2009 Annual Review: Overview and Outline
This is the first in a series of five articles about my Annual Review. Every year since 2005 I’ve set aside an entire week in December to look back on the previous year and set goals for the next year.
This time I’m taking two weeks (it was an intense year!), but I’m also editing my book and outlining a couple of projects for January at the same time.
Last year I wrote a long post about the review process, and most of the info still applies. I’ll say a few other things here about the why and the how.
Why Is It Important to Plan?
A basic principle of life planning is that you can have anything you want, but not everything at the same time. You may have to give up something to achieve something else – so it’s better to know what’s most important to you in your own version of world domination.
Also, as Donald Miller says in his great new book, meaningful lives don’t just happen by accident. You have to make deliberate decisions at some point. If you know what you value and what you are working towards, it will be much easier to make the decisions.
Thus, I plan.
How Does It Work?
Again, last year’s post is about twice as long as this one and contains more details. But in short, the process can be broken down into three major steps.
Step 1: Review the Previous Year
Step 2: Outline Goals and Overall Focus for Next Year
Step 3: Make Decisions in Support of the Goals and Focus
I spend at least several hours working on each of these steps, especially #2 and #3. Here’s what each one looks like in brief:
Step 1: Review the Previous Year
I start by looking back at the year that’s coming to an end. What went well? What did not go well? I take an afternoon and write down at least 10 items for each category. I also go back and review all of the goals I set during the previous December. How did things work out?
If you’re feeling stuck or haven’t had a previous year’s goals to work with, these questions may help:
What disappointed me?
What surprised me?
Where did I excel?
Where did I fail?
Step 2: Outline Goals and Overall Focus for Next Year
The next step is the heart of the whole review. I go through a big list of categories, ranging from personal and family categories to various career, travel, and growth categories. For each category, I set an overall goal and 3-5 specific, measurable goals. You’ll probably want to make your own category list, but you can see mine from last year as a reference point.
I’ll share an example here from the Writing category:
2010 Writing Goals
Write 300,000 words and track progress through white board or spreadsheet.
Write 100+ blog posts, oriented towards legacy work (100,000)
Write one book (50,000 words)
Write one manifesto (10,000 words)
Write 6 Special Features (Magazines, Guest Posts, etc.) (6,000+)
Write 8 Oregonian Columns (660*8 = 5000)
Write 15 additional articles for CNN.com, HuffingtonPost, etc. (8,000)
[Plan to complete the rest through products, email list features, etc.]
Towards the end of the week, after I have 30-50 goals set in all the different categories, then I define the overall outcomes. One year from now, what do I want to have accomplished? I usually write this statement as a short paragraph. Last year’s was here:
Outcomes: At the end of 2009 I will have finished the manuscript for my first book and published 100 essays on the AONC site. I will have visited 20 new countries, recovered from my running injury to complete a fourth marathon (or two half-marathons), and built a new 50k/year small business that supports my primary writing goals.
Of course, I also have a number of other goals (30-50 total), but the list of outcomes highlights the big priorities.
Lastly, I choose a theme and purpose for the next year. For me, 2007 was the year of LEARNING as I finished my master’s degree and began this writing project. 2008 was the year of the REVOLUTION as I launched AONC and published A Brief Guide to World Domination. 2009 was the year of CONVERGENCE as I sought to tie together a number of areas of my life that had previously been quite distinct. (I wanted to fully transition to full-time writing without being distracted by a number of other commitments I had taken on.)
The theme and purpose usually comes as a result of the goals. Sometimes you may know intuitively what you need to do, but sometimes it takes a few days to think it through.
Step 3: Make Decisions in Support of the Goals and Focus
Once you know where you’re going, it’s much easier to plan the route. After setting the goals, you can then figure out how to make them happen.
If I have to get to 20 new countries next year, how will I do it? It’s getting harder and harder for me to visit more than two new countries on any given trip, so I’ll need to make some choices in support of the goal. Through two different promotions, I’ve got almost 400,000 new miles from U.S. Airways arriving in the spring. That will help. I’m also setting aside money in a special travel fund, so I don’t get stressed whenever I need to buy a Round-the-World plane ticket (one of my biggest expenses).
