Executive Development January 1, 2019

A Fresh Perspective on Priorities as We Enter the New Year

By Danna Lewis Former Chief Operating Officer

There are a lot of articles that go up this time of year that speak to goals and priorities and clean slates. The idea of starting fresh—that you can conquer just about anything—is one of the most exciting things about a New Year. There are twelve months before you, and you’re in (seemingly) complete control over what happens in each. Opportunities are endless.

Naturally, this time of year sparks moments of reflection, anticipation, and motivation. What can you do next year that capitalizes on this year’s accomplishments or serves as a completely new target? Your goals may have to do with the smaller moments of the day, carving out precious time for yourself amidst the hustle of the Monday to Friday. They may be physical—you’re going to move, to train your body, to climb that mountain, whatever your personal mountain may be. Or your goals may be professional… reaching the c-suite, having the self-awareness to shape yourself into a stronger leader, or achieving a board seat.  

Whatever your goals may be, they will require discipline and the ability to prioritize.

Evaluate the “now”.

Your priorities are whatever you’re doing now. I’m not just talking about reading this article—I’m talking about your current week. What are you up to? What is sucking up your time?

For a powerful exercise in revealing your priorities, take 10 minutes and view your calendar for today and the past week. Write down everything you were doing—every meeting, every commitment. Think back, beyond what’s written in your calendar, and jot down everything you can remember about your week. Talking on the phone to an old friend? Going for a run? Baking holiday cookies? Picking your kids up from school? Working late into the night? Whatever it may be—write it down. Put it on paper, get it before your eyes, make it real.

That list. Whatever it may be. Regardless of what you said your priorities were, what you actually spent your time on is what you (consciously or unconsciously) made your priorities.


Remember who is at the center.

I suggest the list exercise without judgment. In fact, it’s something I frequently return to as I, too, seek to make my actions congruent with my ambitions.

It happens to all of us. Our days can go by in a blur. We move from one thing to the next. We become exhausted. It’s as though life is “happening to us.” Through it all, we still talk about our goals and priorities, but we lose sight of what’s really happening.

We’re the center of our lives, or we should be. These things aren’t happening around us or to us. It’s easy to forget that we’re in the driver’s seat. And that we can make mindful choices about our actions and everything else that comprises our days.


Your challenge: find an accountability partner.

Give your priorities the attention they deserve. What will it take for you to make your goals and ambitions a priority in 2019?

As an Athena member, you’ve decided that becoming more board savvy, board confident, and board connected is a priority for you. The good news is that Athena is a community of over 250 women who have also chosen to make becoming more board savvy, board confident, and board connected a priority in their lives. Our Athena network is vast! I encourage every member to reach out to one another and help each other to take charge of this priority in 2019.

As a member, you can connect with every other member through the Athena member’s technology platform. Search through the membership (via our search feature) in a way that makes sense and is meaningful for you to see who you would like to connect with. Perhaps you’re drawn to someone in the same industry or someone with the same title or perhaps someone geographically close. Then reach out, connect, and see if it’s a fit for you to be accountability buddies with the other person. And, no hard feelings if it isn’t; there is an abundance of women to connect with.

Own your priorities. Make them a reality by engaging with your accountability buddy for strategy and support. Lift each other up. You can do this by coming to an agreement about how, when and what you will connect on and then committing to holding each other accountable. The best buddy systems I’ve seen have a clear, recurring meeting time and guideposts like checking in on your actions and how they do (or don’t) sync up to your goals. And then, once you’ve accomplished something and you’re well on your way, be sure to celebrate your achievements. Acknowledge your choices. Acknowledge your actions. And acknowledge that you’re doing your part to show up.

Your time is yours. Next year is yours. So, guard that calendar, connect with the Athena community, and make it happen—whatever you want “it” to be. And please let us know your stories, we would love to support and celebrate your successes with you.