You know all those projects you wish you had time to do? Not work tasks, but personal projects that move you forward professionally, deepen your knowledge, provide new insight, and make you more productive and less stressed. It’s almost time to do them.

The end of the year is only weeks away. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the perfect time for strategic and personal reflection and development. You know how it is: if you don’t schedule it, other tasks will eat up the time. Before you know it, another year slips by.

It’s worth cramming in additional work these next few weeks to make space for Me Time. After all, tis the season to be frantic. If the end of the year doesn’t work because of your conference, trade show or meeting calendar, pick a slower week. If, like me, you’re traveling during the holidays, carve out time before you leave or after you return.

What about your boss? I’d like to think good managers understand the value of motivating and productive activities like these, but, I’m a realist. I wish I had a good answer for you. Talk up the impact. Suggest it as a departmental experiment. Do it on the sly. Do it on your own time. You know best how to pull it off. If you already have something like year-end Me Time, please share in the comments how you manage it.

Review, set goals and outline next steps. You may have already established goals during your association’s performance review process. Think beyond that. What do you want to accomplish next year to help you move forward?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you wish you could do over? How would you do it differently?
  • What’s working?
  • What isn’t?
  • What can you change?
  • What do you want to learn? What skills would help you do your current job better or give you more interesting career options?
  • What habits or activities can you add to your day (or week or month) to help you move forward? How can you work differently?
  • How would any of these factors positively influence your professional performance and direction — exercise, food and beverage choices, creativity boosts, stress relievers, working environment, and your professional network outside of work?
  • Can you mentor someone? Can you find a mentor or a few advisors?
  • How can you work more collaboratively with others?
  • What can you do to help your own personal brand?

Write down your personal and professional goals for 2013 and small steps to take toward them in the first quarter. Don’t try too many new things at once; ease into new habits and routines. Plan to revisit your goals in March.

After developing your goals and action plan, you might have time for more fun.

Set aside time for deep reading. Work on your knowledge gaps. Learn new ways to approach work or fire up your creativity. If you don’t have a pile of books waiting for you, check out Fast Company’s list of 2012’s best business books or Avectra’s Book of the Month list. I can vouch for two on Avectra’s list, Humanize and Open Community – inspiring and insightful books that will make your brain churn and heart race in a geeky way.

Empty your inbox. I’ve heard people actually do this — astonishing.

Clean out your file cabinets and desk drawers. I learned this one the hard way during my last week at CBIA when I stayed several hours a few nights clearing out years of “just in case” files.

Write an article. If you’ve ever thought about writing an article or guest blog post, do it this week.

Clean up your social profiles. Update your social bios. Review the people you follow on Twitter (I like Twitcleaner for that), LinkedIn connections, and Facebook pages. Make Twitter and Facebook lists to keep your update streams organized.

Take a few long walks. Bring your phone to record any good ideas.

Send New Year’s cards. Reach out to those who have made a positive impact on your professional life – an old boss or colleagues, members, mentors, colleagues or business partners.

For once, make time in your work schedule for you – it’s an investment in your future.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who will hold herself accountable to these words by taking time off before the holidays for Me Time.