Hi, everyone—the 2013 Annual Review is here! All posts will be open for comments from readers, and I’ll share a roundup of reader reviews at the end of the process.
In this post: how it works: an overview and explanation.
“Most people who talk about goals just say, ‘you should have goals.’ They don’t tell you how to set them.” -Craig Swanson
For the past eight years, I’ve conducted an “Annual Review” every December, where I look back on the year that’s ending and set a series of goals for the future. More than anything else, this process has helped me reach higher goals and continue to improve.
Last year the Annual Review was greatly abridged due to a book tour in India. The tour was good, but I definitely missed being able to spend more time on the planning process. This year I’m taking the full amount of time. I just started two days ago, and so far it feels great. I’ve missed this.
As the quote from Craig illustrates, we often hear about the general notion of goal-setting, but without much in the way of specificity. The Annual Review process is a way to create structure around the life that you want to create.
The goals you’ll set will be specific and measurable. Also, they’re your goals—not mine or anyone else’s. If you end up changing your mind at some point, that’s OK. You can simply adjust the plan.
Maybe you don’t like goals, or maybe you just like to take things as they come along. It’s OK if you feel that way. But trust me: life planning can change your life. Or don’t trust me: just give it a try, in your own way, and see what happens.
How It Works
The original post from way back in 2008 outlines the general process:
To begin the Annual Review, I ask myself two questions and try to come up with at least 6-8 answers to each:
What went well this year?
What did not go well this year?
For these answers, I’m mostly interested in events I have control over. If something didn’t go well that I couldn’t prevent or control, it doesn’t need to go on the list. (Hint: you have control over most things.)
Next, I start looking towards the future, setting specific goals for a number of categories. Here are some of the categories that I use:
Writing, Business, Friends & Family, Service, Travel, Spiritual, Health, Learning, Financial (Earning), Financial (Giving), Financial (Saving)
While thinking about each category over the course of a week (off and on), I set an average of 3-5 measurable goals for each.
As explained in the original post, the goals should be concise and measurable. Eventually I create an overall theme and one-paragraph outcome summary for the year—but I only do this after I go through the whole process of thinking through goals and outcomes.
For example, 2007 was the year of Learning & Preparation, as I focused on completing most of the requirements for a graduate degree and getting ready for the next stage of life. A few years later was the year of Convergence, as I sought to tie together a number of unrelated projects. (There was also the year of the Cantaloupe—a long story.)
Here are a couple of links to the template I use →
You can use this same tool if you’d like, modify it for your own needs, or create something more visual. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a spreadsheet; the important thing is to start with the lists of what went well and what didn’t, and then proceed to the setting of goals in different categories for next year.
Most important, take the time to reflect! Don’t go on book tour to India and skip the process. Adapt it in your own way. This will help you.
The next couple of weeks of AONC posts will consist entirely of Annual Review posts, and each post will have open comments for you to share whatever you’d like.
Do you have any kind of review? How do you do it?
Feel free to share your comments for other readers.
*AONC Holiday Party! If you’re in Portland or nearby, join us on December 28th.