What You Must Know Before You Review 2014 and Plan 2015
It is December. You want to evaluate 2014 and plan for 2015. But how? How much time will it require? And what key do’s and don’t’s should you follow? Below are key principles to help you in this important exercise as a leader.
It is imperative to be consistent with disciplines that will help move us forward as individuals. One of those is the periodic reviewing of what we have done, how we did, and what we want to do differently in the future. These are key rest stations in our journey where we stop to ask core questions of ourselves. If we are able to navigate these questions effectively, the answers can shape our lives and the lives of those we lead.
Of course this review does not have to be done at the end of the year. As a matter of fact, we should practice it to varying degrees of intensity and depth weekly, monthly, quarterly, biannually—and annually. There are many ways to approach this evaluation, depending on how intentional we want to be in our lives. Like many people, I like to take time each year, in December, to conduct a personal review and solidify my plan for the coming year. Here are what I believe to be the key principles to help us in this time of reflection and strategizing.
1. Block time on your calendar.
The first step may be the most important for most of us. After all, even if you block time, but do nothing else to prepare, you will still be able to figure out how to reflect and review once you sit down and start thinking. But if the time is never blocked out, forget about it. Your review will most likely not happen at all; or if it does, it will be abbreviated and constrained. This step is so vital to me, that I encourage you to pause your reading, and do it at the end of this section. Go to your calendar, and block time to think. The following will be a guide as to how much time you may need.
- Aim to block at least five hours, possibly three 1.5 hour increments over a one to two week period. That way, you will have time to start the process and have a few days to sleep on it, and then continue. But, I believe five hours is a minimum. You may want to set aside as much as a week, or somewhere in between.
- This must be “alone time.” Don’t allow emails, phone, or other interruptions. During these times, I usually set my phone to “airplane mode” for three to four hours at a time. I then stop, check my phone, and then do another session.
- Choose a location that will be free from distractions. If you can afford to go somewhere, travel to an inspiring destination. Or simply lock yourself in your office or room.
- This is not a time to sort through your projects. This is a time specifically for thinking and reflecting, for planning and strategizing. For me, part of this time usually involves some inspirational reading, and seeking God’s presence and praying for wisdom.
Take a few minutes now if you can, and go to your calendar to block that time.
2. Review the goals you had set for the current year.
Now, imagine you are in your favorite spot in Colorado, looking at the snow-capped mountains. Your phone is set to “airplane mode” or “do not disturb.” You have your journal, your computer, your calendar, or whatever method you use to record and manage your life.
Pull up your goals for this past year. Take time to reflect on what you have achieved, and what you have not. Assess slowly and carefully. Which principles propelled you toward achieving your goals? And in the areas which you fell short, what held you back? What lessons can be learned? You should write these things down for your future reference.
In the back of my journal, I keep a log of lessons I have learned that I need to remember. You may want to try that, or come up with another system to review the life lessons you are acquiring. The key is to extract lessons learned and put them into words that you can read and reflect upon periodically.
3. Reflect on everything that happened this year.
Go month-by-month through 2014. Literally, read through your calendar and make a list of everything you did: where you traveled, who you met, key events at work and in your personal life. Divide it monthly if you would like. Then rate each event on a scale of one to five. (1: terrible, 2: bad, 3: average, 4: good, 5: amazing). After you rate each, then try to extract the principle that made each experience good, bad, or average.
For example, I went to Guatemala this year with Buckner International to visit orphanages. I rated this as a 5 because it was an amazing trip for me, both personally and spiritually. Two principles that I extracted from this trip are: “I did something I have never done before.” And, “I allowed people that are doing something extraordinary into my life.” The benefit from reviewing what I did is finding these extracted principles. Why? Because ideally in the coming year, I apply them more consistently now that I have a great example of how they have positively impacted my life.
4. Set goals.
Finally, you are ready to set goals for next year. If this is the first time you have done this, you may not come up with great goals. Ideally, as leaders, we are doing this often, several times a year, in fact. If you have been setting and looking at your goals throughout the year, this step would be a refining of the list that you already have. For me in December, I take time to sit and really think and pray about my goals for the following year.
In what areas should you set goals? It will be different for each of us, and vary in different stages of our lives. Here is a general suggestion that must be included in my opinion.
- Your growth plan. Here is a series of five blogs I have written about how to create your personal growth plan:
- Your business/career
- Your family/relationships
- Your faith
- Your health
As you set these goals, you are more likely to achieve them if you:
- Make them measurable.
- Review them often during the year.
- Give them a specific date.
I also encourage you to teach your people to do this evaluation individually in their own lives. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Maybe another way to say it—sorry Socrates—would be, “A life regularly examined, is a life constantly enriched.”
For additional reading on setting goals for the new year, I encourage you to download our free eBook, Challenge to Change.
About me…I attended two undergraduate universities, the University of South Alabama and Texas Christian University. Where did you go to college?
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