If you want to begin a new exercise program, what does it look like? For goals like exercise programs, it’s helpful to be as specific as possible. How many times a week will you work out, and for how long? How will you make sure you’re still doing it in May? What might stand in the way of keeping it going, and what can you do to ensure you don’t stop?
Are you depending on anything or anyone else for one of your goals? If so, it’s not really your goal. You can set a goal of applying to university and doing everything within your power to be accepted, but in the end, someone else will make the decision. It’s usually better to make sure the goals you set are within your control, so that you can take personal responsibility in making them happen.
Does it feel right? (When you look at what you’ve written, do you think “Yes! This is me!”?) Is there anything incongruent or missing in your plan? You know yourself better than anyone else does, so a quick gut check of everything you’ve outlined is helpful.
Note, however, that a certain amount of challenge and risk is good. You should feel a bit challenged by the goals you’ve set. If there’s not any chance of failure in at least some of your goals, consider rethinking what you’re really trying to accomplish. Maybe you can do more than you originally thought.
What If You Feel Resistant to Goal-Setting?
Lastly, I know that some people are generally resistant to this kind of active life planning. Why not take life as it comes? they say. You can’t plan for everything.
My sense is that people who are resistant to goal-setting may be looking at the wrong kind of goals. Goals should be personal and liberating, not generic or constricting. If you decide later that you don’t like something you put on your original list, you can always change it – but most years, you won’t have to do that very often.
My life is fairly structured in the sense that I know what I’m working towards, and I’ve made a number of sacrifices to achieve the goals I’ve set – but for the most part, I don’t feel like it’s restrictive in any way. I can wake up when I want, travel overseas for 12 weeks a year, spend my afternoons in coffee shops, and so on. If I wanted to do something different, I would – but as long as I keep challenging myself to take it up to a higher level each year, I’m fairly happy with how things are going.
That’s what it’s all about, and beginning the Annual Review five years ago was probably the most important process that’s helped me get to where I am now.
I’ll be working on this year’s version over the next two weeks. You’re more than welcome to join me in setting your own 2010 plans, using my model or your own way. Just remember: you have to make deliberate decisions at some point, and meaningful lives don’t happen by accident.
Warning: Don’t Just Read this Post
I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments here, but don’t keep them here. Consider posting your plans up on your own blog, with a link to this post (if you’d like) so that others can do the same. I’ll post all the blog trackbacks at the bottom of this article, but it may take a few days due to my limited internet access this week.
You can follow me on Twitter here
You can join AONC on Facebook here
Image by Subcess
I’ve just finished studying “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy. Full of simple, super practical stuff to help you plan out your tasks and life.
I recommend it to help with your planning.
Looking forward to the rest of your reviews.
I really like the notion of the “right” kind of goals. I think that’s very important. As for me, 2009 was nearly a whole year of review and wrapping things up – sometimes, these things just take a little longer. It was really helpful to spend so much time on it, as one might get really deadlocked. So yes, this process was good, and 2010 will be about reconstruction, to call it like that. I will certainly think more and write about my experiences and plans these days.
I think this is a very important process. Looking back at your past year is a good way to learn some helpful lessons (provided you look at it objectively and rationally). Then, you can use this know-how to plan the next year. At least once every year, it’s definitely worth it to do some serious planning. I’m doing this in a couple of days myself 🙂
I am going to be doing a review. I remember you talking about this in a few of your products or within the manifestos.
I have loose goals and I need to get serious and specific like your writing goals. That is hardcore and I am really impressed with your specifics there.
This post hit my inbox at just the right time— reflective moment, strange city, all alone. I’m looking forward to taking your challenge.
My 2009 Annual Review is located here.
Thank you for promoting this kind of active life planning. In my world we refer to the type of person who follows this exercise as someone who has an internal locus of control. They are the type of person who believes they are in control of their life rather than letting the outside environment control them. I hope many of your readers choose to take on your challenge and complete their own personal review. I know I will.
