2016 Annual Review: How to give yourself an annual review

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Have you considered giving yourself an annual review?  Performing regular personal reviews is excellent for improving your accountability for accomplishing your life goals.  January is here so it is time for me to start going through my annual review process and setting my goals for 2017.

I have been lucky this year that I had the week after Christmas off so I was able to build in review time.  My annual review process takes at least a day.  If you would like to do your own annual review, I recommend going somewhere quiet where there are no distractions.  If the holidays are too chaotic, consider following Dave Seah’s advice and set your goals for the new year on Groundhog Day.

My annual review process consists of three steps:

  1. Review my journal entries for the year
  2. List three successes and three failures for the year
  3. Set three goals for next year

Review journal entries for the year

Journaling is essential to my review process.  Keeping a daily journal can seem like a daunting task, but I have simplified the process to make it fairly easy and quick.

For the past two years, I have used Evernote as my primary journaling system.  I use a hybrid template that I have adapted from Michael Hyatt’s journaling template and the Asian Efficiency journaling template.

I use an IFTTT script to copy the weather and any social media updates that I post into Evernote in a Captain’s Log. I have written about the Captain’s Log in this post on Evernote tips and tricks.  Every night, I copy that entry into a new daily journal entry using Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C, and Ctrl+V.  Then I copy in the rest of the template which I keep in a separate template entry using the same key combination. I used to update directly into the Captain’s Log, but if I made any late night social media updates, the entry would be deleted by IFTTT during the update.  So now I copy the Captain’s Log into a new note.

By having a template, it’s easy to copy and paste into a new note which I can change quickly.  The benefit of a template is that it makes the amount of effort needed to keep a journal minimal.  However, there are pitfalls which I will discuss in my 2016 failures section.

Find A Quiet Place For Your Review

As part of my annual review, I go to a quiet place and read every entry that I wrote during the year.  I try to keep an open  mind while I am reading and read through every entry without judgment.  I keep a notepad next to me.  If an idea pops into my head while I am reading my entries, I make a note of the idea and keep reading.

List Three Successes and Three Failures for Year

After I have finished reading all of my entries, I spend at least an hour writing about how I felt about the past year.  Using my notepad as a starting point, I free write any ideas that pop into my head.  After I have finished reflecting, I select my three biggest successes and three biggest failures for the year.

I start out my review by celebrating my successes.  After reading all of my journal entries, I have a good idea on what I worked on during the year.

After I have identified my three big wins for the year, my next task is to focus on what needs to be improved for next year.  By looking at failures as opportunities for improvement, I keep a growth mindset and learn from my mistakes.

Here is my personal review for 2016:


What Was Awesome About 2016

Trip to Japan

My biggest success this year was my trip to Japan.  Traveling alone to a country where I didn’t the speak the language fluently was a huge step outside of my comfort zone.  The trip was about pushing myself and testing my ability to speak and understand Japanese.  I successfully survived in another country.  I also learned a lot about how to handle jet lag and function as well as how to plan a trip.

Improved Journaling

My goal this year was to journal every day.  When reading through my journal,  I counted 337 journal entries. This isn’t perfect but it’s better than earlier years.   Thanks to my journal entries, I have a good idea where I spent my time this year and where I should spend time next year.   On review, my system broke down when I was traveling.  As part of my annual review, I brainstormed new methods for improving my journaling process.  I will be covering my updated journaling method in an upcoming post if you are interested.

Better at Personal Review

My biggest personal success in 2016 was becoming better at setting goals for the week and taking the time every week to do a personal review.  At first it was difficult to spend the extra time doing the review at the end of the week.  However, I soon discovered that it made it easier to start the work week efficiently.   Holding a weekly review also made it easier to make sure that I was on track for meeting important goals.

What I Need to Improve in 2017

Study German

My focus in 2016 was improving my Japanese.  I made progress in learning kanji and understanding and writing Japanese.  I also managed to communicate in Japan.  However,  my focus on Japanese meant that I didn’t practice German as often.

Increase Focus on Health

Last year I stopped logging food and was not as regular with working out.  Next year, the goal is to eat less processed food and focus on yoga and strength training.

Write More Fiction

Thanks to blogging and journaling, I wrote a lot in 2016.  However, I didn’t write much fiction.  I still need to finish the novel that I am working on, and I have several short stories in draft stages.  One of my goals is to dedicate time every day to writing fiction.

Your Turn:

What did you enjoy in 2016?  What did you learn?  Let me know your goals in the comments!


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