At the end of every work year, we usually have an annual review – mostly to answer questions such as: Did we meet our goals? What went well? What didn’t? It’s basic, but answering these simple questions helps a lot in setting the direction for the coming year.
So I wondered, why am I not doing this for my life? Then I discovered Chris Guillebeau, who conducted personal Annual Reviews for his life for the last ten years. I’ve actually tried it once before – but it was far too detailed that I didn’t follow through. This year, I’ve made another version, this time around not diving too deep, and mostly ripping off Chris’ format and making it my own.
This is the template that I came up with: My Life Goals Template. Take note that this is just a template – not my actual goals. I think I’ll have to keep those for myself! But I have listed some examples in case you get mind blocked.
Here is my process, explained in detail.
Theme of the Year
For the past seven years, I’ve been writing New Year’s Wishes addressed to a fictional You (which is actually myself). It’s my version of reviewing the previous year – memorable moments, challenges, successes, and experiments (such as the time I decided to fast from social media for 30 days). Those learnings then set my theme for the coming year, written in the form of a wish.
For 2018, my theme is: Be Bold As F*ck. I simply extracted this, and placed it at the top of my goals template.
It is a short, inspirational message that serves as a reminder of what mindset I should have, and steers my every day decisions and actions. If you can’t think of a theme, go ahead and borrow a motivational quote from the interwebs, or leave it blank for now. Perhaps it will magically appear in your mind after you’ve written all your goals.
Most of the time, I find myself just wanting to do everything. Every damned thing. I realize, of course, that it’s not possible. There’s a certain limit to our time, space and energy, making it important to ruthlessly prioritize and filter out the non-negotiable from the less relevant. That being said, I pick certain aspects of my life I want to prioritize, and then lump them into categories.
This will vary per person, but in my case, I came up with six:
- Career and Business
- Health and Wellness
- Wealth and Finance
- Writing and Reading
- Travel and Experiences
- Family and Friends
For each of the above, I also set a theme. It’s not really needed, but I like themes. If you don’t think it will work for you, feel free to omit it. Or yet again, borrow some silly words from the interwebs.
For every category, I list down my goals. Cliche as it may sound, goals need to be SMART – as in the popular HR acronym, meaning: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. The time frame for most goals is one year, but if you have some goals that you’d like to achieve sooner, that’s fine too. You can even create another column labeled “Deadline”. I didn’t do this, as I wanted the flexibility to spread out my actions and change my plans throughout the year.
I indicated 3-5 goals for every category, also ruthlessly prioritized. In line with my theme, many of my goals are a bit of a stretch – especially those that I’ve told myself I’d do for so long and never did. Like writing. Right now it’s almost midnight and I’m still typing this while everyone’s gone to sleep. It is doable, yes, but I have to really stretch myself and carve out the time.
If I want to get even more challenged, I set some bonus goals. They are second priority, but it is good to have them in mind in case I end up having more space and resource.
The most important part is this: What must I do to achieve my goals? For every goal, I list all the actions that are required for me to achieve it. In other words, my next steps. For example, do I need to enroll in a class? Study a particular topic? Plan a trip? Stop eating junk? Delete my social media apps?
At least one of the actions listed should be immediately doable, so there is absolutely no excuse not to do anything. FYI – staring at the ceiling and waiting is NOT an action!
On the rightmost part of the sheet is the Review column. This can be monthly, quarterly, or whatever you think will work best for you. I’ve made mine quarterly because I figured having to check every 30 days might be too much work, and may lead to frustration if I end up not seeing enough movement in some of the items. Keep in mind that the goals are long term… Which means for most of them, there will be no quick and easy fix. So maybe you can focus on a few items in one month, and have no progress at all on others. Don’t get frustrated – it’s all fine. They say we overestimate what can be done in one day, and underestimate what can be done in one year.
For example, I did a quick review at the end of January. Because I started my year with travel, I’ve made some progress on the “Travel and Exploration” and “Writing and Reading” categories, and have done awfully in terms of “Family and Friends” and “Health and Wellness”. But that’s fine! I can focus on those others the next months.
At the end of the year, the plan is to do a personal Annual Review. As Chris would advice, you’re typically not supposed to get a perfect score or 100%. As they say, “If you shoot for the moon, even if you fall short, you’ll land among the stars.”
I surely hope I aimed high enough. (And if not, I can always stretch it even more later.)