The Art of Reviewing

Everyone knows that receiving consistent feedback is at the core of learning and success. Well, your life goals are no different: a periodic review of your goals is simply a personal feedback system that helps you achieve them.
In fact, being able to follow-up and review your goals is even more important than having set goals at all! Paraphrasing the productivity guru Dave Allen said: “It doesn’t matter how good the rest of your productivity system is. If you don’t do a weekly review, it won’t work”.

Today I want to share my recent method of periodically reviewing my goals. Perhaps it helps some of you in designing your own.

A useful review begins with setting a good basis of goals and aspirations. My basis has two elements: a personal mission statement that applies to my whole life, and specifically for my goals in 2016 I’m using Year Compass http://www.yearcompass.com/ (basically a set of goals and reflections for myself in 2016). I spent about a day setting this at the start of this year.

Now, I do recommend some similar structured process for deciding what you want to do each year (for the sake of efficiency really -better to do it properly once than to second-guess yourself for 11 months). But even if you don’t have a clear set of goals to work from yet, it’s never too late to start by reflecting once a month or once a week on whether you’re achieving what you want!

Currently I do a weekly review of my schedule every Friday, and a monthly review of my goals every month. Below I’ll be describing the full process for both:

 

Yo Todoist, where’s my royalty cheque?

Monthly review

This is the main workhorse designed to keep the year on track. It’s really a time to disconnect from the minutiae of life and reconnect with what I set out to do these 365 days.
I take time to review my existing goals and knowledge, and let these influence what I’ll do next.

Review mission statement & yearly compass: starting from the big-picture, these two documents help me reconnect to my closest goals and values, and inform the priorities I will set during the next month.
Review books and notes: Evernote is my main document/thoughts/knowledge management tool. Before setting goals for the month, I try to go through all my notes (including book notes) to review most of my realisations. (Note: this might be the one activity that gets a seperate evening soon.)
Work on mindmaps: I have a few of these, and they contain my main goals for the
Set goals for the month: these are the 3-4 biggest areas I want to focus on for the month. These are usually fairly continuous activities or habit changes, like playing guitar everyday, going for 4 workouts a week, and so on.
Schedule goals: divide the goals over the month with the relevant benchmarks and assigned working chunks (usually in weekends).
Schedule fasting days: I do about one day of intermittent fasting per week; I schedule that in advance to not weasel out from under it.
Schedule books: I go through about 3 books a month, so I pick the next ones here.

The monthly review takes about two hours and quite some mental energy, thus my main advice is to make a decent ritual for it. Go to a fun environment and spoil yourself a bit to get psyched for the month.

Being the consumerist scumbag that I am, for me that’s going to Starbucks, ordering a Pumpkin Spiced Latte (or whatever) and take a few minutes to “can’t even” like I’m 16.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/y9Ys-M884_g/hqdefault.jpgPictured: an effective monthly review in progress.

Weekly review

This is a more operational look at the next week. As the major course corrections already took place during the monthly review, I already know the priorities of the month and have an idea what to focus on.
What remains then is mostly checking that everything is on track, rebalancing workload and paying attention to the people around you!

Review mission statement: I still start with a short look at my mission statement, to get into the planning mood and remind me how to structure my life.
Review Todoist: as I wrote about before, Todoist consists of all the projects and tasks that I have going on in my life. So every Friday, I go through all 150-200 active entries. I rebalance to match my workload, assign deadlines to what’s being forgotten, and generally fit in what came up during the last week.
Plan next week: detailed plan for what I want to work on the next week. This means trying to reduce the uncertainty in the next week: I plan my workouts, set my social nights, decide when I’ll work on what project. I also set one main goal for each day -the one thing I want to do so that day becomes succesful.
Review network: I have a mindmap containing most people I know and connections I have -yes, that increases my potential for winding up as a serial killer. On Friday I check who I should catch up with over the weekend, with who I should arrange a meeting, and so on: keeping my network fresh and my social life alive.
Set people-oriented goals: plan some surprises, schedule some meetings, and turn the review of my network into fluffy actionable steps.

I do this all on Friday afternoons, as these are a good time to take inventory of the week, decide what needs more focus, and then head into the weekend unperturbed.


 

No doubt this can all seem complex, but it really helps me to avoid losing track of my goals. Instead, the reviews allow me to assign resources and set priorities on a weekly and monthly basis, which really helps me to simply be in ‘creation’ mode all other days.

Not every review needs to be perfect or cover all bases. Simply taking the steps to keep your goals and aspirations close to you, is half the battle of achieving them!

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