I’m really glad you’re planning to spend so much time on goal setting this year.
I agree that people that are resistant to planning are that way because they’re looking at goals in too generic a light. I was exactly like this until recently.
When we talk about becoming remarkable, we often talk about facing our fears. Goal setting and planning, I’ve found, is the best way for me to face a major limiting fear.
You remove the feeling of jumping off of a cliff by outlining exactly how you’ll navigate and, if you’re really scared, you can spend all the time you need setting up an exit strategy.
Anything you can do to eliminate barriers is worth it in my opinion.
This is wonderful stuff. I like the concept of creating a road map for the year and then following throughout the next 12 months.
I can’t wait to get started on this later in the week.
Awesome post Chris. I am jealous of your organization!
This is some of the most useful, specific information about goal-setting that I’ve ever come across, and mostly I just want to say thanks for that. All too often, especially at this time of year, this kind of thing comes across with a bit of a patronizing ‘you should really set some goals for the coming year’ and not much substance in terms of how one might approach that sort of thing if it doesn’t come naturally…
Which it doesn’t, to me; I’ve got a number of significant and challenging projects underway and I fully intend for 2010 to be a major year in terms of personal and professional development, but have I sat down and put it together in one place on paper and looked seriously at what commitments and sacrifices will be necessary to acheive it? Errr… not yet.
So, thanks for the kick in the pants, for the thoughtful and structured approach to planning and, as always, your straightforward and matter-of-fact presentation. Happy travels!
It’s good to make goals but it’s also important to be able to adapt them, add new ones, take away old ones and even kill them sometimes. Not everything you try will work. Not everything you do will be worthwhile. You will not be the same man at the end of the year as you were at the beginning.
Most of all if you don’t achieve everything don’t blame yourself. You tried but there’s only so much you can do in one year. Most of all your have to enjoy life and live in the present.
Have a fab year and good luck with all your plans:)
perfect timing – I am working on my strategic plan for 2010 and although it’s hard to sit down and complete it, I will have a great framework to look at to help me make business decisions next year. I try to work on it in small chunks every day so I can take some time to think about what I wrote. I will send this post out to others who are self employed to give them courage! Thanks
“Meaningful lives don’t just happen by accident. You have to make deliberate decisions at some point.” -Donald Miller
Great quote from the book.
Just like writing your personal manifesto acts as a GPS for your life (you write out your values, beliefs, what you strive for, etc.), it seems writing your annual review is a GPS for your goals. Once you input where you want to be, it tells you what you need to do to get there.
You could drive around aimlessly, without a map, trying to get there, but it’ll take MUCH longer and you’ll unlikely reach your goal.
Thank you for reminding and inspiring me to take an annual review more seriously. I’ve never thought about it before, but will certainly attempt one now. And I’ll definitely share on my site (and link back here of course 🙂 ).
Stay warm and enjoy the rest of your vacation,
I did my first annual review last year and the results were fantastic. I’m not generally a goal-setter and I now know I’m a Scanner (Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher), so this template suits me. I can define my own categories and keep track of all the different projects I have going. Last year was the year of Independence where I quit my job and wrote a book. This year is looking like the year of 100% or Challenge and I’ll be publishing, finishing my second book and recording a CD of new original songs. Thanks for keeping us on our toes Chris.
Thanks for this, Chris. I have all my goals for this year posted on my blog and am excited to do my first annual review this year. When I do, I’ll definitely link back to you. Congrats on an excellent year, too!
Like some of the others, I enjoyed this line. “My sense is that people who are resistant to goal-setting may be looking at the wrong kind of goals. Goals should be personal and liberating, not generic or constricting.”
People probably associate it with conventional jobs (I do!) where the goals are given to employees and often don’t make any sense or encourage creativity. They are put in place for the review six months down the road, so there is something to quantitative to measure. Almost a giant corporate to do list.
