I’ve always been a goal-oriented person.
Always looking forward and setting goals for myself …. Then working tirelessly to achieve them, it seemed like a good process.
The setting & working toward goals thing was never really been a problem for me. For the longest time, around the end of each year, I would then reflect back on the previous year and start thinking about what goals I wanted for the following year. That was the extent of my "annual review." Did I achieve my goals or not?
Writing things down can have a profound impact. With goals, individuals with written goals are ~40% more likely to succeed. This number jumps up to ~77% if these individuals write their goals and send progress reports to their friends. Part of the reason why I believe in the accountability factor of mentors, coaches and mastermind groups.
I knew these things. Always writing down my goals and sharing them with people, I get it
In 2016, I actually had a bit of an epiphany. As I was going over the Annual Reviews for my subordinates and filling out my own professional Annual Review to discuss with my manager. It suddenly dawned on me that I had never officially done this for my personal life.
Why on earth did I not have a written process for reviewing my own personal life and having an official ‘check-in’ to make sure I was tracking toward the life I wanted to live?
I’m actually making a more (truncated) public version this year that I’ll share with my email list, as I believe there are many benefits of sharing what you’re working on with your people.
"The unexamined life is not worth living"
Zooming out, what even makes a good personal annual review?
I knew how to do one for my professional life, but a personal annual review is a HIGHLY personal process. Ultimately, what works for me might not work at all for others
Honestly, for me, a good personal annual review is not only about looking back, but it’s also about looking toward the future, and deciding what my trajectory is headed toward. But it's the looking back part that is not to be overlooked.
With this process, the overall idea is that by doing a personal annual review, this process will force you to look back at the past 12 months and ask: “Am I working toward living the life I want to live?” Am I living the life that I had imagined? Am I living a life building toward a larger mission?
The idea is not to compare how much or how little you have done compared to someone else. This review process is about YOUR life, YOUR actions, and what YOU want to do for yourself.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.”
Over 4 years, this annual review process is constantly evolving and will continue to for the foreseeable future. This is the internal checklist I used for my 2019 Annual Review:
While doing all of this pre-work, I’m constantly copy/pasting key thoughts into my 2020 Goals or 2019 Review.
This is a fluid process, not starting with step one and working through. There is a lot of overlap and jumping around. Something I will notice from your previous year review might be relevant for later, etc.
I’ll typically start with this list, but I’ll constantly be coming back to it as I’m doing the review. What trends or patterns do I see with my life? What sort of books was I reading and how did they influence me and my thought process? Who was I spending a lot of time around and what do their lives look like? What am I missing?
Then, I’ll go through and start this process by listing out as many “wins” and “losses” for the year. What have I done well? What areas did I not do as well as I would have liked?
I organize this thought process by breaking up my life into key ‘hotspots.’
Looking at these Hotspots, you evaluate yourself in each of them. These are a simple way to zoom out and look at the bigger picture in your life. I tend to get so caught up with the day-to-day it is hard to zoom out and think about the larger picture.
Choices of "hotspots" are essentially endless, but the ones I consistently use are:
Note: These were originally inspired by some other blog post, but I cannot seem to find it now.
Either way, when looking at my wins/losses for the year, I’ll want to make sure I include a win/loss for each of these hotspots.
This part of the process is really the meat of the annual review. Looking at each one of these hotspots and reflecting on it, writing down key points. I really spend some time here, then I review it to see if I had a negative tilt (perhaps situational) to the items and will revisit on another day to make sure that's not the case.
After going through each hotspot for wins/losses, it’s easier to start to wrap it up a bit more here. Starting to try to summarize as these reviews get a little lengthy :)
Zooming out for the personal annual review - what did I learn? We're constantly changing and growing, but what stood out? How have I changed?
Now I have fully reviewed the previous year, and it’s finally time to start looking forward a bit. This is just a primer to get me thinking about the upcoming year. I’ll use this questions to get me started:
After this, I’ll move on to starting to clean up and set my goals for 2020.
My goal setting process is also fluid. I find it helpful to make goals for each hotspot, which keeps everything a bit organized when I start to review how the year is goinng.
Reflection is very useful, but not a good substitute for action. Therefore, although it’s very important to examine your life and think about these things, it’s also equally (or more) important to actually go out and enjoy and experience all the amazing things that this life has to offer and/or take action on those items that you’re carefully planning out.
Here’s to constant growth and getting wiser every year!