Are You Ready to Do Your Annual Review? Here Are Some Tips and Resources

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

As we round out the end of 2019 and the last of this decade, there’s no better time than now to reflect on the past and think about goals and priorities you want to have for the coming year(s). When I think about the connection between work and productivity and my spiritual practice, setting time aside for recalibration, deeper reflection, and prayer are really important to me. I have time set aside for my own reflection coming up. As I get into the mindset and consider how I can take some time to look back not only at the last year but also at the last decade, I’ve begun looking for materials and resources to draw on when I do this work.

Here’s a round-up of resources and ideas that you can use as you create your own plan.

1. Step-by-Step Process for Conducting An Annual Review

First and foremost, here is my post from two years ago on “Conducting an Annual Review.” In this post, I walk you through how to structure the annual review, tools you’ll need, some key questions, and more. This is the basic process I will be using this year, though I always adapt it some.

Here’s an excerpt: This was my first time doing an annual review after really designing a system of project management like we did in Building a Second Brain. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, and I did it before reading “The Annual Review is a Rearchitecture,” but I knew I wanted three components:

  • Enough time away to get into a reflective and prayerful space
  • Time to reflect back over all the projects, accomplishments, failures, learnings that took place.
  • Time to build out my goals and vision for the coming year

📝 See: Conducting an Annual Review

2. New Year’s Eve Review Activities – Fun for a Crowd!

If you want to get super nerdy – because why not – we came up with seven New Year’s activities we put out for our NYE party last year and we had a great time.

Here’s an excerpt:

  • Pick a word for the year
  • Create a personal vision board for 2019
  • Get rid of something – write something down from 2018 that you want to get rid of, tear it up, and throw it away. This was an idea from E.M., our 9-year-old, and I thought it was pretty fantastic.
  • Create a deck of cards

📝 See: Seven New Year’s Eve Activities and End of the Year Reflections

3. Books That Can Help With an Annual Review

How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace – An amazing book about taking care of yourself, complete with reviews, and other exercises for you to use in your own reflections.

Keep Going 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon – A great book about self-care and how to remain creative, especially when you’re not feeling creative.

Essentials of the Enneagram by Dr. David Daniels – As a part of my review, I like to look back and review my number on the Ennegram and review the growing edges and gifts of that number.

4. Some Key Resources for Helping Practice An Annual Review

David Allen’s article on “Horizon’s of Focus,” a great perspective on laying out goals, priorities, projects, and tasks for the coming year. 📝 Download the .PDF here

Praxis Blog from Tiago Forte: The Annual Review is a Rearchitecture and Tiago’s Annual Review Course if you’re looking to spend a little money but go deeper into all of this. As a graduate of two of Tiago’s courses, I can vouche for the quality of these courses, though I haven’t taken this new one.

Shawn Blanc’s Plan Your Year is another good looking and less expensive option that comes with some cool tools you can use for planning. Shawn’s work is also high quality and takes into account mindfulness and intention behind all we do. I’ve taken a couple of Blanc’s courses as well and feel good about recommending this one (I’m seriously considering joining this course).

My friend Fernando Gros has lots of great creative stuff on his blog but here are two where he walks through how to do yearly planning and how to set up annual themes.

Focused Podcast: The Annual Check-In – A work and productivity with a priority towards mindfulness and focus. David Sparks and Mike Schmitz cover their process for personal check-ins.

Jason Shen of Better Humans: How to Run Your Own Annual Review


Ways to Connect with Wess: If you like this post and/or have feedback you think I should know about feel free to connect with me on Twitter and Telegram @cwdaniels