Maybe goals needs a different name for Unconventional Life Strategies?
My main purpose is to “live while I’m alive.” That’s the movement I’m working on.
Thx! Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel
Thanks for sharing this, Chris. It’s useful to me to see others goals, etc. because I can get a little lackadaisical with mine at times. It gives me a big kick in the butt and I end up thinking I can probably add a little more.
Tremendous luck, peace, and prosperity to you in the new year.
Every successful person I know sets goals in one fashion or another. I see a goal as a target and if you don’t have a target how will you ever hit much less know what you’re shooting at.
Having said that this has always been a challenge for me. Not so much that I am against goal setting but more that Its challenging for me to think back specifically about what has happened the past year and what I want to do the upcoming year.
Thanks alot Chris this was some great information.
Once again you are rocking my world. I have been trying to do this in a hodge podge way for quite a while. This week I will be sitting down and doing a real annual review.
No more wishing things would have turned out better. With the annual review I will understand where I had issues and why, and be able to overcome those obstacles to maximize my freedom.
Today I must admit it I found that this subject matter exhausted me. I have been trying to let go of conventional approaches to goals and goal setting lately. I realize a calendar year is the “normal” time in which we measure our successes. I have been doing that for a long,long time and by every measure I am successful.
That being said it is no longer satisfying. I am looking for something deeper. How about “did I propel anyone into a better place by my actions?” or How many times did I keep my mouth shut when I could have told them my way of doing it? or How did I create positive energy around my office/home? or How many times did I go out of my way to reuse an item? I am a non conformist and today I found your goal setting approach exactly the same as all the “conformists”. Usually, your approaches are not as mainstream. Today I sent my thoughts instead of just thinking them. Now I will place a check mark beside one of my all the time goals.
I’ve done a similar thing two years in a row now and my next planning session will be done the days between Christmas and New Years (a very slow and nice time at work). I do the planning separately for my work and for my personal life.
Annabel is right, it is important to adapt. Two weeks after I had set the goals for work last year a major reorg was announced which changed a lot. A couple of months into the year I went through a divorce (certainly not planned in the beginning of the year). It is good to plan and have a goal to move forward to but be prepared for the curve balls that life throws at you :-).
I see my goal setting more as making my thinking more concrete .. one step away from a dream and closer to action.
What stood out most for me is the fact you are taking two weeks this year to access this year and plan for 2010. It’s clear the few hours I took last year to simply reflect on my year just doesn’t cut it. Just the kick in the head (it’s OK I was wearing a helmet) I needed to take this activity much more seriously and more deliberately.
ps…I might have missed an email but do you still do your Sunday updates or has that moved to the new site?
Yaaaaay! All the poking and prodding finally worked. We’ll wrest a full-on product out of you for this yet, young man.
I’m far less disciplined than Chris in the follow-through part, but I have done a very similar kind of annual review using Ginny Ditzler’s Best Year Yet system. The book walks you through the whole process, so if you’re looking for a little more hand-holding than you get from this post and Chris’ other post, it may be helpful. (Fair warning: it says the process will take a few hours, but in reality, it takes a few days).
The amazing thing is that even without actively reviewing the goals, I manage to hit roughly half of them most years. There is something magical about turning your full attention to something, and getting stuff down on paper.
2010’s going to be a big year for me… Especially with a move in the middle, figuring something out with school and facing unemployment for a while. It would definitely do me some good to write down what sort of things I’d like to accomplish, so that I don’t lose my sense of direction in the pending chaos.
yes! i am working on this for myself right now, and putting together a goal and intention setting workshop that i am giving in january called “make it happen in 2010”. i love all the magic and energy around making dreams happen.
Great tip. Writing things down helps us to keep motivated.
I have a weekly review where i plan the next week, but yearly plans and a yearly review should help me keep more focussed.
I really need to put some of this into practice. I think too many people just expect change to happen in their life, but it doesn’t really work like that. Goal setting is an integral part of self development. A lot of it is laziness too (unfortunately). It’s obviously easier not to set any goals. Doing what you’re doing requires time and self-reflection. It takes work and it’s not easy, but the rewards of writing down your goals and tracking them is worth it.
