It’s that time of the year again! As we scramble to wrap up our Q4 projects and plan for the new year, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

Some of us obsess over getting everything done and forget to find time to reflect.

Some of us punt everything to January and spend the entire holidays riddled with anxiety about going back to work.

And some of us feel disappointed in our progress this year and seek to make up for it in 2024.

And some of us are just left wondering: where did 2023 even go!?

This month’s Leadership Circle

At our latest Leadership Circle event for Bunch Premium members, we were lucky enough to be joined by coach Renita Kalhorn, who helped us explore and address all of these year-end anxieties.

Renita is an executive coach who happens to be the #1 top content contributor on Bunch. She is also a Juilliard-trained concert pianist and martial arts black belt with an MBA from INSEAD. She currently focuses on coaching DeepTech founders, and was previously a mental trainer for special forces including the Navy SEALs.

Key Insights

Let’s dive into the top takeaways from this refreshing session, as voted by the folks who attended live:

Your end of the year “to-do” list isn’t the real source of your stress

Leaders today are accustomed to a constant baseline level of stress. It becomes almost addictive – we feel like we always need to stress about something.

It’s easy to blame our task list for the stress we feel while trying to wrap up key projects. But if you didn’t have that deadline/project/task, you’d probably find something else to be stressed about. In that sense, your stress has more to do with your own psychology than your actual work.

This can actually be very empowering because it means we have more control than we think. Stress isn’t just something that happens to us – it’s something we can influence if we choose.

You accomplished more than you realized, so make space to reflect on your wins

Renita pointed out that the end of the year especially is a time when we tend to beat ourselves up about what could have or should have been this year. She emphasized self compassion and said that “kindness is the antidote”. For those feeling stressed about not accomplishing enough this quarter or this year, Renita explained the concept of “productivity dysmorphia”. We often fail to recognize all the things we did accomplish, and focus only on what didn’t.

To overcome this and find a more balanced perspective, take a bit of time to recap your wins. A simple way to do this is to write down 3 wins from each month in 2023.

Use time as a tool

When asked about how to stem work-related anxiety over the holiday period, Renita suggested that you can take control of your emotions by putting them on a schedule.

While it’s easier said than done, it’s possible to acknowledge and feel these emotions without letting them take over entirely. Her secret is to schedule time to worry. When you start to feel that feeling in the pit of your stomach, ask yourself: does it benefit me to worry about this now? When do I need to worry about it?

Then you can rest easy because that time is scheduled.

If you’re someone who tends to be self-critical about your accomplishments, you can also schedule time to be kinder or gentler with yourself. Say something like: “for the next hour/day/week, I’m not going to beat myself up about having not reached our end of the year goal“. That doesn’t mean it’s ok or that it doesn’t matter, or that you don’t care. It just means you’re being kind to yourself in a time when you need it.

Reduce pressure on the “new year” by reflecting and setting goals continuously instead of once-a-year, and focus on incremental progress

Even better than writing down your wins from each month at the end of the year? Writing them down every week or every month throughout the year! 

The same applies to goal setting. Renita shared that she has actually stopped setting “annual” goals entirely. She believes that instead of grand new year’s resolutions, it helps to start with something incremental. 

Instead of saying “I’ll read a book in French”, it’s better to say: “I’ll open the book”.

Consider setting habits instead of goals for the new year

Renita talked about how new year’s resolutions typically fail because they tend to be too drastic. They rely on willpower, which is hard to sustain. She referenced the book Atomic Habits and how small changes in your behavior make a big difference over time.

Instead of setting a lofty goal, she suggested identifying one meaningful behavior that you can change to accomplish more. You can set little rules for yourself, which she calls personal rules of engagement. By changing little behaviors in your day to day, you can create and sustain more meaningful change over time.

Bonus points

We tend to consider a lot of big decisions around the end of the year. The group discussed different exercises to combat anxiety around those decisions.

One person mentioned that they keep a bullet-journal with a magic quadrant of pros-and-cons for a key decision. In the journal, the differentiate between “feelings and facts”. Another person shared the “Jeff Bezos” principle they learned from the Bunch app. Ask yourself: will a decision be reversible, or will the outcome be irreversible? If it is reversible, it’s usually not worth worrying too much about it.

Join the next leadership circle

Every month we explore a different topic with a special guest expert. So far, we’ve welcomed incredible speakers like:

  • Osnat Benari: Product leader and author of the hit book “Starting from Scratch”.
  • Dr. Michael Steiner: VP of Innovation at America’s 3rd fastest growing university, and part-time TikTok star.
  • Dan Silvestre: the productivity coach who’s blog has been ready by a million people.
  • Amanda Goetz: the 2x founder, content creator, and single mom of 3 who somehow manages to “have it all”.
  • Renita Kalhorn: the executive coach, Juilliard-trained concert pianist and martial arts black belt with an MBA from INSEAD.

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