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End Of 2015! 5 Effective Ways To Wrap Up The Year And Set New Goals for 2016

End Of 2015! 5 Effective Ways To Wrap Up The Year And Set New Goals for 2016

For most people, the end of the year is the most unproductive time of the year. It’s an invited change of pace because you get to slow down; enjoying the holidays with family and friends.

While the importance of downtime cannot be overlooked, it’s also the best time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. Unfortunately, many of us don’t take advantage of this unproductive time of the year, and that is a mistake.

Why? Because to reach your potential you must be certain that your choices are helping you. Otherwise, you run the risk of dragging around unfinished work and focusing on choices that are not helping you. As you already know unfinished work and misguided focus will only serve to drain your limited energy.

I know this issue all too well. I spent the better part of my entrepreneurial journey focusing on the wrong choices. In part because I never dedicated time to closing out my year, so I repeated the same poor habits from the previous year.

And this is where an Annual Review became my most important tool.

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This retrospective is a powerful tool that allows you to review what went well and what could have gone better this year. More importantly, the Annual Review provides insightful information that can be used to shape your goals for the next year.

I suggest that you be in a quiet place, with a pen, paper, calendar, and any other information that will help you reference the past year.

Answer the 5 Retrospective Questions

1. How did you do against your key goals? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Writing. This year was a good year for my writing. It’s now focused on leadership and personal development. Now while I did not meet this year’s production goals, I am happy that I am a contributor to the Huffington Post and Lifehack. I submitted a pitch to Entrepreneur Magazine so my fingers are crossed that I will be accepted as a contributing writer by the end of the year.

2. What things need to be improved? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Photography. This was a very bad year for my photography. I think I spent a total of two weeks on this personal project. I simply allowed other distractions to pull me away from my photography goals. For 2016, I need to fix this by spending more time making images. I need to set a production goal and schedule time to hang out with professional photographer Robert Rodriguez Jr.

3. What things were missing from this year as you look back? Here is how I would answer it:

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  • Family Time. I have spent too much time away from the boys and wife. My boys are young, and I can not miss these precious moments. I need to schedule more quality time with them. Since the boys have been born the wife and I have not had a date night, and that places a strain on our relationship. So for 2016, I am going to schedule a monthly date night with the wife.

4. What’s things are going well? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Writing. Since I have been focusing on writing about leadership and personal development, my writing has not only gotten better but I am becoming an authority on both subjects. I’ve been asked for advice by other entrepreneurs, and I have been able to improve my habits so I can get the results that I desire.

5. What are your three to five goals that you want to achieve for next year? Here is how I would answer it:

  • Writing. For 2016, I want to increase my writing production. I want to write 104 guest posts. I will pitch Success Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Forbes and the New Yorker. I also want to finish my eBook tentatively titled “A Blueprint to Becoming Highly Successful.”

Set Your New Goals for 2016

So you have answered the 5 questions — now what? Well, you now take those answers especially #5 and you begin to carve out your goals for 2016. I recommend creating 3 – 5 goals. The smaller number of goals respects the fact that you have limited energy, but that does not mean the goals can’t be big.

They should be out of your comfort zone. They should scare you. Otherwise, they are just another to-do list.

I am a fan of templates so this the template that I use when crafting my goals:

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Goal:
As a <type of user>, I am committing to <some goal> so that <some reason>.

Action:
To ensure that <some goal>, I am committing to <some habit>.

Here is my example:

Goal:
As a writer, I am committing to writing 104 guest posts on leadership so that can be viewed as an authority in the space and that will help me secure my goal of 20 corporate speaking gigs.

Action:
To ensure that I write 104 articles on leadership, I am committing to creating a production plan that will focus on leadership and becoming a contributing writer for the top 5 business magazines.

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So Yes, having written down the goal is only part of making the goal happen. You also need to commit to a repeated action that will help you achieve that goal; that is the secret sauce. And the more specific the goal and the action the more you are able to gauge the amount of energy required to achieve your goals.

Final Thoughts of the Year

Now I want you to run through these five questions. Keep in mind that you want to learn what you did well and what you didn’t do well. You then use that knowledge to begin crafting your goals for 2016.

The Annual Review is a powerful tool and when taken seriously it can help you create a better next year. I wish you much success.

Note: Thanks to Michael Hyatt, James Clear and Chris Guillebeau for inspiring me to write this Annual Review article.

Featured photo credit: unsplash/Olu Eletu via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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