Every year since 2006, I’ve set aside an entire week in December to review the year that has almost passed and look ahead to the next one.
I certainly haven’t got everything in my life figured out, but I can honestly say that this exercise has been the most helpful exercise in all that has happened in the past six years.
How It Works
For a good overview, see the original Annual Review outline I wrote in 2008. An additional overview from 2009 may also be helpful. In short, I look back on the year and ask myself a series of questions, journaling the answers in a paper notebook. The questions start very simply:
What went well in 2011?
What did not go well in 2011?
The main part of the planning session focuses on the year to come, but before looking forward I spend at least one of the days reflecting back on the year that is ending. I can usually identify a number of answers for each question—successes and failures, times where I was happy or proud and other times where I knew I fell short.
Next, I’ll review all of the goals that I set the previous December, and write out the results. Did everything happen as I expected? Probably not, but it’s interesting to compare results with expectations and see what overlaps and what diverges. In addition to personal lessons, I’ll also write down a list of business lessons I learned during the year, and a roundup of all the countries and cities I traveled to.
This leads to the next, longer stage of the planning process where I look ahead to the forthcoming year, carefully thinking about which projects I’d like to pursue and which actions I need to take to ensure their success.
Coming Soon: The 2011 Review
The series I’ll publish here over the next few weeks will be written in real-time. I’ll share some of my own answers for those who are curious, but I also encourage you to consider undertaking this exercise yourself in some form. You can either do it the same way I do (I’ll share details as we go along) or modify it to suit your own needs.
By the way, this is not meant to be a restrictive process in any way. Whether you are right-brained or left-brained (an admitted oversimplification), a creative or an analytical, a review like this can help you. It’s your life, so why not be intentional about it?
A good plan allows for plenty of spontaneity and room for change, but without a plan at all, it’s difficult to work toward something significant over time. I want to live the most meaningful and fulfilling life possible, and this process helps me do it.
I’m currently on the road and traveling through Central and East Africa, but by the beginning of next week I should be in a more tranquil setting.
Until then, here’s wishing you well from Hargeisa, Somaliland—I made it to country #175!
*Are you in Portland or nearby? FREE tickets are now available for the AONC Holiday Party on Friday, December 30th.