
- Donate used bicycles to low income people so they can travel to work.
- Donate bags of food, blankets or money to an animal shelter. Help with adoption or spay and neuter drives.
- Collect personal items for injured or hospitalized veterans.
- Participate in a cleanup day on a beach, along a highway or in a park. Find out about environmental issues in the community that need your support.
- Organize a group to work in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
#IThinkItIsTimeTo determine how we will make a difference next year, not only for ourselves but also for the people in our families and our communities.
Real leaders act as role models. They bring people together to bring about productive change. If their years are more meaningful and if they believe they are making a difference, those around them benefit. We can begin today.
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This article was originally posted in 2011 and edited in 2014. It remains immensely relevant today.