4 Non-negotiables of a Quarterly Zoom Out


I live for milestones. 

I’ve always loved New Years Day. I’ve been guilty of making “June Resolutions” and finally last year (the year building up to the big 3-0) I started making monthly and quarterly goals. 

I’m a classic ENFP who’s constantly probing within. “Am I doing all I can? Am I being intentional enough? Am I spending time on things that matter? Will I have a lasting impact? Am I living up to my potential?”

It can get a little intense.

One of the most effective ways I’ve come to deal with this non-stop interrogative energy within is to stop everything once every quarter. 

On this day I shut down social media. Grab the books that I’m close to finishing. Open Pages in my MacBook. Pull up my latest list of goals. And just think.

Think. Write. Read. Think some more. Walk around. 

And think.

On this day that comes but four times a year I go back to what my big crazy goals were for the entire year. These are the things that I really want to contribute and achieve but let’s be honest, these things are hard. It’s much easier to get busy with the things that other people are expecting of me: the boss’ deadline, getting dinner on the table, volunteer commitments. 

But these big crazy goals, these bigger dreams involve research, time, figuring out complex ideas that take me a while to mull over. They also involve the possibility of facing rejection. (Yikes.) 

But after I’ve come away from the Quarterly Zoom Out (QZO is a fun acronym) I have greater clarity and a greater vision for the future. I’ve probably even ticked off a few nagging items from my goal list. 

I’m not the only one who vibes with QZO. Greg McKeown author of the New York Times bestseller Essentialism said:

“Sometimes we spend more time planning our vacation than planning our careers. One cure to this is to schedule a quarterly offsite. We can take a few hours every few months to think about the bigger picture questions: ‘If I can only achieve three things over the next three months what should they be?’ and ‘Where do I want to be five years from now?’ When we don’t take time to ask these more strategic questions we become a function of other people’s agendas. We are left to react to the latest email and can become rudderless; blown about by every wind of corporate change.”

To further map out what a QZO includes, here are my top four non-negotiables: 

1. Solitude. I can’t be in a public place where I’m bound to run into people I like and want to catch up with. I need to be somewhere where I can’t be found. 

2. A blank page. Now whether it is literal or digital doesn’t so much matter but I have to have a way to get my thoughts out and work through them. 

3. Time. It takes me a little while to settle into the zone and reflect on what’s been happening, decide what I want to make happen and write what needs to be written. A QZO only works for me if it is more than a four-hour stretch.

4. A break from routine. For me this means that I never have a QZO in my home office. It helps trigger my brain to get creative and approach the day differently than other days. I like to try and never do two QZOs in the same place. Although, I do have a favorite QZO location. 

QZOs are a refreshing opportunity to put daily work on pause and check in with yourself. If you sometimes feel like the urgent gets all of your energy and the important gets very little, consider implementing a QZO. Here's your challenge: implement the “rule of three.” Every 3 months take 3 hours to identify 3 things you want to accomplish over the next 3 months. 

Do you do something like this? Once a month? Once a quarter? I want to hear about what you do to reflect and recenter.