2014 Annual Review: Introduction

I am a big believer in reviews. It’s hard to be critical but one of the most important lessons I learned as a member of Engineers Without Borders Canada is the power of reflection and of acknowledging your own failures. They even publish a Failure Report every year, along with their Annual Report, which in my books makes them one of the best organizations out there! This coming year, I really want to make the very best version of myself. Not through New Year’s Resolutions but rather through targeted goal-setting and strategy. After all, I only have 2.5 years until I’m 30 and there’s a lot to be done! It’s also Annual Review season at work and giving feedback to others helped me to realize that I need to give myself an review of my own life!

I am loosely following Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review format. Basically, Chris asks himself two questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What did not go well this year?

You should answer these on things you have control over. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on control that you might be interested in reading.

Do An Initial Brainstorm in Trying to answer those two questions

A few weeks ago, I sat down and brainstormed as many things as possible to answer those two questions. In the end, I felt a little overwhelmed and felt like I had not really come up with as many specific example as I might have.

So, I looked over the list, and tried to group them together in buckets, sections, categories- whatever you want to call them. Don’t get lost in the semantics. That’s not the important part!

Break down Your Life into a Few Buckets That Reflect the Whole

Instead of thinking about answering things in your whole life (which can be overwhelming) I have broken down my life into buckets that I want to look at over the past few weeks. You should feel free to break down your life into the categories that make the most sense to you! Mine are:

  • Relationships
  • Work & Professional Development
  • Service
  • Health & Spirit (My Body, My Soul)
  • Finance
  • Passion Projects
  • Travel

Over the next few posts, I will be sharing with you “What went well” and “What did not go well” in each of these buckets. Using these learning, I will then be able to move forward and understand what were the ups and downs during the year.

Setting Measurable Targets

I will then set anywhere form 2-5 targets for each of these categories and the break down the target into manageable chunks that make sense to me. I know that lots of people use the SMART format for goal making (SMART is an acronym for Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely.). I’m still unsure whether I’ll use the framework because I find it a bit intimidating but then again, if we can’t break it down, goals are usually difficult to keep.

Setting Up Actions for Achievement

For each target, you need to set up a strategy for getting there! So for each target, sit down and think about what it is that you need to do in order to achieve it. You can use either the major actions or micro-tasks- it depends on you! For me, I do a list of micro actions for projects I have more control over and bigger actions for other things.

I write down all the actions on small pieces of paper and divide them into months depending on when I want to accomplish something by. That way, for each month, I have a list of things I should go and I schedule it into the week.


Despite my dislike of numbers (no need to be so damn rational all the time), I do admit that numbers help in looking back and ensuring that things are being kept up to date. In my “2014” folder on my computer, I will also keep track of metrics that are related to my goals- whether they are financial (how much did I earn, how much did I save), or how many blog posts have I written, how many new places have I visited? Things like that so I can do a fun compilation at the end of the year — I see an infographic in my (and your) future!

Include Review Times

In my giant calendar, I also include one time every month where I dedicate an hour to making sure my actions are on track and do a baby review.

You can spend a bit longer every few months and update the calendar as needed.

Theme for the Year

Chris does a theme for the Year which is kind of like a Mission Statement for the year. I might or do this because I’m afraid of getting stuck on semantics. But I do like the idea of an over-arching vision for the year ahead. I’m still thinking on this one but maybe it will emerge after the weekend is over.

Finishing (or Beginning) Thoughts!

I’m taking the weekend to do this but have been thinking and working on it over about 2 weeks now. Please, do yourself a favor. Tune out of the world, focus on yourself and who knows all the awesome things that will happen in the coming year. It will be the best year ever. I can feel it.

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