This year I'm writing my first Annual Review, which will give me a chance to take stock of what went well and what could have gone better, while also giving me a moment to enjoy the progress I've made over the past 12 months.1
But it's not just about looking back. A good Annual Review is also about looking toward the future and thinking about how the life I'm living now is building toward a bigger mission. Basically, my Annual Review forces me to look at my actions over the past 12 months and ask, “Are my choices helping me live the life I want to live?”
And most importantly, the annual review is a personal process. It's not about comparing how much or how little you did to someone else. It's about your life, your actions, and what you want to do for yourself. In other words, keep your eyes on your own paper.
There are 3 questions that I'm going to answer in my Annual Review (feel free to use these for your own annual review if you want).
- What went well this year?
- What didn't go so well this year?
- What am I working toward?
Alright, let's get this party started…
1. What went well this year?
Writing. After writing inconsistently for years, this was the year when I finally turned it around. I wrote a new article every Monday and Thursday in 2013. (I only missed one day all year, which happened when I was sick with food poisoning while traveling through Italy). My first article was published on November 12, 2012. I'm proud to say that since that time I have published 114 articles on JamesClear.com and received 686,937 unique visitors. Best of all, 40,637 people have joined my free weekly newsletter. (Thank You!)
Travel. I visited 5 countries and 10 states this year. Internationally, I traveled to Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and the United States. Within the USA, I visited California, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia. Overall, I’m happy with the amount of travel in my life, but next year I plan to schedule more trips specifically for photography.
Lifting. I'm slowly getting into better shape. In the beginning of the year, I was still relatively weak and out of shape, so I spent the first five months focusing on bodyweight exercises to build a foundation. Starting in late May, I went back to the gym and I haven't missed a workout since. Again, I started with easy weights and slowly worked my way up each week. Rather than worrying about specific numbers, I was much better this year about committing to the process of training and getting better each week. I'm planning to share more details about my workouts during 2014.
My best lifts of the year were…
- Snatch — 165 lbs (75 kg) for 1 rep
- Clean and Jerk — 255 lbs (115 kg) for 1 rep
- Back Squat — 295 lbs (133 kg) for 10 reps
- Front Squat — 240 lbs (108 kg) for 10 reps
- Bench Press — 200 lbs (90 kg) for 11 reps
- Deadlift — 405 lbs (183 kg) for 2 reps
Mindset. I have been very achievement focused my entire life. This year, I made big strides toward becoming more process-oriented and focusing on the system rather than the goal. This was a major shift for me and the wonderful thing is that I’m enjoying the process more than ever and the results are still there.
2. What didn't go so well this year?
Creating products. Basically, I didn’t do it. I have readers emailing me each week asking when my book is coming out. I have friends telling me every month that I need to launch a product. Maybe it’s my own fears or mental barriers holding me back, but I haven’t done it yet. I want to do it. I plan to do it. I just haven’t executed. My writing every Monday and Thursday will always be free, but you can also expect multiple books and products in 2014.
Delegation and management. Again, I know I should delegate more tasks in my business, but I have delayed doing this for a long time. Last week, I finally stepped up and hired someone to handle a few tasks. Hopefully that will go well and I’ll grow as a manager and leader over the next year. Building a team of people who believe in the mission is something I want to become better at in 2014.
Staying in touch with friends and family from afar. Thankfully, I see most of my family and friends in-person multiple times each year. But when we are far apart, my friends do a much better job of staying in touch with me than I do of staying in touch with them. I rarely call people first and often wait too long before calling them back. I’m thinking of how I can schedule calls with friends and family into my calendar on a weekly basis in 2014. (My main worry is that my family and friends will think that it’s too “business-like” to schedule calls with the people you are close to personally.)
Photography. I’m not sure that I got better as a photographer this year. Mostly, it comes down to this: I didn’t take enough photos. The only way to get better at the craft is to do the craft, and I spent too much time doing other things. I’d like to fix this in 2014 by scheduling a handful of photography trips, which will be 4 to 10 days in length and specifically dedicated to taking photos. You can be sure that some photo essays will be coming your way.
Sprinting. I didn't make sprinting a priority in my workouts this year, so I wouldn't consider this a failure. However, I do want to include more sprinting in my training next year. I made it to the track 3 or 4 times this year. Next year, I'd like to sprint once per week for a few months and see how my body responds.
Making people wait on me. I know I do it too often, especially with family and friends.
3. What am I working toward?
So where is all of this going? What direction am I heading in? What am I hoping to build, to create, and to share with the world?
After much thought, I think there are 5 central themes that drive my work, my relationships, and my life.
- Rituals and habits. I believe in process. I believe that it's more important to become the type of person that you want to become than it is to achieve a particular result. The system is more important than the goal. Furthermore, the science of habits is probably the central theme that ties all of my work together.
- Adventure and exploration. There is very little in life that is better than a good adventure. The world is meant to be experienced, not read about.
- Creativity and craftsmanship. There is a magic that comes from making things. I believe that it's important to be a creator, not merely a consumer. I want to make sure that I not only share great ideas through my writing, but that I actually put them into practice as well. It's better to live in the arena than to judge from the crowd.
- Strength and confidence. I believe in living a physical life. It is through sport, competition, and physical pursuit that I have developed confidence in myself and I think that it is important to pursue those areas on a consistent basis. Pushing yourself physically reveals what you are made of mentally.
- Service and teamwork. I believe that we should be relentlessly helpful, teach everything we know, and serve whomever we can reach. Regardless of what projects I work on in the future, I hope they will serve others and focus on a cause that is bigger than myself. After working up the courage to write publicly, I now believe that writing is among the most important things I do because it allows me to help people on a larger scale.
The Bottom Line
I’ve said many times this year that I’m not an expert. I have plenty that I need to improve upon and with most of the areas above (even the good ones), I don’t have it all figured out. I'm just sharing what I learn along the way.
Of course, I am happy with the progress I made in 2013 and I’m excited to make 2014 a year of slow gains, little habits, and unwavering consistency.
As always, thanks for reading. And feel free to use my annual review as a template for your own.
Thanks to Chris Guillebeau for inspiring me to write this Annual Review.