It’s December and that means time with family, egg nog, and planning for the year ahead.
Over the course of this month, I’ll be running through my annual planning process, both for me personally and as a professional, in order to make the most out of next year.
Like anything else, making sense of where you’ve been and where you intend to go is a smart place to start. Critiquing the past year provides the insight needed to know where you need to go this year and how you might get there.
Systematically, here’s how I intend to do that:
1) After Action Review for 2022: Reflection + Knowledge gained
2) Vision + Clarity: Getting clear on your priorities
3) Action Plan: Don’t talk about it. Be about it.
Using this three-step planning process I’ll set achievable, life-enhancing goals that will ultimately help me navigate my way to a successful year to say nothing of defining what success looks like.
We start by taking stock of what’s happened over the last year.
Step 1) After Action Review (AAR) for 2022: Reflection + Knowledge gained
Planning for future success starts with debriefing what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, what’s working, and what’s not.
Here’s how to get it done:
Start your end-of-the-year review with quick five questions, and then move to a deeper reflection.
Review: list things that first come to your mind. Don’t edit yourself. Just go.
- Top 5 happiest moments of the past year
- Small everyday things that made you happy and filled you with energy
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- What didn’t go well? What did you want to do but didn’t? What happened?
- Major life goals – did you take steps toward major milestones? No? What kept you from making progress? Write it out.
- Overall main lesson of the previous year that really stood out
- Highlight of the year
Tips: These questions can be really hard to answer. To get the juices flowing do the following.
- If you use a calendar (Google calendar, physical calendar, etc.), take 10 minutes to review each week of the year. Identify and write down the things that you loved. And hated.
- Look through your photo album from the year. Do the same as above. For most of us, there will be moments captured in our photo album that remind us of when we felt great.
With your review complete, take time to summarize the good, bad, and others from the last year. Don’t belabor this – just write out a summary of the year with special attention paid to what went right, and wrong, and any lessons you’ve learned in the process.
Give yourself time for this. Think, process, analyze, and write. There’s no easy button here, but the more thought you put into this the more meaningful lessons learned you’ll have to take into planning for this year. Don’t leave your best effort on the field.
Step 2) Vision + Clarity: Getting clear on your priorities
This is the part where you start thinking about the vision and gaining more clarity about the next year. As you plan the year ahead, it is important to have a theme. Your theme will be the word or phrase, that describes what you want to accomplish in your day-to-day life this year.
That theme could be “balance”, “health", “action not words”, “abundance”, “business”, “family” … Whatever it is, make it meaningful to you.
Now, codify the vision. This could take the form of a few sentences, paragraphs, or even a sketch if that’s your thing. Imagine yourself a year from now and describe how you see your life. How do you feel? How are you spending your days? Who are you with? What have you accomplished? What are your daily routines?
How do your actions next year match your desires for the year and drive you toward your objectives?
After describing this vision, think of what you want to achieve in the next 12 months. Describe specific, measurable, and tangible goals in the key areas of your life. Categories could include:
- Health and well-being: set goals that will help you stay healthy and feel good.
- Self-growth: what are you going to do to expand your mind; what skills do you want to attain; what books do you want to read; how you can maintain a positive mindset.
- Service: how will you contribute to your community, the people around you, and those who need help?
- Family and friends: list steps and actions to improve your relationships; think of how you can spend more quality time together
- Spirituality: whatever spirituality means to you, focus on your beliefs, values, self-discovery, and self-awareness, and decide how you want to improve your spiritual practices.
- Time management: think of changes you can make to manage your time better and more efficiently to help you readjust your work-life balance.
- Sleep: review your sleeping patterns and set goals on how you can improve your sleeping habits.
- Professional: envision your professional goals and get into details – make these goals measurable, achievable and relevant. Think big and set goals outside of your comfort zone.
- Financial: list here anything that goes under the umbrella of finances–saving, investing, making more money, etc.
With step two complete, we know what the ideal next year should look like and what our “big ticket” goals are. Now, we’re going to build a plan to make it happen.
Step 3) Action Plan: Don’t talk about it. Be about it.
Finally, it’s time to pull all of this work together and start making it happen.
Step-by-Step action planning:
- Pull up your list of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and tangible goals. Tweak them if you need to.
- Write down why this goal matters to you.
- Think of the additional resources that will help you on your way to accomplishing your goal. Write ‘em down.
- List supporting actions and tasks that will help you achieve your goal. Don’t get bogged down here. Just list out the big things and move on.
- Set the exact timeline.
- Set a reward for each goal. Even if it’s small – this will help you acknowledge and celebrate your wins. This feeling will make you happy and more likely to follow through on everything else in life.
- Use whatever system is best for you (written journal, Google Cal, messenger pigeon…whatever.) Set these goals and timelines on your calendar.
Finally, write out these goals for the year (preferably) in a written journal. Just do it.
What you should have in hand at the end of this process is a vision for the year, goals that nest within & support that vision (including the big steps and resources you’ll need to plan for), and realistic timelines to complete those goals such that you achieve what you intended to by the end of the year.
Now, based on your goals and timelines, set your goals for January. Do this every month all year. This practice will ensure you continue to take steps all year to achieve your annual objectives.
Similarly, for the next 52 weeks start your week by reviewing your vision and goals for the year as well as your monthly goals. Take note of your progress from last week and set your plan for the upcoming week. Rinse and repeat.
If you do this and stick with it you will have the happiest, most productive, and life-changing year of your life. You will take tangible and consistent steps to becoming the best version of yourself and you will develop the habits to make every year better than the last.