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.
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:
- 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:
As a <type of user>, I am committing to <some goal> so that <some reason>.
To ensure that <some goal>, I am committing to <some habit>.
Here is my example:
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.
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.
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