The month of January is synonymous with new beginnings, resolutions and goal setting. While I believe that you should set goals whenever it is right for you, I appreciate the turning of the calendar and every year I am reminded that well-intentioned resolutions are nothing without a good inventory.
Flashback to a younger me at any point in January in the early 2000s:
My nails are unpolished and chipped. My hands are marked by ink, paper cuts and a chalky dryness that defies the promises of every major brand of handcream. I live on ladders, quote the codes of SKUs like Deep Blue, and have learned how to stack and sort every known shape of stockroom packaging as though embroiled in a real life game of Tetris. Scheduled hours are a myth. Being exhausted is a constant. Unlike my usual self, I hold a grudge against every inquisitive customer and sales associate who interrupt me from my task. It is the most disruptive time of year in Retail—it is Inventory.
Sometimes, I believe that everything I need to know about life has an answer in having worked in retail at the start of my career. Despite the fact that I believed I was going to graduate from college and go on (as planned) to rewarding work in the non-profit world, I was incredibly fortunate to be serendipitously rerouted into a management position with a luxury stationery company who I worked with for eight years.
Following the retail calendar is hard habit to break. This is why, almost a decade later, I still begin thinking about Christmas in August, go into what I call “elf mode” in the late fall, and why January evokes in me the overwhelming desire to do inventory.
Inventory, or “taking stock,” is about awareness, the foundation for both goal setting and achieving results. It is about taking a moment to determine what you have, where you are, what you’ve achieved—and then understanding how that works to get you to where you want to go next. I find that not only does it help me to work more successfully towards a goal (purging all sweets and unhealthy snacks from the kitchen) but also lets me take a step back and truly see what has accumulated (How many volunteer commitments do I belong to? How many social media accounts platforms do I check? How much time is that really taking up?) Taking inventory helps you ask questions which can support goals or help you to clearly define the areas where goal setting or resolutions are most needed.
Like all good things worth doing, inventory is a process. It is a roll-up-your-sleeves-kind of job, inviting you to dig in, suspend judgement and be curious. It allows you to clear out the old, account for what you have, and usher in room for the new. It can be a traditional inventory (how many of X do I have?) or a look at where you are through what has been accomplished or accumulated (reviewing your marketing efforts throughout the year).
Taking inventory allows you to see the big picture
The logical/analytic side of my brain loves that inventory, on a tangible level is about answering a very clear set of questions:
- What do I have right now?
- (Only if you are evaluating) What did I start with?
- What do I want to do next and what does that require?
4. Do I have what I need to reach my goal?
(A bonus: your subconscious mind loves all the activities of inventory which allow it to wonder and ponder and problem solve while you are working away.)
The trick that I have learned in January is to just dive in. To do inventory. Reserve judgment, be aware of but not engaged with judgmental or negative thoughts, and—if needed—pretend like you’ve been hired to do it.
Like creativity, taking inventory is a process which requires curiosity, dedication and destruction. Through this grounded act, you often discover (or rediscover) purpose and clarity.
Are there areas in your life, work or environment that you want or need to take inventory?
Wondering where to begin? Think about where you instinctively feel compelled to start. Frustration can be a great indicator of what to jump into first.
Inventory may end with final counts and reconciliation, but for me, the end point is when open shelves are stocked with new shipment—which in Retail translates to sales—which is the means of reaching the goals of the year ahead.
Share Your Thoughts
Inventory is about creating awareness and space for success.
What are your January/New Year or fresh start rituals? What do you do to set yourself up to achieve a goal?