Imagine a room filled with peoples. Hundreds of people from all over the world all gathered in that same room. All those people are working together on the same goal, helping, coaching, giving feedback, challenging each other. They’ve been doing that for hours now in an intense session. But why? To create the next new technology? To build a new revolutionary AI? No, for a way more human and profound thing, their annual review. That was my experience with the yearly review course I just finished at Forte Academy. Everyone helping each other to try and achieve better things by supporting each other. I’m writing this guide in that same spirit of helping others. I’m going to try and help you do your annual review with success. But if you’re here only for my finding, you can skip ahead to the “My Results” section.
Why Do a Review
Let’s start there first before we go into how to do it. Why do this in the first place? To set goals that are meaningful and motivating to us, we need to know what is meaningful and motivating. All of us have also had “wins” throughout the year to celebrate. There are many things you probably forgot you did but enjoyed them in the moment. All of those require looking backward into last year before we can look forward to the new one. It’s also easier to see connections, patterns and relations when you see things at the year level.
Before we get into it, something worth noting upfront. This template is not just a simple copy-paste that you just need to answer. The process is very personal and needs to be customized to your taste and needs (even from year to year). There are four main sections in this process, first to set the tone, then look back and finally look forward in the future.
This section is about commitment and planning the review itself. Just follow the steps below:
- Set aside enough time to complete your review in 2-3 sittings in a quiet space. The time it will take will depends on how deep you go and how thorough of a review you do. If you’re unsure how long it will take, I would suggest two sessions of 90 minutes.
- Make sure you put down a specific date and time for the sessions.
- Create a note or a document to put any ideas, projects, or goals that come up. Your mind will most likely get lots of ideas as you go. You want to save them for the final step.
- Clear/empty/archive things you’re done with for this year to start fresh. Do you have a reading list, todos, projects, wishlist, a playlist you want to refresh? If there are still things you would like to keep, you usually can just rename it into something else. I changed mine to “Archive-2019” and moved them off of my main list.
Once you’re all set, just answer the various prompt from the template to set the tone and expectation.
Now we’re looking only at the past for this section. The goal here is to gather as many memories as possible. We want to appreciate, celebrate and be grateful for last year. The gathering should set the mood and mindset to help to look forward next. This part of the process is where you need to start customizing. If there are things that don’t resonate with you or you might not even have just remove them. There might be other things you think are better for yourself to remember the past, just add them. You want to be able to gather as many things as possible while not going over one full session.
To help set the mood for the rest of the review, use your top music as background music while you work.
Now that we’ve gathered everything, it’s time to connect the dots. Simply answer the questions prompt as you see fit. Once again, customization is key, but try to keep as many of them as possible. You might want to try to rephrase some instead of removing prompt. Those questions are to help you see connections between the past year and the future. You might also realize you have some resistance to answering, which might point to something.
Try to change your environment for this section. Try to go to a coffee shop, change desk, set lighting etc. to help not stay stuck your usual mindset.
Finally, we create next year’s plans. Those prompts are about things you want to do, goals you want to reach, people you want to meet. It’s time to create the best year yet. Try to keep your goal attainable but challenging. This part is the culmination of the process and also what you will share and work on, make it count. As for sharing, you could write about it like me, email family and friend, share some of it on twitter, tell a close friend. Just do what you feel comfortable doing, but it will help your commitment if you share at least some of it.
Same as for Connect, try to change your environment for this section. You could use that new environment for the sharing part, too, if it’s not something you would normally do.
So now that you know how I did it let’s see what results I had. I did redact some parts of it that were too personal or could impact others. I tried to keep as much as possible in there for commitment.
While looking in the past, I realized the overall theme for me last year was learning. I learn a lot about myself on many levels. I also learn a lot of new skills and new mindsets. A lot was going on all year on that front. Much that learning came from books and courses, which is where I will start.
Top Book/Audiobook (in no particular order)
Top Course (in no particular order)
Listing activities also had me realize something that kept coming back. I like yoga, but I stop doing it. Recognizing that I stopped doing things that I say are some of my favourites was a powerful realization. I had some alignment problems between myself, my actions and activities I liked. There was also a lot of surprising things that came up, like the things that energize me.
Top Things that energize me (in no particular order)
- Helping others
- Learning new things
- Discovering new places (restaurant, bar, library, etc.)
- Working at a coffee shop
Also interesting were my top ideas, some of them being relatively new, while others are older ideas.
Top Idea (in no particular order)
- You need to use the ideas/information to create and share
- Experiment with ideas
- It’s OK to ask for help from outside
- Feedback is one of the most essential and fastest ways to grow
Now let’s move to the future. To keep it somewhat short, I will skip over connections for the most part and go into goals. For brevity and public reasons, I removed most of the numbers from those goals. The main parts are the intentions and actions, but I do have a number associated with them in my version. So here are my goals for next year:
- Everyone always has that one, and there’s probably a good reason for it. Most of us can use more exercise and better eating habits.
- I will lower my salt and sugar intake overall.
- I will find exercises that I enjoy and don’t stress my legs too much.
- That was an unexpected area that came up after [Write of Passage] finished. Writing didn’t have as much importance in my life until then.
- I will be posting one article and one newsletter per week for the whole year.
- I will have at least 50k words written in this very blog.
- That was one area I realized I had neglected a lot last year. But this year I want to be better, so I added more things in there.
- I will do more gaming with friends.
- I will meet more people.
- I will go for more in-depth, engaging conversations with people.
- I will start again to explore and discover new places around my neighbourhood.
- This area is part of my job and was my school education, but I’ve been bad at completing projects, so that’s where I will focus this year.
- I will complete one full project per quarter and publish it on [Github].
- I will use at least one new framework or skill I learned last year for each of those projects.
- This area is because I realized that I didn’t save as many things as I wished last year. When I did the gather step, I saw that a lot of memories didn’t have anything associated with them.
- I will take more pictures of peoples and places
- I will do quarterly reviews of all those goals to see where I stand.
- I will get back into more journaling
There are some other notable things that I also realized this year. One of them being I want to create and use more of the skills that I learned last year. This year should focus more on creation for that reason. I also saw in many ways, I was already there or most of the way there with some goals. That is if I kept going or didn’t completely stop last year. Finally, I tried to add more of the things I love this time around. Those should help keep me motivated as I go.
That’s it, the full review is a lot longer, but most of it was just personal realizations and connections. Awareness is one of the main benefits of this exercise. I hope your review, too, will be filled with insight and understanding. Whether you decided to do it this year or wait for the next one, I would strongly recommend doing it to see where you stand in your life.