Am I on the right track?
If I have strayed away from the path I set for myself at the start.
Because by catching yourself derailing from the plan ahead of time, you can adjust and get back on track.
The Annual Review
I firmly believe that stopping to take a breath and evaluate where you are is just as important as the plan and the action itself. It’s great to put massive action toward your goals and dreams, and power through along your well-thought-out plan. But you cannot forget that there are always unexpected things that will steer you away from that path.
Sometimes those things are internal and have to do with your values, beliefs, and weaknesses. The thing to realize is that in times of high stress, the “old you” always comes up. Your fears rise from the ground like zombies and claw at your confidence, eroding it with no mercy. The people around you, whom you have no control over, behave in ways you did not expect.
No matter how good the plan is, things change all the time. If you don’t take the time to stop and check where you are, you leave yourself open to a slew of issues. That’s the same as looking at the GPS for a second and then keeping on driving without rechecking it. You might wind up in the wrong city. Your life’s plan is precisely like that.
You need checkpoints, and you must look at trends much more than snapshots. Snapshots hide the long-term evolution and are, most of the time, deceiving. By looking at trends, you see patterns. Sometimes a minimal adjustment puts you right back on track, so I believe that these kinds of checkpoints are absolutely critical.
But of course, the year is long. It’s twelve months, and by now, you probably packed a lot of tasks into it. All those things span many areas of your life, such as the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. If you allow the full year to pass before you check your progress, you might discover that you have not accomplished many of them.
That is a problem, because you can no longer turn that year back. You have to keep going. That’s why I recommend a quarterly checkpoint above and beyond your full-year review, which we will discuss shortly.
You will need to do your quarterly review, as the name implies, every three months. In the next section, go over your monthly planning and analysis. Each one of your months will have its own mini-checkpoint, which you will use as a basis for your quarterly reviews.
Here are the things you will document during your quarterly review:
- Top 5 wins
- Top 5 failures
- Top 5 things learned
- Top habits you succeeded with
- Top habits you struggled with
In addition, you will do a quick survey and give yourself a grade on several questions:
- Was I generally disciplined and consistent across the board?
- Was I productive across the board?
- Was I connected and engaged with the people I love?
- Have I taken care of my physical health?
- Did I maintain low levels of stress?
- Have I made the people around me happy?
- How positive was this quarter overall?
Last but not least, you will also give yourself a general grade across the four pillars of life: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual or social.
At the end of this, you will also write down:
- My best memories from this quarter.
- What I am most grateful for this quarter.
- What I will do differently.
- Other reflections and plans.
Together with this quarterly review, you will also take your Goal Tracking Worksheets and evaluate whether your main goals for the year are on track or not. By combining the quarterly review itself, which is a self-reflection exercise, with the Goal Tracking Sheets that show the progress on your different goals, you are now getting a full view of your progress to date.
What you do with this review is up to you. If the review reveals that you are totally on track, or maybe even exceeding the plan, this is good news for you. The process works, and you have just validated that you are where you should be.
If the process reveals some areas of your life where you are struggling, you need to quickly figure out ways to adjust. Was the plan wrong? Was there any kind of misalignment? What do you think is causing you to get behind? Is it bad habits, the people around you, or your environment?
You need to be honest and answer these questions from the heart. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Remember, time is precious, and it flies by faster than you realize. Take this opportunity to review where you are, and if you find yourself behind, don’t just accept that. It’s an opportunity to show your commitment, and that you’re holding yourself accountable—that you are responsible for your own life.
Make changes as needed. You probably won’t need to do a complete overhaul of your plan. Most of the time, all you need is a few small changes to bring you back on track. But the most critical piece is to understand why you were off track. The ‘why’ will point you in the direction of the adjustment you need to make.
Let me be very clear: disregarding those times when you have gotten off track is just as bad as having no plan at all. Review and adjust. Make sure you are always on track!
Your Annual Review
Think of your quarterly reviews as opportunities for quick adjustment. Did you steer away from the road? Come back. How do you come back? Are you on your way still, but you have noticed a few things you might be able to do better? Change them. Adjust.
Your full annual review, on the other hand, is a complete analysis of what happened in the year that has ended. You will use the information from this analysis and self-reflection in your new year’s planning. The quarterly reviews will give you those different snapshots that together reveal your trend. That information enables you to fix past errors and continue to challenge your status quo with every year that goes by.
The full annual review is comprehensive, and it focuses on facts first and foremost. You will document the things that you’ve done, and reflect them against the original plan. That will help you to identify those pieces that went according to plan and those that didn’t.
For those items that you completed successfully and as designed, you should think about ways to challenge yourself even more next year. Was this too easy? Have you locked yourself too much into your cozy comfort zone? Always look for ways where you can push the envelope. However, make sure it’s a thoughtful activity. Don’t make things harder just for the sake of it. Look for a reason, and make sure it all connects to your vision and mission.
Regarding the parts that didn’t go so well, you must do a full analysis and review. What happened? What were the struggles and main obstacles? You need to be very honest here, and open to this self-inflicted investigation. Ask the hard questions and give honest answers.
Your goal is not to move on into the next year and just re-set the same goals. Your aim here is to identify the problems. If those problems prevented your success in year one, they would also show up in year two, then three, then twenty. The world is only getting more volatile, uncertain, and chaotic. As you get older, as your family gets older, things become more complex.
Just crossing into a new year doesn’t make things easier. Instead, you need to put in the work and uncover the root causes. You need to work on them deliberately, and chip away at those impediments. The annual review is a critical tool in your arsenal, because your year contains a lot of information.
Use it wisely, and the following year will be better. Even if it’s only better by 0.01%, that’s still okay, because those percentages accumulate and compound.
The Annual Review Exercise
Although there will be some time from now until you’ll need to do your first quarterly and annual reviews, I recommend you download your forms now and keep them together with the Yearly Plan. After you do that, keep going. Your next stop is the Monthly Plan.
Feedback, Comments, Suggestions, Testimonials
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