New year, new you? Business coach Geraldine Ree shares goal-setting tips for travel advisors
The start of a new year can be a good time to plan ahead and set goals.
That’s why people make New Year’s resolutions. Many start January with a plan to break bad habits, and embrace news ones – often in the realms of fitness, mental health, relationships and finances – and think about what they want in life.
New year, new you, as the saying goes. While not everyone succeeds in this mission of self-improvement, January, nonetheless, is a benchmark month. A time to reflect on ways of living life to the fullest.
It’s a rosy thought – that is, if you have time to stop and smell the roses. Not all professions experience year-end slowdowns – and travel advisors are no exception to this.
While the world uses its dead calendar space – that quiet last week of December to early January period – to pause and map out goals for the year, travel professionals may find themselves buried in work, serving clients who are either starting or ending their winter holidays, or managing new files (usually, requests for last-minute getaways).
Not all travel advisors have an abundance of time, which can make setting New Year’s resolutions all the more difficult, says author, speaker and business coach Geraldine Ree, who is a performance strategist for travel advisors, agencies and field suppliers.
“It’s almost a recipe for setting themselves up for a full-scale challenge,” says Ree, speaking to PAX. “[January] is the busiest booking month of the year. In the cruise industry, it’s Wave [season], and that spills over to all travel.”
“Making any kind of resolutions during Wave season, or a peak booking month, has its challenges.”
While the start of new year is certainly a catalyst for embracing change, the path to self-improvement doesn’t necessarily have to start on January 1, Ree says.
“I’m a small-changes, subtle-shifts, big-results kind of person,” she says. “It’s not a month. It’s a day, it’s a month, it’s a quarter, it’s a year.”
Ree views life through time frames, versus the exact time, which can ease the pressure one may feel when tackling New Year’s resolutions.
“You can make changes on any day, at any time,” Ree says.
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Think in time frames
Time frames offer opportunities to get things done, Ree writes in her January newsletter, where she shares an overview of goal setting tips for the year.
By allowing yourself to achieve goals in time frames – which Ree defines as moments, days, months, quarters and years – one can subtly improve their approach to goal-setting, she says.
“Owning” time – how one maximizes their time, with realistic actions – is key to this process, she says.
“Time ownership impacts the way you experience time. You can choose anticipation over frustration and regret,” Ree writes.
It’s a strategy that can help inform important decisions on what to do, and what to do next, she says.
Get to the truth of it
Successful goal-setting starts with a commitment to making a change, and for travel advisors, one way to begin is to look at life (and business) with pure honesty.
“It’s about taking a good look at your business, and saying. ‘Okay, what do I really want?” Ree says. “Usually the answer is: I want more and better clients who believe in travel the way I believe travel should be served, and that I add value to that.”
“Once you get to the root cause of what you want, it’s easier to then say, “Okay, what are the things I need to do, or not do, to go after that?’ It narrows the focus.”
Permission to “scatterfocus”
Making a list of goals and objectives is a natural next step.
However, how one approaches their list can be just as important as the list itself, Ree says.
In her newsletter, Ree recommends shifting from a “to-do” list to a “do list” by “ruthlessly eliminating tasks,” and setting a limited number of priorities each day while factoring in time for recovery.
“Each day is a game of planning versus performance,” she writes. “Your job is to figure out all the possibilities, choose the best, and complete them.”
Still unsure about what it is you’re trying to achieve? Maybe you’re overthinking it.
Where people sometimes fail in their goals is when they add complexity to their lives, such as spending too much time on trying to achieve perfection (like writing an over-polished email), or not asking for help, Ree says.
Or maybe it’s procrastination, and filling your day with distractions, like watching cat videos on social media, that’s getting in your way.
When it feels like the brain can’t handle another task, Ree suggests people “scatterfocus,” which is the act of intentionally letting your mind wander free without any point of focus.
It’s a technique author Chris Bailey explains in his book “Hyperfocus, How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction,” which argues that scatterfocusing can improve our ability to focus on things.
