When I was at school, obtaining a new exercise book was quite a big deal. Once it was full, my current exercise book had to be taken to the stationery cupboard on the ground floor during mid-morning break. The prefect on duty there would inspect it, punch two holes in it so it couldn’t be re-presented at a later date, and the new blank exercise book would be ceremoniously handed over.
Colour-coded by subject (red for physics, yellow for Latin etc), this new exercise book would be pristine – no ink spots or creased corners – and contain 96 gloriously blank feint-ruled pages just waiting to be filled with newly acquired knowledge.
Extra effort was called for on the first page of the new exercise book: particularly neat hand-writing, no smudged underlining, avoidance of any mistakes which would need to be crossed out and a (vain) hope that the teacher would respect the sanctity of page one and not sully it with any red-inked corrections.
The start of a new year feels a bit like a new exercise book. Instead of 96 pages, we have 12 months stretching ahead of us, waiting for us to fill them with new experiences, new skills, new adventures, new friendships and new knowledge.
At school, we couldn’t choose how to fill our exercise books: the subject, the essays to be written or equations to be solved (shudder) were imposed on us by our teachers. Maybe that’s why I liked creative writing so much: only the title was decided in advance, the rest was up to me.
So it is with the year ahead: some things are non-negotiable and space must be found for them. Using the big rocks first technique, you can start to plan out the next month, or quarter, or even the whole year.
Sometimes circumstances are beyond your control and it feels like someone’s swooped down on your year with a red pen, made corrections and you need to neatly cross out your error. The difference between my exercise book and your plans is that no-one is limiting your access to a fresh start. Take a deep breath, turn the page and begin again.
Today’s pebble for your thoughts: as you consider what 2016 holds for you in terms of career and life outside work, what story do you want to write?