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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 August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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