Yearly Review and Planning: Intro

December 2010

in Self-mastery

For the last few years I’ve done a yearly review in the few weeks leading up to the new year. I thought I’d share the process that I use, in case you find it helpful for doing your own review.

But first a little meta: Why do a yearly review?

I suppose if it doesn’t interest you in the slightest then I doubt I’ll be able to change your mind about it. I like to do reviews because they help give some clarity as to what I actually did over the last year, and set my goals and objectives for the following year. The review is a great tool for personal development and for reminding yourself that you have accomplished things over the last year. The future planning is great for directing your time and actions towards goals you care about.

Lately, my review and planning looks a lot like the yearly review done by Chris Guillebeau over here. My primary goal is to perform the following three steps:

  1. Review the Previous Year (What went well in 2010? What did not go well in 2010?)
  2. Outline Goals and Overall Focus for Next Year
  3. Make Decisions in Support of the Goals and Focus

I do nearly everything with mindmaps but you can use whatever tools you like, such as basic paper and pen. (It’s important that you enjoy using the tools that you choose!)

Reviewing (and cleaning up) the Previous Year

A review of the past year helps give you an idea of what you have accomplished, what still needs to be done, what could be done better, and what was done well.

My review initially consists of cleaning up as many loose ends as possible. This includes emptying all my inboxes (email, mail, other paper), organizing all my ‘stuff’, cleaning up the house, and generally tidying things up.

It’s easy to waste too much time doing this (sometimes it’s easy to do the dishes than thinking about my overall life goals for an entire year) so you have to be careful. You may even want to skip this step, though I find it helps me ‘clear my mind’ before doing the serious future planning.

After cleaning up, I perform a review of each area of my life, always keeping these two questions in mind: “What went well in 2010,” and “What did not go well in 2010.

I have my entire life broken down into 13 key areas that I use to do this as well as organize all of my projects, which I’ll explain in detail in my next post.

Same categories you might want to use are Work, Home Life, Finances, Health & Exercise, etc. An example of a project to review might be That Book I Wrote or Updating My Investment Portfolio or Running a Marathon.

Outline Goals and Overall Focus for Next Year

My future planning in the past has been less useful than my past-year reviews.

I tend to spend too much time on my past-year review because it’s easier than planning, and use up all my psychological energy. Then when it comes to planning, I end up with a flimsy, bare-bones plan that mostly consists of vague goals like “be more organized”, “eat healthy food and get in shape”, and “do lots of awesome stuff”. I know these are bad goals that don’t have measureable metrics, clearly defined success, and other things that make goals useful.

It’s important to set goals in all areas of your life so that you aren’t leaving anything out. For example, if I don’t set any health goals I always find myself feeling like I’ve neglected that area of my life.

Finally, I review my current projects and plan any needed future projects, based on the review of my key life areas. For all of my current projects, I organize all the materials I have for it, clean up its to-do list, review the stuff I’ve completed, and assess the priority of anything that is not yet done.

The currently ending year had my best goal-setting yet, but it still needs some improvement. (I’ll throw that in my 2010 review!) This year I want to take full advantage of the power of planning for the upcoming year!

Stay tuned for my next post where I get into more detail about exactly how I perform my yearly review, and how I’ll set my goals for 2011.