Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe”. So, if it’s good enough for honest Abe to spend a good chunk of time preparing, it’s good enough for you and me, too.
I’m not a terribly organized person, but I do have a few habits (or cheats) that help me overcome that — and one of those is planning. On a daily and weekly basis, this takes the form of planning each day (I use Michael Hyatt & Co. Full Focus Planner) by listing out the three biggest, most-pressing tasks for the day and then working out how to integrate them into my day. Annually, however, I like to take a “step back” and also spend a bit of time “looking forward”. In other words, spend some time reviewing and some time planning.
I’m sharing the framework I use here in the hopes that it’s helpful to you.
The first thing to say about my process is that it’s not complicated. That’s important to me for a number of reasons. As I’ve already mentioned I’m not particularly organized, so a complex or long process wouldn’t work for me. Additionally, I have a fairly demanding “day job” and I’m a dad with a demanding and active 20-month-old!
- What went well this year? What are you proud of this year? Why?
- What didn’t go so well this year? Why? Out of what you can control, how can you avoid this going poorly moving forward?
- What remains unfinished as you reflect on the year?
- How would you score yourself on a scale of 1–10 in the following areas: Family; Finances; Health; Friends; Personal Growth; Fun/recreation; Career?
- Reflect on the past year. When were you most inspired? When were you happiest? When were you most fulfilled?
My goal for the “stepping back” section is to feel like I have taken a fair, balanced look at the year that has been. If I’ve done it right typically I will have identified things that have made me proud as well as things that perhaps didn’t go quite to plan.
The important thing to note, however, is that when things don’t go to plan or don’t turn out as expected I understand why that has happened. What were the situations, inputs, or decisions that led to an unfavorable outcome? This gives me insight that I can easily carry into my “looking forward” portion of the review.
- What are you most excited about as you look into 2021?
- What are you working on that is important in 2021? Why is it important? (work doesn’t need to be narrowly defined as your job in this instance, it could mean your family, a side hustle, something related to your development…whatever makes sense in your context)
- As you look into 2021 are you likely to spend the majority of your time on things that energize you or drain you? Why? Can you shift it more towards energizing in any way?
- How are you preparing to achieve what you want in 2021?
- How are you preparing to be where you want in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
My goal for the “looking forward” section is to feel inspiring and stretched by what’s on the slate for the coming year. It should feel aspirational and a little bit scary — that’s the magic blend! Additionally, I like to look forward beyond just the current year — that way I can connect what I’m doing in 2021 with what I’d like my life to be like in 2031!
Of course, answering these questions isn’t a silver bullet. It’s not going to make you have a more productive year in isolation. However, I have found that using this framework has given me appropriate reflection and motivation to turn my overall annual aspirations into concrete daily actions.
That’s it! As I said, it’s a pretty simple framework but I’ve found it useful in providing some scaffolding for my preparations for the coming year.
Wishing you all a successful year, whatever you turn your attention to.