2019 – Year in Photos

Photo Descriptions

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom

  1. Living in Greensboro means that we are closer to family and we get to see cousins a lot more. This year we got to celebrate Halloween with my sister Steffanie’s family.
  2. Went to Philadelphia a couple times this year, a highlight for me was being at a leadership conference.
  3. I have been listening to a lot of tech show and Apple podcasts, which is both nerdy and fun, but also having an impact on my efficiency and work. This is an image of my current office setup complete with a standing desk. (Podcasts: MacPower Users, Upgrade, Automators and Connected)
  4. Emily and I celebrated 18 years of marriage and 20 years of friendship and love this August.
  5. In October I turned 41.
  6. Made a bunch of new friends in Greensboro who are religious leadership during an Interfaith Clergy Trip this past year.
  7. Went to Indiana to celebrate the wedding of my good friend and fellow Fuller grad, Dr. Jamie Pitts.
  8. I got to meet Dr. Janette Coleman during Guilford’s commencement this year.
  9. My kids found a sign with my name of it! 😉 This was a sign set out in front of Scuppernong Books for my Book Release party for my book, Resisting Empire.
  10. I went to England to support one of my students who presented at a Quaker Studies Conference a great paper on her research she’s doing at Guilford. I also presented on some new research I am working on.
  11. Did I mention my new book, Resisting Empire, was released!
  12. Saw my uncle and other family who live in Arizona after 25 years!
  13. Co-taught a 3-week class on Food and Faith that was moving, and a lot of fun.
  14. Launched the Fireweed Coffee Cold Brew recipe to great fanfare this summer.
  15. I participate in an 8-month Executive Director Academy with the Center for Creative Leadership this past year that was an incredible opportunity, pushed me in my thinking around leadership, and helped me feel more confident in my work.
  16. Trip to the Smoky Mountains with cousins!
  17. In August, my buddy and I rode bikes up to the Blue Ridge Mountains, but we never made it. I watched him go down on his bike. Thankfully, he was okay, albeit badly bruised and banged up.
  18. Emily and I went to Louisville, KY to visit Bourbon Country and spend time with some good friends. This was seriously one of the best highlights of the year. My favorite of all the distilleries we toured was Rabbit Hole.
  19. We vacationed in Beaufort, NC this year and loved every moment of it. This is a photo of Emily on a boat headed out to the beach at Cape Lookout.
  20. Purchased a new roaster, the Aillio Bullet R1, for Fireweed Coffee Co.
  21. The kids all started their 4th school year in Greensboro. L is now in 6th, M is in 4th, and C is in 2nd. This is the photo we’ve been doing each year since we moved to Greensboro.
  22. I married my sister Catrina at the end of 2018 but L and M loved being flower girls and I wanted to share this!
  23. C at the Over The Rhine Nowhere Else festival in Ohio. We loved it and can’t wait to go back.
  24. That time Westboro Baptist came to protest the college you work at and you are responsible to coordinate the response.

The Birth of an Alternative Community

I’m preaching this Sunday at First Friends Meeting here in Greensboro, the meeting my family and I attend. I don’t get to preach all that much any more, so I find it exciting to get the opportunity from time to time.

This week is advent but I’ve opted to do something a little different at the suggestion of our pastor, Jaimie Mudd, who wondered if I’d consider reflecting on Revelation 12 along side the Matthew birth narrative.

That work is in process so I won’t share too much on that yet, but I invite you to reflect on Revelation 12 and Matthew 1:18-25 and see what you find. Currently, I’m focuing on origin/creation/birth stories and how these stories shape who we are, our limits and our possibilities, and often the trajectory of our lives.

Here are three Queries around origin stories I’m working with this week:

  • What is your origin story?
  • What role does origin/creation stories play in the formation of community?
  • What role does those on the margins and “all of creation” play in the our conceptions of community?

A Reading for Advent – Oscar Romero

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God – for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.
-Oscar Romero

An Open Letter to Fuller Seminary Expressing My Sadness and Disappointment For The Expulsion of a Lesbian Student

Recently, I learned with a deep sadness, after reading the LA Times article, that Joanna Maxon was expelled because of her same-sex marital status. I was surprised this was the position the Seminary took, not because it isn’t known that it has anti-LGBTQ stances, but because the action against a student in this way seems outside of the Gospel of Grace as I know it; moreover, this action does not reflect what I know Fuller to be capable of. As an alumnus of the Seminary, I feel compelled to write to say how disappointed I am in this decision and, more basically, that such a policy even exists. I plead with you to change this policy, and welcome a new era of theological reflection that includes all of God’s people.

