Over the years, I've had the pleasure of working with numerous celebrities and entertainers. And I've learned there's a reason why many of them have stayed on top for so long. Want to know their secret? It's what Bill Cosby once told me was his key to success: hard work.

As the year draws to a close, this may be a good time for some hard work of your own to improve your planning and production chops. Because regardless of how many teambuilding events and motivational speakers you've encountered, or how large your support system, your success as an event planner ultimately comes down to you.

With that in mind, I've devised a checklist to help you contemplate your strengths and weaknesses. Each state- ment is amplified with a question to help you recognize where you stand.

I attempt to innovate rather than rely on tried-and-true ideas and approaches.

Are your attendees regularly surprised by the entertainers, speakers, and parties you offer them? Or are your events becoming predictable?

I slow down every so often to evaluate the quality of my thinking and productivity.

Do you get caught up putting out fires? Do you build time into the planning process for creative thinking and brainstorming?

I constantly nourish existing relationships and develop new ones to ensure I have the best team of suppliers.

Would all of your vendors go the extra mile for you? Do you have great alternate suppliers?

I relate new information and experiences to my work to create new ideas and better methods.

Do you consider how movies, books, shows, experiences, and other inspirations can enhance and relate to your own events?

I use e-mail, faxes, phone calls, meetings, and trips effectively and in the right proportions.

Do you use e-mail for RFPs, project requirements, and updates to production companies and other suppliers, while limiting your use of faxes? Do you recognize when an in-person meeting or a phone conversation is called for?

I discard unnecessary files regularly, maintaining an uncluttered office and mind-set.

Do your desk and filing cabinets contain less paper than last year? Do you toss out or return items you can replace or will likely never need?

I have specific goals as to my job satisfaction and promotion potential.

Have you identified specific, achievable, measurable commitments--in writing--as to what constitutes your success and the next step in your career?

I spend time with my clients, vendors, and peers for stimulating feedback and exchange.

Do you devote any time to getting fresh perspectives and keeping up on developments in production and client needs? Have you considered teaching others as a way to get inspired and learn more?

I devise and apply new ways for technology to improve my department's efficiency.

How do you use the Internet, e-mail, software, custom templates, and other technologies in your job?

I'd like to be an attendee at my events.

No explanation necessary!

How did you do? Use this 10-point checklist to get ready for the new year and for future reference. It will help you acknowledge your strengths and devise ways to overcome your weaknesses.