Productivity: 3 Simple Steps to Conducting an Annual Review
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”
– Steve Jobs
A new year is coming, and I’m not thinking about partying or drinking.
I’m at a coffee shop right now in Atlanta strategizing for the new year. In fact, I’m taking three days off to completely focus on planning. (One for my personal life, one for AFFcelerator, and one for my affiliate marketing company)
Before you start planning the new year, there’s a big step you gotta do first. You need to perform an annual review on yourself.
How did 2016 go?
Be as objective as possible. (This is why I love keeping track of data when it comes to goals. The numbers don’t lie)
A key trait in successful people is self-awareness. They can look at themselves and address their weaknesses. They can call themselves out on their own bullshit.
That’s what the annual review is about. It’s learning from the past so you can grow in the future.
I’m going to share with you the framework I’ve been using the past few years to do an annual review.
It’s simple, but effective. Do these exercises before you set your goals for 2017.
A few tips to get the most out of this exercise:
1. Don’t do this where you normally work. Do it off-site.
2. Share your results with a trusted friend. Did you fuck up this year on something and didn’t write it down?
3. Make sure you save this somewhere. I just write it in my Evernote and tag it.
Here are the three main steps that I take.
1. What Are Your Big Wins and Big Losses?
This is going to pretty much summarize your year. What were your five biggest wins, and your five biggest losses?
Make sure you diversify them and don’t make them all work related.
I made an example here of a newer affiliate marketer named Timmy.
5 Big Wins
– Quit my job to become a full-time affiliate marketer
– Bought a house.
– Meditating daily
– Volunteered every month at the homeless shelter
– Fully funded 401k, and roth IRA retirement plans.
5 Big Losses
– Didn’t work out and gained 20 lbs.
– 1 man army. I haven’t outsourced or hired anyone.
– Didn’t get to travel outside the United States.
– Zero dates.
– Played too much World of Warcraft.
What can you conclude from looking at these wins and losses?
It seems like he has achieved a lot of his affiliate marketing goals. He’s full-time now in affiliate marketing, and was able to buy a house. He’s also making great progress financially since he is securing his retirement.
But it seems all that success came at a cost to his personal life. While he’s made a ton of money, he’s working way too hard since he doesn’t have a team.
He neglected his health and gained weight. He didn’t get to travel or go on dates. What little time he has left is devoted to World of Warcraft.
What do I recommend he do next year?
1. Start building a team and systems
2. Plan at least one vacation next year outside the country
3. Start exercising. If that’s too tough then hire a personal trainer to keep him motivated.
4. Delete World of Warcraft. Find another game that’s not so addicting.
How did your 2016 big wins and big losses compare to your goals at the beginning of the year?
2. Is Your Life Balanced?
This is a framework from one of my favorite productivity books, Getting Results the Agile Way.
Hotspots are a way to zoom out and look at the biggest picture of your life. I believe everyone needs to be working towards balance.
What happens if you focus too much effort on work? Your health and relationships may suffer.
And if you’re spending all your time on your relationship? Neglecting your body and career may make you a more unattractive person (and you lose your relationship!)
Being unbalanced can only last so long before you crash.
Is complete balance ever possible? No, it’s not. You can’t be A+ at every area of your life.
But I do this exercise to make sure that I’m not an F at anything. It’s those weaknesses that will creep up and kill your progress.
Go through each of these hotspots and think about how well they went in 2016.
Tell one sentence stories on what you did well, and what you didn’t do well.
The Mind bucket includes investing time to learn “thinking techniques” and keeping my mind sharp.
The Body bucket includes investing time to keep my body in shape. It includes learning patterns and practices for health. The most important basics are eating, sleeping, and working out.
The Emotions bucket includes investing time to keep my emotions healthy. It includes learning emotional intelligence and keeping my emotions in check. It’s about learning skills for feeling good.
Career includes activities and projects for my job and my professional services.
Finance includes investing time to learn patterns and practices for building and sustaining wealth.
The Relationships bucket includes relationships at home, work, and life.
Fun includes investing time to for play and doing whatever I enjoy.
Here’s a few examples from my 2016 hotspot review.
This year I did amazing on Body
* I returned to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.
* I worked out consistently 3 times a week with a personal trainer
* I am eating much healthier due to my meal delivery services.
* I am a lean 145 lbs.
But my relationships were not so great
* I am no longer friends with some people I was close to earlier in the year
* I didn’t visit my family in Atlanta every quarter as planned
This means I’m going to keep continuing the routines I have in body. But next year I might spend more time working on my relationships with people.
3. Did You Live Up to Your Core Values?
Core values are a set of principles you try to strive to live for. Here’s an example list by James Clear.
You should establish 5 core values, and evaluate whether or not you lived up to them this year.
One of my core values is Growth.
Things I did well for Growth:
* I’m moving to NYC early next year because I want to grow. It’s cold, it’s expensive, and I just moved to Miami 1.5 years ago.
But I wanna play to win. I wanna be in an environment that pushes me.
* Expanded my network significantly this year. I remember reading, “if you’re the smartest guy in the room, then it’s time to find another room.” I’ve made a lot of new friends this year that inspire me, and push me to grow.
Things I didn’t do well for Growth:
* I have a lot of smart, and amazing friends, but they’re scattered all over the world.
I didn’t really have friends in Miami this year that I could mastermind and hang out with. It’s important to get that face to face time in.
* I wasn’t aggressive enough in fixing my weaknesses. For example, I could’ve learned to be a better leader a lot sooner.
I chose to learn through experience and that was costly.
Now? I’ve probably read 10+ books on the subject, and I have a mentor in that area. I could’ve gotten a lot more aggressive about improving this area sooner.
What I can improve for growth next year?
* Establish a Squad in NYC when I move there.
* I will enter Brazilian Jiujitsu competitions. I’m a competitive person. It’s why I’m so motivated in business, and it’s why I was addicted to video games in college.
I want another area of my life to compete in, and I wanna challenge myself physically.
* Establish and use OKR’s in my personal life. OKR’s are a goal setting system I use in my companies. I wanna start using it for my personal goals too. More info about what OKRs are.
Just Keep Going Forward
Don’t worry if 2016 didn’t turn out as well as you hoped.
Progress comes from reflection. If things didn’t go your way then ask yourself what could you have done differently?
Are you blaming others for your problems when it wasn’t your fault?
And take a moment to reflect on your wins. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Celebrating the wins is just as important as reflecting on the losses.
In a few days I’ll be showing you my system on how to plan for a killer 2017!