I made my own journey from an anti-LGBTQ stance to one of affirmation and inclusion, performing the first same-sex wedding in my Quaker Yearly Meeting, being fired from an Evangelical seminary for advocating on the behalf of a transgendered student, and doing my dissertation research on the first queer-led Christian Quaker church in history. Within a few years of beginning my studies in 2003, I built on the tools I learned from the Fuller Seminary faculty, moving to a position of being open to and affirming of all who fall outside of heteronormative and cis-gendered identities. I know that I am not the only student, staff, and faculty member who has made similar moves as a result of being at Fuller and experiencing God’s grace there.

And yet, here we are, taking a stance against a student and expelling her because of what is a rebarbative policy. Policy can be changed. And when it goes against what is right and good in the eyes of God, policy should be broken. We have come to a time in history in which positioning ourselves on the side of heteronormativity and patriarchy causes deep spiritual violence. As Christians we must always stand on the side of love. Historically, Fuller has had a commitment to love, holding a position within the theological world that is broad and deep, welcoming of diverse experiences, languages, and convictions. It is a space where students are given the freedom to explore God, biblical teachings, divergent theologies, and contemporary spiritualities within a container that remains committed to Jesus. This Generous Orthodoxy is how I understand what it means to stand on the side of love above the law. I benefited from this experience and I wish that others, such as Joanna Maxon can as well, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, ability, and class. If you want to apprentice yourself to the Christian tradition Fuller should be a place where this can happen.

There are so many of us that want this for Ms. Maxon and others who are now threatened by this kind of policy and the sentiment that underwrites it. I want these students to know that there are those who support them and believe that actions like these do not reflect the God we know.

My hope is that Fuller will overtime eradicate these policies that do not reflect the teachings of the gospels, the table fellowship of Jesus, and the realities of God at work in our culture and world today.

My hope is that Fuller could witness to the Gospel in how it treats its own student body and community.

My hope is that Fuller can challenge Christian supremacy in a world that has suffered enough spiritual violence at the hands of Christians.

Know that I, for one, support the seminary in undergoing the work of God in this way and I know that I am not alone in this.

Prayers for growth and grace in this movement,

C. Wess Daniels, Ph.D.

William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College

More on the Coffee Front

As you know, I’m a big coffee fan. I have been for a long time but then it became a much bigger part of our lives when I started up a small coffee roasting business. I have been doing that for over a year now and am loving the work of learning how to roast and sharing that with folks in our community here in Greensboro. But to take it a step further, I’ve decided to start a coffee blog about my various travels and the coffee shops I visit and enjoy. I am calling this blog: The Coffee Path. Check it out. And if you’re into simple coffee reviews and recommendations, you can subscribe at the bottom of the webpage.

Thanks for reading!

Wess

More Than Half

Today is Emily’s Birthday

I turned 41 in October. My wife, Emily, who celebrated her birthday today (11/17) is right behind me. While we were at dinner this afternoon, it occurred to us that we’ve celebrated more birthdays together than we celebrated apart. We’ve finally tipped the scale and have spent more than half our lives together. Our relationship is a gift to me in so many ways, but one is the ways in which we continue to allow each other enough space to grow and change, shifting with the times and needs of each stage of life. When you love someone, it is amazing to watch that person evolve and age with time. To share life so closely with another is envigorating as it is challenging, but to do it in the context of love is the best place of all. I am who I am in no small part to this person who I have spent 20 years side-by-side with.

After birthday dinner, we talked about how many of our friends have told us that their forties were their most favorite decade, I’m prepared to have that kind of positive experience myself, but honestly, each decade has been good, even when it was hard. Today, as I write this (11/19) I am reminded that 16 years ago my step-father killed himself. I’m reminded of many other loved ones we’ve lost, and countless failures and mistakes I’ve made over the years. But I also have so much to be grateful for from the past 20 years of being together.