If you practice consistent goal setting your are the driver of your life. You’re living your life instead of ‘being lived,’ if that makes sense.
I have been doing year reviews and coming year focusing for several years. Unfortunately those terms do not adequately convey what actually takes place but it has been very useful and helped me move through a very rough time when hard goals and plans were not feasible. Now that I have fewer and fewer unknowns to allow caveats for I feel I can really make some goals to strive for this coming year.
Thanks for sharing your goals with us. I need to start thinking about this too. I generally try to take the last few days of the year to reflect on my life and set some goals for the new year. They are usually general goals for things I would like to accomplish in a few areas of my health (exercise, lay off the sugar), finances (save, pay off debt), etc.
I also try to learn something new each year. A few years ago, I learned how to make bread from scratch. This year I want to learn HTML & CSS for my blog’s design. I will come up with some more specific goals later this month.
My wife and her friends started the review about twenty five years ago and still get together to compare notes with each other. It has helped them to excel in each of their fields that they work in. You always need to plan for success because no one is going to do it for you. I have found that people spend more time planning a vacation and not their life and wonder why stuff happens. I started after my wife taught the old dog some new tricks. Best of luck to all over the holidays and the New Year.
Thank you – I’m the same as some of the above commentators – I don’t necessarily goal set – OK apart from the drunken 1 Jan of lose weight and get fit – broken by Jan 2 normally! 30-50 goals???? Thats extraordinary I’ve really only ever had 1 or 2 goals at a time – they tend to be quite big e.g. camp around Australia for 6 months – (achieved that one!) – but I never thought to do so much detailed planning – off to have a think
I’ve been setting goals for many years. I’m 79 & still making them. Of course they’re not the same as 30 or 40 years ago. I make mine on my birthday which is Oct. 28. April 28 is my half year birthday. At that time, I review the past 6 months & write what has & hasn’t been acomplished.
Right on! Looking forward to reviewing the list of what I am grateful for this past year AND for 2010: 1. what I am willing to receive 2. what I am willing to focus on and accomplish 3. what I am willing to look forward to beyond 2010…
Thanks Chris, always a pleasure to hear your insights and inspiration!
With the active lifestyle and goal setting you do, how do you keep track of it all? Do you simply write your goals down on a legal pad, or do you use a “professional” system to record, track, and monitor your goals? I’ve yet to find the ideal “system” for myself.
Thanks Chris! As usual, I’ve been inspired. I’m starting today to keep track of my very small business’s income with an iPhone app called Balance.
Well done Chris, personally I think that you have made a lot of progress in a year or so.
Some people often attribute success to lady luck, but one look at your achieved goals from last year shows the kind of deliberation, inspiration AND perspiration that it takes to get ahead today.
Hat off to you mate, I hope that you get some down time over Christmas to kick back and revel in the feelings of a good year, superbly executed!
I’m stuck. Your post makes sense but I can’t seem to make goals. I go blank. I’m well read but don’t DO! I’ve got “analysis paralysis”. Don’t know how/where to begin… I’ve built myself into a box. I’m going to focus on making a 2010 plan to launch my business.
Timely post and relevant to the time of the year. December is a great month for a brief pause and deep reflection. I like what Zig Ziglar says, – “you can not hit a target you do not have.”
Hope your new year is compelling and full of further success –
I love the way you lay this out and stress to make the goals personal and expansive. This is such a great way to lay the energetic ground work for the coming year.
I used to resist doing this kind of thing because I did not know exactly what I wanted things to look like, or how I would “make” them happen. Now I know that it is half the fun to put my desire and wants out there and see how they ‘magically’ begin to unfold. It all be4comes clear as I go along…but I have to put it out there to begin with.
I now know why *all* – ok! almost all – new year resolutions fail. Not enough planning; not enough thinking through. Great post.
Great post Chris.
