How I Use the End of the Year to Advance my Board Career

The end of a year provides us with two opportunities: to reflect on the year that has been, and to plan for the year to come. I find it such an exciting time of the year and find planning for a new year such an energising activity (after I’ve caught up on some sleep).

I use this time of year to reflect and review most areas of my life: health, exercise, finances, my business, my board career, my relationships, my hobbies, how I spend my time, my closet, my pantry, you get the point. Nothing is off limits. I love change and the pursuit to find better way to do things (or not do them at all if they don’t work for me).

When it comes to reflecting and reviewing my board career, and planning on this area for the new year, there are a few things that I do that I feel really sets me up for the year ahead. This process enables me to ask and answer some critical questions about my board career so that I have a clear path through the year ahead and don’t have to spend time throughout the year thinking about what I want or need to do. I’m front-loading the thinking and decision-making, so I free up my capacity to focus on other areas of my life that I know are going to require more of my capacity.


This brings us to the first point of reflection and review: 

How much time can I reasonably set aside to spend on my board career?

When reviewing and planning on the big elements of my life (business/professional career, relationships, wellbeing) I ensure factor in my board career. It takes up more time than may be first obvious because I factor in travel, meeting preparation (for both board and committee meetings), annual strategy planning meeting, correspondence time, thinking time, researching time, and continued professional development time. It quickly adds up. You become very conscious of the fact that when I’m working on X, I’m not able to work on A, B, C, etc. So considering your whole life is important when thinking about your board commitments.

It helps to review my calendar and calculate how much time I spent on my board role over the past year and ask myself ‘is that the right amount?’. Factor in any extenuating circumstances. For example, I’m at the beginning of a new board role, so I have likely spent more time over the past year on that role than what will be the norm going forward. Further to this, I know that I like to be conservative with my estimates; adding a time buffer so that I’m not overwhelmed or short on time allowances. I can always find something to do with ‘bonus time’ but find it rather difficult to come up with extra time should I need it.

At a minimum I know that I need time for board meetings (dates already set for next year by early November of the current year) and time for meeting preparation. Your schedule autonomy (and other commitments) largely impacts when you can schedule this time. I block out meeting preparation time in my schedule now, while it’s available. I have also blocked an hour each week to ‘sharpen the saw’ – time I spend working on improving myself as a board member on this board at this time (more on this in a moment).

For my one board, my base time commitment projection for 2024 is 121 hours. This is around 2.25 hours per week. However, board work can’t really be smoothed out perfectly. My lowest time commitment month is four hours, whereas my largest time commitment month is 23.5 hours.


What am I going to do, at a macro level, with my board career?

From my time reflection, I can answer more specific questions about my board career. For many people in the Get on Board Australia community, a significant goal may be to take on another board role. From the time review of your current commitments (boards and others), the question will be able to answer itself. It may prompt you to drop an existing commitment (which may or may not be an existing board role) to make time for another commitment (which may or may not be a board role).


Learning and Development | My Annual Curriculum

My thought now turns to my ongoing professional development: what am I going to invest into? There are a few things that loop into this question: What area(s) of me as a board member that I feel like needs developing? What is the organisation facing where it would benefit the board and organisation to build my understanding? What personal performance and behaviour aspects need development so that I can perform better as a board member and deliver greater value as a board member on this board at this time?

From this I develop my annual board career PD curriculum. Because I only have so much capacity, I set four topics to fit into four quarters. Based on each quarterly topic, much of my learning and development is done through books, articles, and podcasts. If I find the right seminar or webinar to attend, I will do so. But most of the time it is not necessary to do so. I could also tap into the board and organisation’s expertise if required and suitable. Having a set curriculum saves me time by not chasing every single topic that mildly interests me (which easily happens). I can make the decision now on my plan for the rest of the year and focus my energy on executing that plan.

My ‘sharpen the axe’ time block on my schedule is dedicated to my board-related PD activities. If you’re interested, my four topics for 2024 are:

  • NFP/Charity Governance and Strategy
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Behavioural Corporate Governance
  • Chairing Meetings

Despite having a subject-based curriculum, there is a significant learning activity that is sometimes overlooked by those of us who are always looking ‘out there’ for the ‘thing’ that will really help us be a great board member. And that is time on the job. The practice of doing the work of a board member and committee Chair is an invaluable learning opportunity. Regular reflection and technique modification (where required) or continuation is extremely valuable.



By this stage, I’ve done the following:

  • Considered how much time I need to block out for each meeting (including preparation and travel) and time-blocked my 2024 calendar.
  • Considered how much time I want to dedicate to my continued learning and development and time-blocked my 2024 calendar.
  • Planned my macro learning and development topics for 2024 so my PD time blocks have a dedicated focus, and I can use my time most effectively.

This whole process only takes one-two hours, and it helps me to feel excited and prepared for 2024.

Of course, it’s worth noting that all of this is subject to change. Life – including board life – is unpredictable. I am comfortable with having strong ideas and intentions but hold them loosely so that I can adapt to changing circumstances.

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