Here’s just a short list of a few things that have happened in the midst of Emily and I creating a life together:

  • We have three wonderful children together
  • Lived in four states
  • Had 6 different full-time jobs and many more part-time gigs
  • Visited Paris, England, Ireland, and Scotland
  • Visited many states and had two cross-country road trips
  • Lived in 8 different homes
  • We’ve lost a parent and all of the rest of our grandparents
  • We have suffered the loss of many dear friends
  • The evolution and maintenance of faith, political views, and expectations for everyday life.
  • Experienced plenty of broken relationships, and sometimes saw them restored.
  • And so much more, how do you sum up almost 20 years in a list?

But the thing that stands out to me the most is the friendship. The friendship on one person over a long storyline of ups and downs, multiple climaxes and resolutions, laughter, joy, tears, and heartache. Each turn of the page more revealing, more dynamic that the last.

Emily, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I’d do it all over again. Repeatedly. I look forward to the next 20 years and how we improve upon the storyline.

Using Evernote to Find A Good Everyday Carry Backpack

If you know me well, you know I like bags. Backpacks, briefcases, canvas bags, “hip sacks,” you name it. I’ve been known to hunt for a good sale, or clearance item to fill a bag need. For instance, I’ve had more than one Timbuktu bag in the last 15 years that I bought from Sierra Trading Post at a steep discount. More recently, I had a slight obsession with finding the perfect “Everyday Carry” bag for work. I spent a decent amount of time researching all the latest bags on the market, Goruck, Evergoods, Aer, Incase, eBags, PRVKE, Nomatic, and more. Through this research it became very obvious to me that following blogs like Carryology, and learning about bag materials, makers, eco-friendly alternatives, techie components is a serious guilty pleasure for me; that I’m here admitting it to the internet is another thing! But, I did a lot of research into some of the most recent and really cool everyday carry bags and I wanted to share it here in case there are any other bag nerds lurking nearby.

Here’s what I did and what I learned.

Using Evernote, my preferred notetaking app, I surfed the internet using the search engine DuckDuckGo and captured all the bags I found interesting into Evernote (using the Webclipper) and then created a table of contents of all those “notes” into one master note titled “Backpack Table of Contents.”

Evernote Research Note

After that, I created a list with everything I wanted/needed in a bag. I took some time prior to take notes of things I was looking for in a bag over the course of a few weeks, but then I summarized the key components into a list. I turned that list into a table in Evernote at the botton of that same note (see picture below). Evernote makes it really easy to make nice-looking, quick tables.

Next, I began reading and searching for all the bags I could find on the market that were being recommended by reviewers. There’s a whole Everyday Carry community online where I found many of these reviews . If you’re interested, two great places to get started are Carryology and Everday Carry. Then, as I found a bag of interest, I added it with the webclipper to my “backpack” folder in Everynote. At this point, I wasn’t necessarily doing deep research, I’m just skimming, trying to see what is the basic landscape, what is the language that people use to talk about different compartments and features, what are the materials, etc.

From there, I created a Table of Contents out of all of those different notes that went at the top of this one research note. Looking at the image above all those numbered items are the result of that Table of Contents. Those are each separate notes you can select and go into. The reason I did it this way rather than directly linking to each website from this note is largely because this is more expedient, capturing something with webclipper, then selecting 10 notes and hitting “create table of contents” and its done. No typing, no back and forth between various sites to get links, copying and pasting, etc.

The fourth step in this process was to narrow down my results and begin populating my table. I started with the the top bags that I thought would come closest to what I was looking for and began adding them to my chart. I’d add an image of the bag, the name, the cost, a link to it’s note or webpage, and then I would work my way down the checklist (to the left) of features I wanted/needed. This took a little time but it was fun andreally helped me to sort out what I was looking for, and disaggregate the important from the preferred. Here is how the note began to take shape.

Summary of Key Findings

What did I learn from this process? It’s hard to find a bag with everything you want in it. This is probably why many people have more than one! There are so many options out there and so many differences between them. As you can see from my research there are some that come very close to having what I want, but then they’re missing one or two key features, or the material they use isn’t great. But really my main takeaway is that there is no one perfect bag for everyone’s needs.