I implemented your annual review “system” last year. I spent about 3 days working on mine, and then I neglected to complete the quarterly reviews.
A few days ago I pulled the plan out and was astonished at how many of my goals I have accomplish in 2009.
Maybe, my subconscious held me accountable?
Great article. I have tried to also set goals each year (with mixed success.) I think having a structured approach really helps. One construct that has helped me during this process is to think in terms of roles. I ma a list of what roles are important to me. They can be specific or generic: Father & Family member, Writer, Leader at Church, Business Owner at … I like to then picture where each role will be 5 or more years out and in the next year. I think this goes somewhere between steps 1 and 2 in your overall process. With this list, then goals can be set and worked toward for each role.
Thanks for sharing.
just wanted to say i found this post particularly helpful. likewise your daily ass-kickings. thx.
Really great article. Have been browsing your blog for a while now but this post really was inspiring. My christmas holidays are coming soon, and its your advice Im going to follow!
Seeing some familiar names among the commenters — howdy Fabian!
I started my own annual planning process today. I’m not so interested in visiting large numbers of countries as I am in establishing a long-term presence in a couple of different places. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll really be able to accomplish it in one year, but I’m thinking my “theme” for 2010 may revolve around establishing a (business & social) foothold on three continents….
Chris, the subject of your post could not be more timely. I have a 4-month old and have started using daily goal setting order to prioritize and accomplish the things I need to do. Creating a overall year plan is something I am excited about.
I’m pretty sure this post is changing my life.
I recently did your annual review and planning using the method from a great book called “Your Best Year Yet” by Jinny Ditzler. I have decided on my 10 main goals for 2010 and I’m excited to make them happen!
Great posts on the Annual Review theme – the whole exercise inspired me so much, I adapted it for a creative coaching for writers group I run here in Andalucia – here’s a link.
We had great fun working through the process and we’ve now all got a personal Theme or title for 2010. What a great way to take charge and direct your own life/creativity – it’s as if you were in the middle of writing a novel or screenplay, and you’ve got the previous chapter down already; now you’re writing the next scene. It can really engage your imagination and help you focus on what’s most important to you.
And my favorite indulgent question – if you could go ANYWHERE in the world (in 2010), where would you go? NYC, Tokyo, Madrid, Southern India, San Francisco, Toronto & Sitges are on my list already.
Thanks for turning a potentially dull process into an engaging and inspiring treat and big thanks for sharing…
Have a great 2010!! Felicidades!
Like others, I love the level of detail you include here. I guess a great blog post and a great goal plan are similar in some ways – it’s so important to have a clear plan with specific steps if you want to accomplish anything!
Thanks so much for the post!
great post! I read it when it came out and have been thinking about your method since. I applied it over the christmas holidays to my photography business and ended up posting a summary of my review on my blog.
I will now set my goals for 2010 and monitor my progress. Your approach has inspired me to improve the way I manage my business and targets. Thanks a million!!
After a really great week off of work for holidays I feel so refreshed and enlightened heading into the new year. However, I was feeling as though I needed to somehow put these feelings and ambitions into words. Thanks a lot for helping me find a way to do that, I will be sure to let you know how it works.
Chris, I’ve been reading through your site for a couple months and this post stayed with me. Well, for the past couple weeks I have been working on my own annual review and after much revision, I put it up today (of course with a link back to you at the top!). Don’t really know where the events of 2010 will lead, but I wanted to thank you for helping inspire some of the first steps.
Keep up the good work!
I had some success last year with journalling. I am going to do it at the end of each thankful walk I do 3 times a week. Me my walker and note book. It helps toward losing the 50 pounds. Hopefully I will lose the need for the walker too.
Great post and reminder to have written measurable goals.
Really liked the points here about setting a theme for the year and setting goals that you know you can attain and have full control over. Those two things made me rethink my whole process and really narrow my focus to what I really want to accomplish next year.
Do you have a blog? I have a poetry blog. =) If so, what’s your link so I can check it out and follow you. =). I already have one started. =).
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