Take Time to Celebrate and Dream

by Justin Ahrens

No matter what position you hold at the company you’re with, taking time to celebrate the past and dream about the future should be a yearly ritual for your career. Due to life, deadlines, and the pace of our days, many of us often fall into the routine of looking forward to the next holiday or weekend, and we forget to call a time-out—some space to look back at the last year, quarter, or even the last completed project.

The Good, the Bad, and the Forgotten
A year—it seems to goes by so fast! It’s refreshing and revealing to take time to review all the past work, activities, and client interactions you’ve had for the last twelve months. Start by looking at your work, and then make screen grabs of all the projects you did—all of them, of any significance. Put them in a Keynote or a PDF so you can easily scroll through them, and save that doc for future reviews. You will be surprised at how you and your team have developed, changed, and evolved over time. Doing this will also reveal whether you are having any issues with your business or career that prevented you from not evolving enough.

Look at Your Clients
After reviewing your work collection, now take a look at your client list. Write some thoughts on each client (i.e., more potential, would love to never work with again, we work within some particular markets I didn’t notice before, need to make more time for, need to network with more, etc.). The point is to think through each client on your list in terms of how you have served them. Keep this list as well, because reviewing past years’ lists is very revealing regarding your client relations and the trends in your business.

Look at the “I” in Team
The next step is to think through your position at your company. If you are an owner, look at each individual in the company as well. Notice how you have evolved personally, how the team has developed, and any strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that have emerged.

Take a Day
After you have collected the info, take a day off. Go somewhere off-site—somewhere comfortable and inspirational that will provide you with an atmosphere to focus on reading, doodling, and dreaming. Spend the first half of the day thinking about the past. Revisit your projects, your clients, your performance and role, your team, and the workplace atmosphere. Take time to celebrate the year—all of it, the good and the bad. Think about what made the good stuff good and how you can reproduce that; think about what you learned from the bad and what you might change in the future.

Dreamscaping
This next step is the one that can change everything. Envision the work you want to do, what you’d like to do differently, what inspires you, and where you’d like to be a year, three years, five years, and ten years from now. Don’t limit this dreaming—and make sure you write it all down! Have fun, and think about what got you into the business in the first place and what parts of your career energize you.

The key to finishing the day is documenting all that you have dreamed and setting a doable agenda for sharing, doing, and reviewing what you have come up with. It’s hard to be patient, but having a good plan will get you there faster than just going into a full sprint. Set up tasks you want to do in the next quarter and reevaluate your progress at the end of it.


Take some time each year to actively reflect on the work you’ve done so you can plot out where you want take yourself or your team next.

Image courtesy of Rule29


Quick Tip
1. Schedule your day at least once a year. It also helps to have quarterly check-ins on the notes and objectives you set. This can be another great time to take half a day (or more) off and continue to chart the goals you are shooting for.

2. As a business owner, this time helps you visualize opportunities for your company and your team; make sure you use some of this info during your employee reviews.

3. When going over “the bad,” don’t be afraid to look outside for assistance. Ask fellow designers, consult with business leaders you respect, or create a team of advisors.

4. Check out your local university—consider becoming a student again or meeting with a professor who might turn out to be a great asset to you, and you to them. Educating yourself in some way should be a lifelong effort.


Dig Deeper!
Depending on where you want to evolve, learn, or get inspired, here are some ideas you might consider:

Watching a TED or PopTech talk can jump-start your dreamtime or open up areas you may want your firm or career to steer towards.

Connecting at some of the conferences, webinars, and tweet-ups around the country can also enlarge your horizons. HOW and AIGA are great options.


3 thoughts on “Take Time to Celebrate and Dream

  1. Bob

    Thanks for the thoughts/inspiration Justin. I love the encouragement to “create space” to reflect and dream a little… we all want it, but never do it. Time to get on calendar. Thanks.

  2. Justin Ahrens

    Marcia,
    Agreed. One of my favorite times of year, we do it the first week in January and I have all the team pick their best project and share it too. Then we talk about the coming year, it’s a must do activity in my book.

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