Every December I take a week off, usually off on a trip, and pause and reflect about the year that’s about to go. I review my objectives, lessons, skills and many other aspects of my life, and then use the review as a way to plan out in detail what do I want to do the next year and how can achieve that. I call this process my ‘Annual Review’.
Until now, I’ve always been doing the whole thing on paper – but times change, and for the first time I’m making the whole process digital. As I think it can add value to other people, I share it with you and added some short explanation for almost all points.
If you’re willing to do this as well, I just want to share some advice:
- Adapt the template. Keep the idea and the overall framework, but adapt the template to your life and your priorities. I’m a bit crazy, and definitely you can have a shorter and still effective review
- Don’t rush through this. You could very well finish everything in one long day, but it’s better to spread the process out – this way, you can sleep over ideas, lessons, and hopefully have a better judgement
- The review can be very specific. It’s likely you’ll have to look in your calendar, notes, emails add other documents to come up with the right things to put
- Remember that plans are just that – plans. You shouldn’t pass on a great opportunity when it comes up, even if it’s not thought for or included here
I’ll also appreciate if you’ve any comments on how to make this process better. Feel free to reach out to me in Twitter.
Wishing you a fantastic year,
Part I – The Review of 2014
1- The First Thoughts – Free Thinking
This is like a warm up. It’s to see what stuck in to your mind and what do you think are the highlights. You don’t need to write in any particular order, structure, or length.
1.1- What Went Good in 2014?
1.2- What Didn’t Go Good in 2014?
1.3 – The Month-by-Month Overview
Which were the highlights for each month? Trips, career moves, epic parties, family, anything that’s worth noting.
- January –
- February –
- March –
- April –
- May –
- June –
- July –
- August –
- September –
- October –
- November –
- December –
2- The Analysis of the 2014 Objectives
2.1 – The 2014 Objectives
I assume you had some goals from the past review. In this case, review each goal individually.
2.2 – Wins of 2014, Besides the Objectives
Here include all major accomplishments you didn’t plan for or expect at the beginning of the year. Use boxes as per below for the major wins and use the free writing space for the small or anecdotal wins.
3- Metrics for 2014
3.1 – Books, Audiobooks and Podcasts
List all the books, audiobooks, online courses, long-form podcasts and other non-school learning materials that you’ve gone through the past year. Also include 2-5 key takeaways that you applied or should apply in your life. If you can’t remember, go back to the book.
Total Books Read:
Aim to read at least 20 books a year. Ideally, many more – 30-50 is a much better objective.
Overall Feeling on Books
3.2 – Travels
List all your travels, by trip (so multiple countries can be part of the same trip). Note 2-5 key takeaways, especially lessons that made you a better person. Even if you leave for a trip at 8pm, count that day as part of the trip.
- Days on the Road –
- Total Countries –
- New Countries –
Overall Feeling on Trips
3.3 – New Skills
Here you add all the new skills (hard and soft) that you’ve developed through the past year. and their future application. It includes all-new skills but also ones you have progressed a lot as well. Write only the five most important on the table and use the space under it to highlight other skills worth noting.
Overall Feeling on Skills
3.4 – New Routines
Routines are the cornerstone of success. Here write which are the new routines you’ve started in the past year, their challenges and results.
Overall Feeling on Routines
3.5 – Relationships
3.5.1 – New Relationships
Who did you meet in the past year that made a difference in your life? Be clear on how they add value to you (lessons, etc).
3.5.2 – The 5 People You Spend Most of the Time With
It’s said that you are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. Who are the people you have talked the most with in the past year?
Overall Feeling on Relationships
3.6 – Finances
3.6.1 – The Financial Big Picture
In here you analyze how much was your net worth at the start and the end of the year. You also add the estimated monthly cashflow – the amount of money you receive every month regardless of your salary (via online/offline assets, financial instruments, etc)
- Net Worth in January 1, 2014 –
- Net Worth by December 31, 2014 –(XX% change)
- Estimated Monthly Cashflow, January 1, 2014 –
- Estimated Monthly Cashflow, December 31, 2014 –
Overall Feeling on Finances
3.6.2 – Financial Decisions
How did you spend your money? If you didn’t track this through the year, look at your bank or card statements.
Which were the top 5 single expenses in the past year?
3.7 – All Other Decisions
Here you write the most important decisions (career, business, relationships, etc) that you did in the past year their result.
4- Big Picture Analysis
4.1 – You 365 Days Ago vs. You Now
How do you differ from the person you were one year ago?
4.2 – Trends in Personality, Behavioral and Emotional Patterns
This includes broad trends in your day-to-day and way of thinking. For example, things like becoming minimalistic, criticizing too much, etc. Also include the subconscious patterns as well – perhaps you’ve been avoiding conflict or taking big decisions, for example.
