Most of us have resistance to sitting down for the type of reflection called for in an annual review. We might be uncomfortable with the dark or empty spaces of our disappointments. We tend to underestimate the value of honoring and celebrating our achievements in the belief that celebrating ourselves is arrogant or egotistical.
You may hear the echoes of voices telling you that this is a waste of time and that you need to focus on setting your goals and moving forward.
Or, perhaps it’s more simple: you just don’t know where to start.
In 5 Tips for Doing An Annual Review, I shared the importance of Creating Space. What do you do once you’re in that space?
Rather than trying to dive right in, it helps to have a priming ritual to put yourself in the proper state.
What is a Priming Ritual?
Getting started with anything is always the hardest part. It helps to have something that eases you into the process.
Before any hard workout, you do a warmup. In a yoga class, you don’t just jump into a downward dog in the first minute; you do some seated twists or other gentle moves. You need the same type of warm-up, or priming ritual, for deep work.
As part of my “warm-up,” I like to do three things:
(1) Review my notes from last year’s review
Reading what I distilled from the prior year helps me associate to the power of this process. It reminds me why it’s so necessary to take this time to reflect. It quiets that voice in the back of my mind that says I don’t have time for this.
There’s no better testament to the power of conducting an annual review than reading your own reviews from past years.
(2) Review my calendar
I flip through my calendar, looking at the things I did over the course of the year. Where did I spend my time? What was I doing?
The purpose of this is not to do a detailed time-tracking inventory. It’s to remind me of where I was and what I did over the year. A year is a long time. The phenomenon of recency bias means that we tend to remember most clearly the things that happened most recently.
As we are in the moment of going through something big, we often think that we won’t forget it. You’d be surprised by what you might forget.
Here’s a real-life example from last year: At the end of the year, I was participating in a year-end reflection process led by a mentor, who asked us to list the big things we had done during the year. I hadn’t yet reviewed my calendar, and I left off the Sacred Depths Coach Training program that I completed. That program was a major investment of my time, energy, focus, and money from the fall of 2017 through the fall of 2018. It required several hours a week of my time for the majority of the year. Yet I had completely forgotten about it because it wasn’t in my current wheel of focus!
(3) Scan my journals and photos and loose papers
The purpose here is the same as the calendar review: to remind myself of where I was — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually — and what I did. I journal extensively, and also tend to take a lot of random photos to remind myself of things. If I’m not careful, this can easily turn into a rabbit hole. My emphasis here is on briefly scanning my journals and photos.
For my physical journals: I’ll quickly flip through the pages and skim my table of contents, which I create as I write in a journal. I also sort through any loose papers that I took notes on, scanning what’s still relevant and shredding what I no longer need.
For my digital files: In DayOne, where I do most of my journaling, I move all entries for the year into their own journal, labeled with the year. I create a separate journal for My Daily Recaps from that year, and name that journal “Daily Recaps [year].” I also scan through my master Evernote note that has all 365 Daily Recaps from the year.
In my photos app, I do a quick scroll through the photos from the year.
Going through these steps helps me remember more of the year, including many of the smaller moments that I may have forgotten. This primes me to get into the heart of my process, which I’ll share in the next installment.
What’s Your Priming Process?
How do you prime yourself for your annual review? Which parts of this priming ritual might you choose to incorporate? As you consider your review process, please share in the comments what you’re taking away.