I love the end of the year articles about the top ten movies of the year, or top ten books, and also  the New Year predictions like “12 trends to watch in 2017”.  Every year during the holidays, I find myself reading these top ten lists and predictions but this year I began thinking about why they are enjoyable, and whether or not they are a good use of my time. As the leader of a book club, the top ten books of the year lists are a great source of ideas for my group so my time reviewing them is useful. But what about from a work and career perspective; should I be spending time reading about the top ten training trends from 2016?

My conclusion is YES! Reviewing other people’s top ten lists provide new insights and confirm my preferences and experience. Like a retrospective or lessons learned workshop, reflecting back at the past year gives insights for future decisions. Both personally and professionally there are at least three values you can derive from reviewing a top ten list.

First, you can reinforce your experience and assessment of good products, techniques, or approaches. Second, you can refine or adjust your New Year plans based on the information contained on a list. Third, you can be exposed to new ideas, which may benefit you and your organization.

Reinforces Personal Preferences and Experience

One of the reasons I enjoy looking at top ten lists is to reinforce my own preferences. When I review a list of top ten movies of the year, I am comparing the list to my favorite movies and counting how many of the top ten movies I saw. If I am in agreement with many of the movies on the list, I feel good about my choices and recognize that my assessment of a good quality movie is consistent with the person or group who authored this list. It reinforces my preferences and experience.

From a career perspective a top ten list for your business, industry, or profession can do the same thing. It can reinforce your experience and confirm that you are spending your time focusing on the right topics. For example, when I read about the top ten learning methods used in the last year and see that I am employing seven or eight of them, it reinforces that I have made good decisions about where to allocate my resources.

 Helps You Refine New Year’s Plans

Using the movie example again, I often note the movies on top ten lists that I have not seen. From these, I create a new list of movies that I considered seeing but needed a bit of encouragement to spend the time and money required to go out and see them. By seeing the same movie title on a couple of different top ten lists, I may decide to give it a chance!

Like making a “movies to see” list for the coming year, at work we are all making a list of things to accomplish in the coming year or refining our plans developed in the recent months. Reviewing top ten lists allows us to compare what other companies and industries are doing, and use that knowledge to refine our plans. Top ten lists of software tools are a great resource. If one of my plans for the coming year is to select a requirements management tool for my organization, a top ten list of requirements management tools is a great resource to start or refine my search. These lists are relatively current and provide me with other users’ experience with various tools in a quick and easy to review format. This should not be my only resource, but it is a very good one to get started on a goal. It might help narrow down the list of choices and accelerate the selection process.

Exposes you to Something Completely New

When I am reviewing book lists, I usually read about a book and author who are completely new to me. Sometimes the topic is foreign to me also. These “new to me” items and people can open up a new interest in my reading. Additional lists that I review about books are award lists like the Pulitzer Prize winners and the Booker Awards.  These awards are often given to new writers and expose the reading world to a new topic.

In the same way, noticing a new technique, tool, or approach to your profession may lead you to a new area of interest or expertise. In past years, as a business analyst I have been exposed to new areas that are closely related to my experience in business relationship management and business intelligence. Seeing new topics, tools, or techniques on a top ten list may prompt you to learn more and broaden your knowledge. It is amazing how spending a little time learning about a brand new topic pays off quickly. Once you learn about a new term or idea, you begin to see it everywhere, and suddenly are better able to integrate it into your experience and knowledge base.

Go Ahead, Read the Lists

Maybe this post has been nothing more than my justification for a guilty pleasure, but I say go ahead and read the top ten lists. Rather than feeling like you are wasting time, remind yourself that you are building and reinforcing your expertise, improving your New Year’s plans, and learning something new!