4.3 – Status of My Relationship
How is it all going with your significant other (assuming you’ve one)?
4.4- Anything Else?
In case there’s anything else you didn’t capture above but you feel is important, put it here. It could be a another lesson, good ideas that came midway through the year, or anything that didn’t fit in the template above.
Part II – Current Status and Where You Want to Go
1- Taking a Step Back
1.1 – The Most Important Question in the Universe
What do you really want to get out of life?
1.2 – The Perfect Outcome
What does your perfect life in 2, 5, 10 years look like? Think big! It’s okay to be unrealistic. Be as detailed and specific as possible.
2- Self Analysis
2.1- Your Career / CV
Which assets (degrees, work experience, extracurricular) you’ve in your CV? Don’t focus on the skill themselves, but in what you can sell yourself for.
2.2 – Your Network and Friendships
2.2.1 – Friendships
How many good friends do you’ve? How many new friends have you made lately? Are you taking good care of your older relationships?
2.2.2 – Business Network
How would you describe your professional network? What opportunities (job offers, information exchange, etc) can you get from your network?
2.3 – Your Skills and Talents
What’s your super power? What are your skills and talents? Mark both the personal traits (self-confidence, good look) and the hard skills (you’re an Excel wizard, you’re fantastic speaker)
2.4 – Your Money and Material Resources
How much money and material resources (computer, camera, nice clothes) you’ve available right now?
2.5 – Your Health
How’s your health right now? How’s your body?
2.6 – Your Weaknesses
What are your real weak points? This is not the fluff you tell during job interviews, but the real deal. It can be both personal traits (lack of self-confidence, you are fat) and hard skills (you’re a horrible writer, bad in finance)
2.7 – Mapping Open Loops
What things in your life are still in the ‘mental shelf’ and waiting to be finished? Projects, commitments, relationships. Decide now whether to finish them or let them go and write the next steps.
2.8 – The Big Opportunities and Decisions Coming Up
What are your short-term opportunities and the important decisions you need to make within the next year?
3 – Connecting What You Are With What You Want to Be
3.1 – Compare – Current Situation vs. What You Want to Be
Above, you look into what you are and have now and what you want to get. Here, you compare how far off you are – and which are the steps you need to do to get closer.
3.2 – Identifying the Lead Dominos
You need to be very sharp and effective to get everything you want. Most importantly, you need to pick your battles right. In this case, identify which actions, when complete, will make the rest easier.
3.3 – Identify Trade-offs
You can’t have it all. In many cases, it will be inhumanly possible to do everything you want. You’ll need to choose, and here you need to identify which are these trade-offs and what side you’re going to pick.
Part III – Plans for 2015
1- Goal Setting
1.1 – The Keys for a Successful Year
What do you need to achieve in the coming year to get closer to your goals?
1.2 – The Objectives for 2015
1.2.1 – Everything You Want for 2015
If you’ve many goals and dreams for the coming year, put them all here. It’s expected that you won’t be able to do them all – but map them first.
1.2.2 – Prioritizing the Top Goals
Start with 3-4 primary goals and 3-4 secondary. This should be a subset of the list above. Set SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
Also think in ‘deep goals’. For example, “to get promoted” is a good goal, but it’s in the end your manager’s call. It’s better to look into all the things that would make getting a promotion “inevitable” and that are under your control and put them as your goal. This could vary, but it could be, in that example, beat all your stretch goals, arrange a certain number of coffee meetings, etc.
1.3 – The Not to Do List
What you shouldn’t do in the coming year? Knowing where not to focus is as important as knowing what you want to do. This list will likely include many points from the list in 1.2.1.
1.4 – Deconstruct Your Goals Into Routines
The only sure-proof way to achieve your goals is to move one step closer to them every day. If possible, put as a priority to start a routine or daily habit that will help you achieve the goal. For example, if you want to write a book it helps to write 1000 words every day.
1.4 – Metrics
Which metrics will you use to analyze your performance?
2- Planning the Coming Year
2.1 – The Theme of the Year
Which word/phrase summarizes what you want to do in the coming year? For example, this year could be the “year of focus”, “year of winning”, etc. The word should be your biggest driver and an every-day reminder of what you want to do for the coming year.
2.2 – The First Win
Which of your objectives can you achieve ASAP? Map it out, as the first win will help you get momentum.
Part IV – In Depth Business and Project Planning
This is where you write your plans into detail. You could expect a page or two per goal, detailing strategies and ideas on how to get to where you want to go. If you’re into startup, this is where you scribble short business plans as well.
Part V – Rules for Living / My Value System
Which are your “rules for life”? This could be, for example, to practice stoic thought, think anti-fragile scenarios, and other important values. Don’t fluff, but give actionable frameworks.