Personal Annual Review

Personal Annual Review

“The unexamined life is not worth living” (attributed to Socrates)

As we move into a new year, I find it useful to conduct a personal annual review exercise with my executive coaching clients. I have seen this exercise be life-changing on more than one occasion, with people making bold decisions that took them in new directions.

1. What were my wins?

  • Make a list of all your wins from last year, and the key lesson you took from each win

2. What were my losses or failures?

  • Make a list of all your losses or failures, and the key lesson you took from each loss

3. What did I change my mind about?

Think of updating your beliefs as “software updates” for your brain. If you can’t think of anything you changed your mind about, this is potentially a bad sign. It could mean you have stopped learning, or you are not open to updating your beliefs with new information.

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” (attributed to John Maynard Keynes)

  • Make a list of all the “software updates” you installed in your brain

4. What activities, people, or projects energized my life?

  • Review your calendar for the period and list all the things that energized you (work-related and personal).
  • Did you invest enough time in these areas, or did they get neglected?
  • What specific changes will you make to the way you allocate your time this year?

5. What activities, people, or projects drained me?

  • Review your calendar for the period and list all the things that drained you (work-related and personal).
  • To what extent were you able to reduce the amount of time you invested in these areas?
  • What specific changes will you make to the way you allocate your time this year?

6. Who (or what) are the “barnacles” in my life?

Barnacles are crustaceans that love to cling to boat hulls. The U.S. Navy estimates that unchecked barnacle growth on ships can increase drag by as much as 60 percent. I think of barnacles as people or situations that hold you back from realizing your full potential (work-related and personal). You’re trying to push forward, but they create a “drag” on your life, slowing you down from achieving your goals.

  • List all the people or situations that seem like “barnacles” in your life
  • How can you eliminate or reduce their impact this year?

7. What issues do I regret not taking action on?

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality” (Seneca)

  • List the issues you regret not taking action on
  • What reasons did you use to rationalize your inaction?
  • What are the potential benefits if you did take action?
  • What courageous actions will you commit to taking this year?

8. What do I need to say NO to?

“The difference between successful people and very successful people, is that very successful people say NO to almost everything.” (Warren Buffett)

If you’re not saying HELL YEAH about an opportunity, say NO.” (Derek Sivers)

  • What are you going to say NO to and stop doing?

We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” (John Dewey)

Personal reflection is powerful. You will get even more value if you share your personal annual review document with a trusted person who will challenge your responses and provide constructive feedback. 
(I document my responses and discuss them with my wife to get her feedback.)


Until next time…