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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 or subscribe via email by clicking here.

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Conducting an Annual Review

I posted this article last year on a different blog. It’s still pretty useful and worth sharing here for those of you interested in doing an annual review or learning about the process I follow. Some things have adapted or changed for me in the past year but this is still generally what I am following.

Since taking Tiago Forte’s exceptional course on personal knowledge management, Building a Second Brain, this past summer, I have not only seen and put into practice the morning, weekly and monthly reviews, I have tried to use them to build new habits into my life.

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Reviews

Besides learning and putting into practice things such as, Progressive Summarization, P.A.R.A. and “Just in Time Project Management,” that are core to Tiago’s Personal Knowledge Management’s curriculum, the practice of “reviewing” my work, specifically the morning review , where I put into practices the principles noted in Forte’s Zero Inbox Post, has had a greater impact on my work life more than anything else I’ve done, maybe ever.

Here is an example of my Morning Review, based largely off of Tiago’s system with a few tweaks of my own.

I take Tiago’s advice and use the sticky app on my mac. I like it because I don’t use stickies for anything but my different reviews. When I wake up in the morning all I need to remember to do is open stickies, and then I just go step by step. This works well for me because when I wake up in the morning I need as low a threshold as possible to help me get started. “Open Stickies” and “Go step by step through the list” is a pretty low threshold.