Today we are sitting down to conduct our annual review process. This formal process each year allows us to sit down for a few hours and review the year that was and plan for the year to come. Each year we leave the conversation filled with excitement, and I expect this year’s discussion to be the best yet.
We began our review process informally the first year we were together. We’d been dating on a short time but spent time talking about what we wanted from the year to come. We mapped out individual goals (hobbies to embark upon, books to read, new skills to try) and relationship plans (places to see, date night expectations, outlining what each of us wanted from the other). I remember how excited I felt to codify a set of promises to ourselves and each other for what the year would hold for us.
Then a few years later we decided to formalize the process. We had read about Chris Guillebeau’s annual review process and used it as a foundation for our own. We booked a meeting room at a local hotel in Seattle for New Year’s Day and spent the entire time mapping out our plans for the new year, 2010. It turned out to be one of the biggest years we’ve ever had and that session helped us to make it a reality.
This year we will still be following the same overall structure, but instead of a hotel meeting room will be sitting next to a fire in our home in a tiny village in Spain. Here’s an overview of what we plan to cover (in case you want to follow the same plan for yourself) for us individually, our relationship, and our business. We do each of these steps for these 3 different areas of our lives together.
- Review the previous year
- What has gone well?
- What surprised us?
- What could we have done better?
- How did we match up with our goals?
- How do we feel overall about the year?
- What did we achieve?
- What did we celebrate?
- Define Goals and Plans for 2015
- What do we want to achieve?
- What do we want to learn?
- What do we want to experience?
- Where do we want to go?
- What do we want to do more of?
- What do we want to remove?
- Actionable Steps to make our goals a reality
- Talk about each goal to ensure it is achievable. We challenge each other here and promise to support each other and promise to hold the other accountable to the goals
- Set deadlines for each goal
- Establish an overall calendar for us to follow up with
- Establish check in dates to measure progress
- What support will we need? Identify people/resources needed to achieve any of the goals.
- Celebrate the plan!
Starting our new year planning by reviewing the ups and downs of the previous year – and the lessons – helps us realistically plan for the year ahead.
That being said, this process isn’t all sunshine and roses. It brings up some raw emotions and there has not yet been a year where we do not end up in some type of argument (usually more than one).
We are dealing is big questions of how we want to spend our time, how we plan to make money, and what type of experiences we want to have. We are each different people so we expect there to be tension at this stage. We view it as part of the process and know that it will help us make better decisions and to push us to focus on our priorities (our relationship over our work is the #1 I have to remember).
I expect this conversation to yield big plans for the new year. We’ll be integrating more into a new culture, becoming conversational in Spanish, launching entire new areas of our business (you are subscribed over at BetsyTalbot.com already, right?), taking more time away from technology, and saying yes to more experiences in the outdoors.
Even before sitting down to start our planning I’m getting that familiar tingle of excitement. Perhaps I’m weird, but I love the process of laying out all the possibilities on paper and sharing them with the one I love. It makes it all feel possible.
Of course, the key for us is to end the evening celebrating the year that was and welcoming in the year that will be. We’ll be toasting tonight with a nice bottle of champagne that we’ve been saving for this occasion. It is a reminder to ourselves to never miss a chance to celebrate successes (and valuable lessons from mistakes) and look forward to the possibilities.