It’s that time of year again when everyone becomes self-reflective, navigates their existential crises because they didn’t accomplish “enough,” and sets lofty goals as if the demarcation from one calendar year to the next represents crossing the threshold into a new version of themselves who magically has more discipline, clarity, and limitless possibilities in front of them.
Remember this meme? Ah, simpler times…
The issue with annual reviews is that most people only do them once a year (hence the annual part).
But the point of an annual review, or any review, is to take an inventory of how you spent your time, energy, and attention and how the way you allocated these resources made your life better.
That’s it. The point of any review comes down to asking “Did my actions lead to my desired outcomes?”
The issue is that most people don’t actually know what they want, so they chase what they think they’re supposed to want.
And because they wait to take this inventory once a year, every annual review comes with a year’s worth of existential angst because their goals and aspirations didn’t get them closer to a life that resonates with them.
I’m not going to tell you the “best” way to do an annual review.
But I do want to share a few questions I ask myself that might help you develop clarity on what you want, what you don’t want, and what you need to do to build a life aligned with your values.
Questions for Deeper Insights
These questions are great for annual review season, but they’re more effective if you ask them throughout the year, every year, for the rest of your life.
- If this had been my last week alive, am I satisfied with how I spent my time? This helps me pinpoint any bullshit I let into my life that week. If I can remove or reduce it for next week, I do. Most of us live for “someday.” “Someday I’ll travel.” “Someday I’ll write that book.” “Someday I’ll spend more time with my kids or partner.” One day, you’ll be out of “somedays.” Start now.
- Am I doing what I’d do if I didn’t need the money? My first four months as a solopreneur, I wrote every day and loved every second of it. When I started making money, my day-to-day didn’t change. I kept writing, hanging out with cool people, and learning new stuff. I know what I’d do if I didn’t need money, because I know what I did when I didn’t have money. Because I pursued intrinsically rewarding work, instead of just chasing a paycheck that made me miserable. If the money stopped coming, would you keep doing what you’re doing? If not, your work may not resonate with you.
- Was I intentional with how I lived, worked, and created? Most people passively coast through life, then end up on their deathbed looking back on a lifetime of regret. This question helps me stay in the moment and actively live instead of passively exist.
- Am I practicing memento mori? Memento mori means “remember death.” It sounds morbid, but it’s meant to remind us to use our mortality as a motivator to live fully. I extend the meaning to “remember it will end.” Your puppy won’t be a puppy forever. You won’t always be able to pick up the phone to call your mom. You won’t always be in perfect health. Your favorite coffee shop may not always be around or you may not live in the same place to visit it. Remember it will end. Practice deep, intentional gratitude for what you have while you have it.
- Where am I overcomplicating things? It’s easy for me to “theorycraft” and preoptimize by going down YouTube rabbit holes and designing the “perfect” systems and business plans. Most of the time, this is a distraction keeping me from taking action. Progress over perfection.
- Where am I thinking too small? Most of us have the potential to have a way bigger impact than we give ourselves permission to believe. This question helps me stop shrinking in the corner and do kickass work.
- Where am I letting the Four Horsemen of Fear stop me from doing meaningful work? Fear of failure, ridicule, uncertainty, and success hold more people back than lack of money, intelligence, or resources ever will.
- What do I need to do to help a million people flourish? Every piece of content, product, or service I put out revolves around answering this question.
I ask myself most of these on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Not just once a year.
They have nothing to do with revenue, losing weight, or chasing external things. They’re all centered around building a fulfilling life, doing work that matters, and helping make the world a better place.
I hope they help.
Question for the Week
In one word, what is the theme for your 2023?