“It’s a daily habit of getting everything out of your head,” Ree explains, “and giving yourself permission [to do so].”
This may involve allowing yourself to freely research an idea – simply because you’re curious. Or giving yourself permission to daydream while doing something you love.
Some of the best ideas are born outside of the office – while going for a walk or run, for example.
“If you don’t allow your thoughts to escape, they bubble at the surface and keep at you, like a nagging feeling,” Ree says.
Once everything is out of your head, look at what’s in front of you and give yourself a budget, she says. In other words, establish the top five things that are most important to you.
This can ultimately help people realize what they really want to achieve.
Break up with bad habits
So how do bad habits play into this journey? Setting goals for the year may involve replacing unhealthy or unwanted routines with new, more productive ones.
Ree suggests travel advisors view the elimination of bad habits through the lens of a month. Not only does it fit nicely into the calendar, it’s also a realistic amount of time to adapt new behaviours, she says.
What are bad habits, anyways? The most common one Ree sees among travel advisors is self-doubt.
“The idea that: ‘I’m not good enough. I don’t know enough. I haven’t done enough,’” she says. “It’s being hard on ourselves. It’s fear.”
This can hold a lot of people back from pursuing their goals, Ree says.
“And they fill it with all this busyness,” she says. “Which isn’t productive.”
Ree uses a “30-Day Habit Sprint” when coaching her clients. With this, people choose 12 habits (one per month) at the beginning of each month (alternating between health, work and relationship habits), and identify good habits for replacing the bad ones.
Having an accountability buddy can also help people break up with bad habits for good, she says.
(See Ree’s book recommendation, “Atomic Habits – Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results” by James Clear, for more on this topic).
Turn intentions into themes
When it’s time to move closer to achieving that year-end goal, Ree suggests tackling the bigger things – like major projects – on a quarterly basis.
Turn intentions into themes, she says, and apply those themes to each quarter.
For example: maybe Q1 is about product or customer development. Another quarter could focus on creating a work environment that’s conducive to selling.
As for inspiring employees to achieve their own year-end goals, Ree’s advice to managers and owners is to recognize that everybody is driven by different things.
Motivating a team is not a one-size-fits-all approach, she says.
“I think to be an incredible leader, you have to get to what people really want,” she says. “How can you help them and understand what they’re afraid of? It’s about getting that one-on-one communication so you’re [an employee’s] biggest fan, helping them with their fears and needs.”
It pays to set a goal
Year-end goals may not always be clear from the outset. So why even bother?
It pays to set a goal – any goal – because it then creates “anticipation,” Ree says,
“Once the big goal seed is planted, if it is inspiring enough, we cannot help but water it,” she writes.
She also finds that those who set deadlines for their goals, far into the future, are less afraid to step outside of their comfortable zones and try new things.
Small shifts, done over a longer period of time, are less intimidating. It makes remembering goals, and sticking to them, a lot easier.
The bottom line
The bottom line, however, is to be accountable.
It’s one thing to dream of success, it’s another to actually do the work, and connect the dots, to actually complete the journey.
“New Year’s is just a day on the calendar. What’s most important is that every day, month, quarter, and year all line up,” Ree says, reiterating the importance of using time frames to map out a strategy.
Her advice to travel advisors is to “live every day as if you are moving towards that flag.”
And work with people you like and care about. Because “their priorities become your priorities,” Ree says, “and you’ll just want to do better quality work.”
Keeping your eyes on the prize is also about saying no “to the tire kickers” and other distractions that are just getting in the way, Ree says.
It’s never too late to set a goal, and if there was a line of work for quality goal-setting, it’s the travel profession.
Adjusting to change is in a travel advisors’ DNA.
“Travel agents are seers of the future,” Ree says. “They’re the ones that have been through all of these changes over the years.”
“If there’s anybody who’s well qualified to translate change to customers, it’s a really good travel agent.”
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The start of a new year can be a good time to plan ahead and set goals. That’s why people make New Year’s resolutions. Many start January with a plan to break bad habits, and embrace news ones – often in the realms of fitness, mental health, relationships and finances – and think about what…