The end of the year presents all of us with a great time to reflect on our lives and how we spend our precious time. The December and January holidays afford us an opportunity to step away from the daily pressures of work, get some perspective and ultimately to take inventory of our own career satisfaction. This is the time of year where the email traffic slows and we all spend well-earned time away from the office.

While the happiness formula for each of us is different, so often we neglect to take the time to sit back and ask ourselves if we are in fact happy; if we like the work we are doing and if we enjoy the way we are spending our time, especially at work. I know many friends who don't take a career health inventory until they are so frustrated at work that it's come to a boiling point OR they wait until a new company approaches them about a job and they are forced to think about all of the reasons they should stay or they should go.

Two Decembers ago, I met a good friend of mine who is a career coach outside of London. Her name is Sian Davies, and we got talking about the question of how do you really know if you have career satisfaction and how do you know if you are spending your time on the right things. In that meeting, Sian offered me a great process to use that was so elegant in its simplicity. "First" she said, "put a list together of everything that is important to you personally and professionally." She said to just pick the big ones rather than throw the kitchen sink at it. So, I started to jot down things like my health, being a great dad, financial security, work/life balance, volunteering in the community and so forth until I had about ten core items. Then she asked me to rate myself on a scale of 0--5 on where I believed I was with respect to these core items versus where I wanted to be. For example, I rated myself a 1 on my health because I was overweight, had many aches and pains and my cholesterol was in a bad place.

Next, Sian asked me to think about what specific actions I was going to commit myself to do in order to improve. In all, I think the exercise took about 30 minutes and clearly the hard part was identifying the actions and following through. But what a simple exercise it was that helped me recognize areas I was not aware were out of balance.

This process also helped me remember what was important to me and objectively see where I was falling short. If I am honest with myself, I have found myself too many times losing track of what is important and getting caught up in day to day tasks and losing sight of the bigger picture. This exercise is a great way to remember what's important and to really focus on committing to improve.

As you think about conducting your career health inventory, here are some questions you can ask yourself to begin to generate your own list.

Personal

  • Are you spending the time you want time being a parent? Son(s)/daughter(s)? Brother(s)/sister(s)? Spouse/Partner?
  • Are you spending the time you want volunteering in the community and giving back and helping others?
  • Is your health and fitness where you want it to be and are you investing the right care to your body and mind?
  • Are you happy with your diet and the foods you are consuming?
  • Do you have time to be with friends and to laugh, get perspective and have fun?
  • Do you have someone to share your life challenges and concerns with to help you work through the inevitable confusion, challenges and frustrations that life presents?

Professional

  • Are you spending the right amount of time on your job?
  • How is your relationship with your boss? Do you feel supported and is your boss helping you grow and meet your professional goals?
  • Do you like the work you are doing?
  • Are you proud of your company?
  • Are you satisfied with the rewards and compensation your job offers you?
  • Are you growing and learning at the right pace?
  • Are you around people that inspire you and bring out the best in you?
  • Are you working in a culture that resonates with who you are and makes you feel alive?
  • Do you feel your work matters and is appreciated?

This is by no means an exhaustive list but hopefully it starts to provoke your thinking about something that's critical for all of us.

In reality, we should all conduct this exercise on a regular basis perhaps even a few times a year, but the truth is we all get caught up in life activities at work and at home, we too often sacrifice taking the time to ensure we are pointing our ship in the right direction. Taking thirty minutes a few times a year is a small investment that will pay great dividends to ensuring you are investing your time on the right things and leading yourself to a fulfilled career and life.