A few people have asked about my process for the Annual Review, and I thought I’d chime in since this is the practice that has made the biggest difference in how I structure my life.
First, a bit of history. Chris and I started the annual review together, at a time when our lives were completely open to anything. We were coming back from Africa, and knew we could move anywhere or do anything, so we spent a bit of time crafting an image of our ideal life.
We started with a few questions from an ideal day exercise similar to this one that I shared with Magpie Girl last year. The we spent time making goals and plans that propelled us toward what we were dreaming about.
We’ve been doing this for five years now, and it’s the scariest and most significant part of each December. But by now we’ve developed our own process and plan for this– and they’re remarkably different. Here’s mine.
So, I start with two questions:
How did this year go? (What went well, what could’ve gone better?)
What excites me about next year? (What am I hoping for?)
So I freewrite a paragraph or two about the year generally. Then I think about each area of my life– my roles (I’m revising these a bit this year, but this is what I’ve used for the past three years).
Mine are: Artist, Wife, Creative Learner(what am I learning, what am I creating…), Health Nut (exercise, diet, emotional health), Friend, Family Member, World Citizen (community, civics), and Businesswoman (money).
Then I answer those two questions specifically to each role. For example, what did I accomplish as an artist this year? What still needs work? Where do I want to take my art in 2011? I’ll write a paragraph or two about each of them.
About this time, a theme begins to emerge. And I try to come up with a word that guides each goal… This year’s word was Stretch. So when I’m unsure of a decision, I can ask myself if it fits with my goals very easily. If I was hesitant about something this year, I reminded myself that I was supposed to stretch– and it helped me figure out what I should do.
Next is often the hardest part. I can get here pretty quickly, but going more specific starts to get scary…What if I fail? So I usually take a little while to give myself a pep talk before I start this next section.
Once I have my general idea for each of my 8 roles, then I make quantifiable goals. For example, if I say I want to be a productive growing artist, then I think about what is enough for that to happen. This year, it was 200 small paintings (check!), 40 watercolors (check!) and 3 commissioned larger pieces (check!). I put numbers on it, so I know exactly when I’ve met the goal.
Sometimes that backfires, though. For example, my goal with money this year was $2K per month by the end of the year. (What’s the opposite of check? Bah.) But at least I can look at numbers pretty specifically and see what I need to do next year for that to happen. Also, I made more money than ever before from paintings, and I think having that number as a goal helped that to happen.
Then I go deeper. I turn the goals in to projects. Example of one taken all the way through:
Role– Wife. I want to find a tangible way to pamper Chris a bit this year. He likes Pie– perhaps I’ll bake a few extra pies for him. Once a month? Twice a month? He travels a lot, so why not once a week when he’s home? That works out to 25 or so…
Goal: Make 25 or more pies for Chris this year.
Project: Find a way to frame it– perhaps work through the alphabet? 12 pies by June 1. Make a list of options, look for recipes. Take a pie class at Sur La Table. (This connects to creative learner.)
I put each project on an index card, and keep them on my desk. On the first of the month, I look over everything to make sure that I’m on track with each project.
Once I have my index cards with the projects, I roughly plan it out on a calendar, just so I can make sure I don’t run in to a problem and so I have an idea of what the year looks like…
And then I’m done. Except for the doing.
I’ll be back tomorrow with answers to the first question. Meanwhile, go get started on your own goals! 2011 is going to be awesome. I know it.