Second, a bag with a lot of opinions about how you use it is not for me. While I had all kinds of things I thought I wanted in a bag, it turns out that what I really want is one that is easy to pack and unpack, and can be used with different packing cubes, and other organization things.

A third is material really really matters. Scuffing, cleaning, zippers, etc. I bought one bag that I thought I’d really like, the Aer, and it looked really nice but the material had me contantly concerned that I was going to scuff it up. Add that to the fact that it had tons of pockets but not of them really fit with what I needed and I decided to return in.

Conclusion

After all of this, I ended up staying with the bag I already had, a Goruck backpack and adding some more organizational features like the Field Pocket, which offers plenty of extra pockets, uses the upper space on the inside of the bag nicely, and ties into the MOLLE straps inside the bag to (see the top photo). Add that extra little organizational feature gave it everything I needed, and I can take the Field Pocket out when I want to use my Goruck for overnight travel which I often do. In the end, I enjoyed learning more about all these different bags, how they’re manufactured, etc. and using Evernote to help distill down all that information into something useful.

A Refreshed Site!

I’ve been blogging on WordPress.org since 2004 and blogging since at least 2001 (a Xanga site for those of you keeping track). Recently, I came across my old blogroll (a set of links of blogs you followed, supported, wanted to give props to), and 8 out of 10 of the link were dead. I couldn’t believe it. This is a sad state of affairs as far as I am concerned. I haven’t always been able to stay on top of blogging the way I would like, or the way I used to, but I love having this site, seeing people continue to find it helpful, and using it to share what I’m thinking about, working on, and into at the moment. Long ago I gave up the idea of making an income on my blog and the dream of having millions of hits each week. Instead, I’ve settled in, gotten comfortable with what I am able to offer here, and happy to have it as my “front porch in the Internet.”

Part of that settling in, was realizing I didn’t need to run my own self-hosted website any more, I didn’t need a server any more, and I don’t need to be doing PHP and behind-the-scenes coding. So a few weeks back I migrated from the WordPress.org self-hosted blog to WordPress.com. For those of you outside this terrain, I went from driving a manual transmission to an automatic. In this case, someone else is taking care of update software, plugins, etc. I pay for the service and I blog. At this point in my like, that works for me. Please excuse the broken links, weird formatting, etc. as I continue to work to update the site.

I hope you’ll continue to read along in the coming years. I’m not going anywhere and I’m going to continue to develop the material on this blog, opening up the themes more. I’m going to share and write about whatever you might find me talking about on my front porch, rather than limiting this to Quakerism or theology or academic topics. I have far more interests and ideas and energy and this seems like the best place to share them. In other words, I plan to go back to old school blogging.

You can subscribe to updates and get them in your email inbox anytime.

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance

Purchase Your Copy Here


Note from Wess:

Dear readers of Gathering In Light, my second book, “Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation as Resistance,” is now published as a paperback.

This edition of the book is updated with new material, a poem by Quaker poet Rashaun Sourles (@rashaunps), a foreward by Wes Howard-Brook, whose work I heavily draw on in my own book, and the afterword by Rev. Darryl Aaron, pastor of Providence Baptist Church, a historic African American Church here in Greensboro, NC.

The book is about the book of Revelation in the New Testament, the one so often used to predict terror, the end of the world, and wild conspiracy theories. It offers a different way into understanding what Revelation is about. If you’re someone who has avoided this book, had it used against you, or are interested in liberation theology reading of Revelation, I think you’ll be interested in Resisting Empire.

It would make for great book and small group studies and if you’re interested in having me speak about the topic in your meeting, church, or podcast hit the contact button above and I’d love to see what we can arrange.

Thanks for your support!
-Wess

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter: Resisting Empire, Remixing Faith


Purchase Your Copy Here

Ways to Connect with Wess: If you like this post and/or have feedback you think I should know about feel free to connect with me on Twitter and Telegram @cwdaniels