This is the time of year for pruning, cutting back and leaving dead wood to perish in order to help the darling buds of next May prosper. We essay a psychological version of this in our personal lives, making resolutions, stopping bad habits and snuffing out behavioural weaknesses. Ah yes, we say, this last year may have had its rough moments but wait until you see the new me next year.
I did something similar last year, for example by breaking a life-long commitment to pub-going, having tired of boors and bores, tall tales, cod masculinity, shrieking wenches, the scent of cheap cooking fat, identikit blackboards serving 'fayre' listed in that awful (deemed 'olde', I suppose) lettering, and staff wearing sponsored polo shirts and sullen manners.
In our working lives, the turn of the year may also occasion change, whether that is a change of employer, role or responsibilities. Failing that, many of us will look at how we can better handle the challenges of the working day, taking a metaphorical pair of secateurs to processes, ingrained ways to perform tasks and so on.
For me, the big change is, I hope, going to come in the way I handle interactions. Email overload was bad enough but in recent years we have become lost in a sea of messages. This needs to change or else we all become glorified switchboard operators, content to route the exchange of information rather than spend time doing something useful with that information.
Email can stay. I've never been too worried about it and with the help of subject messages and a bit of thought and automation it's simple enough to let correspondents know that you will get back if interested and warn them that it may take a bit of time. Social networks are another matter entirely, however. Like many, I now receive as much stuff from Twitter, LinkedIn and other media as I do from email and voice messages. So, I'm rationing my visits and creating an agenda for when it is OK to scan, read and compose.
But the big change for me will be face-to-face meetings. I'll probably do half as many and I'll take more care to make arrangements to enable what Americans call 'quality time'. I've had too many meetings that lacked value so I'll have to be ruthless and spend more time saying 'no' and generally being proactive. Instead, I anticipate that I'll spend more time on conferencing and collaboration systems. I've said before that I believe videoconferencing will fundamentally change the way we work and decimate (quite literally reduce tenfold) business travel. I'm also optimistic about other collaborative systems and I'm still fond of that old journalistic command to "get on the blower".
So it'll be a new, improved me next year. Or at least that's the plan.