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. 

10 Ways to Kick This Year in the Pants

Are you one of those mega motivated people who geek out on resolutions? Or maybe you're more of the skeptical, I-don't-want-to-disappoint-myself types who opts out—or maybe you like goals but aren’t into New Year’s resolutions because the date feels arbitrary. Either way, today I want to challenge you with ten ways you can start the year off with a BANG! If you could really do something about it, would you want this year to look different than last year? I have good news for you. YOU CAN!

You have 50 weeks left of this year. What will you do with them?

10 Ways to Kick Your Year in the Pants

1. Establish a Brain Trust. The truth is--you probably already have one. A Brain Trust is that go to personal board of directors who you seek out for advice when you're making big decisions, whose opinions you  weigh heavier than all the rest. Feel like your Brain Trust is a little too small? Seek out building relationships with people who you highly respect and value. You can also read all about the original Brain Trust in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

2. Make a list of things you want to learn this year. You've always wanted to _________. What just popped in your mind? Why not go for it this year? What's stopping you? Ok, at least search for Youtube videos about it, ok?

3. Use this epic process by Christine Hassler to get clear on what you want to co-create this year. There are the goals that you may have already penned (after all we're a solid two weeks into 2015) but then there are deeper hopes and values that you have for this year that you may not have fully articulated yet. I encourage you to walk through Christine's process of what you want to leave in 2014 and what you want to manifest in 2015. This exercise can bring a ton of clarity.

4. Make a list of books you want to read this year. If you're like me your stack of books to read seems like a never-ending tower. This year, make a list--that you can review regularly--of the books that you will read. Plug it in to your calendar like any other activity you highly value. I was so sad when I realized how few books I read last year. I so value reading and have a bookshelf full of books to conquer this year. I know myself. The way to make that happen is to get specific on my to do list. It will happen if I plug this goal into my calendar.

5. Follow 5 inspiring people on Twitter that you aren't already following. Use these incredible tools called social networks to grow your experience. Not sure who to follow? How bout Billy Porter, Greg McKeown, Tanner Christensen, Maria Popova, or C.S. Lewis?

6. Make a vision board on Pinterest. Hat tip to Camryn for making this great suggestion! Take your 2015 goals and find visuals for them on Pinterest. I just did this (after spending Saturday going through #3 on this) and the visual representation of my plans and hopes for the year is pretty exhilarating.

7. Reach out to someone you've admired from afar (whether acquaintance, stranger or other) and ask them to grab coffee or lunch. Worst case scenario, they say no. Best case scenario, you've begun to establish a personal relationship with someone that you would like to know better.

8.Track your social media ROI. Every day take into account how your time on social media was spent, what the payoff was and what might have made you feel not so good. **Adjust accordingly.**

9. Get a pedometer of some kind and track your exercise. It's  so easy to *literally* hibernate in the winter. How bout you use this time where things are quiet and you're not pulled in a million directions to up your health and fitness game?

10. Commit to writing until you fill three pages each morning for 21 days. See how you feel about it afterward. I started doing this last fall when I journeyed through The Artist's Way. Guess what happened? I began to come up with idea after idea. One developed into a series of blogging workshops, and the other resulted in a side hustle that recouped its initial investment in three months. I'm not sure how to better convince you to write every morning.

What are you doing differently in 2015? What is your one big message for the world this year? What do you hope people remember about you?

Hilary is passionate about inspiring people to live their best lives. And if that happens through a performance on stage or through something she wrote, well then, she couldn't be happier.