Every year goes by more and more quickly (yes, it’s scientific fact – at least in my universe!) and this one has just zoomed by. With so much happening, I thought I’d get a head start on reviewing 2016, to make sure that I also allow sufficient time for looking ahead to 2017!
I’m making myself quite vulnerable here in sharing both personal and professional progress (and especially lack of progress!) but I think it’s important to share both the good and the bad (there’s not too much ugly going on, thank goodness). However well things are going, there is always room for improvement and I for one am a huge believer in lifelong learning. I should also say that I’m sharing my own personal review not because I think you’ll find it particularly interesting but to demonstrate how the process can work and hopefully to inspire and help you as you go about doing your own review!
I’ll be moving onto planning for the new year 2017 in the coming weeks but first I want to begin by considering this past year in terms of three elements: (1) my annual theme, (2) the Wheel of Life and (3) any specific goals.
Reviewing our annual theme
Now if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a fan of setting an annual ‘theme’, rather than following the not-so-productive tradition of writing long lists of New Year’s resolutions that we’re never going to keep. Past themes for me have been BOLD DECISIONS; FOLLOW-THROUGH; BEING ACTIVE; and, this past year, EXTERNALLY FOCUSED.
So how have we done?
Well, in my case, the year started well with a number of articles published in media outlets like Business Insider, Inc. Magazine and Quartz. I reached out to other bloggers and wrote several guest posts, also joining various podcasts and interviews.
I overcame my fear of video and quest for perfection with some very imperfect recordings for my different businesses and I even found that I enjoyed live videos, doing a week of daily Facebook Live broadcasts. I took this even further when I ran my first live webinar, also overcoming all the technical and logistical issues that come with this kind of event (or, at least, pushing on in spite of those issues!). And finally I’ve done a number of speaking engagements, from a little personal talk at the Travel Storytelling Festival in Brussels back in April to a couple of virtual summits, and, coming up soon, a business conference later this month in Thessaloniki, Greece.
However, I also want to consider the other side of the coin, which is what hasn’t worked so well when it comes to my theme of being ‘externally focused’; I think there are two pieces here that could have been better.
First, I’ve been quite lazy or at least passive in this area, sometimes reaching out but in general simply waiting behind my laptop for people to come to me and ask me to participate. I haven’t contacted any media outlets myself with article pitches, and I haven’t proposed my topics to any event organisers.
Second, the results of these various activities haven’t really been forthcoming or at least they haven’t been sustained. The biggest result came from the Business Insider article, which has had half a million views, and which still has people contacting me and telling me how much the article resonated with them. In terms of traffic to my website, however, after a peak back in January this fell back to the same levels as before, while my other efforts haven’t led to any kind of jump at all.
So, all in all, a mixed bag.
Having this theme of being ‘externally focused’ has definitely led to things that wouldn’t otherwise have materialised. I will absolutely continue to push myself and of course try to address those weaker points or ‘opportunities’ that I’ve just identified when it comes to being more proactive and making sure that I select targeted and relevant events that will help to support my personal and business goals.
Reviewing our Wheel of Life
The other piece of the annual review will also be familiar if you’re an avid reader of the blog: it’s looking at your values and, specifically, using the Wheel of Life tool to assess where you are in living true to those values. This tool allows you to identify the different priority areas in your life – more long term than your annual theme, these are likely to stay constant for years if not decades – and address any imbalance that arises when you focus too much on one area to the detriment of others.
So how have we done here?
This is where things get really personal, but I’m going to share with you the eight priority areas that I identified a year and a half ago when I first did this exercise; and how I’ve been doing in each of these areas this past year…
I’ve actually divided these areas more or less into ‘ME’ – the individual, inwardly focused priorities – and ‘OTHERS’ – the areas that relate to the external world.
- Personal growth and development – As I’ve said, I’m a big believer in lifelong learning and I’m always reading a lot of blogs and books on various business and self-development topics. I’ve been learning more about html and CSS as my websites evolve to become more sophisticated and I continue to manage them myself, and I’m also now familiar with Facebook Live and webinar software. I’ve also just completed an online course in Social Entrepreneurship, my first really academic studies since finishing my masters back in 2006.
- Health & well-being – I’ve been overall very consistent with my yoga, HIIT and running this year, and even though I haven’t lost weight or even noticed much of a change at all in how my body looks, I’m definitely stronger and at least a little bit more flexible as a result! I did a three-day boot camp in Wales back in March; and my sister and I also ran our first muddy obstacle course, which made the running a whole lot more interesting, wading through rivers and throwing ourselves over fences and logs. And I have been doing quite a bit of healthy cooking, whenever possible buying yummy natural ingredients and making my own food for myself and whomever else happens to be around.
- Time & space for myself – This one is still a tricky one, given that I don’t have my own home. Sometimes I’ll have days and days of being by myself with nothing but personal space while at other times I’ll be in situations where I’m completely dependent on other people and have nowhere really to retreat to. So it’s a bit of a rollercoaster but if you take a helicopter view the end result has been quite well balanced!
- Travel – Ah, another tricky one. Last summer I felt that I ended up with too much travel and my plan was to move towards longer stays in each place, at least one month and ideally three months of staying put. I tend to be very reactive, though, saying yes to all sorts of short trips including a couple of weddings and other more holiday-like trips this year, and as a result it’s been quite ‘bitty’ again. This is an area to watch out for in the future and I’m still interested in experimenting with the three-month system!
- Fun – I’ve definitely had fun this year, thanks to my travels and weddings, spending lots of time with my niece and nephew, having nights out in London and elsewhere…
- Social life – I wonder if I shouldn’t combine this one with #5 but in any case this area’s not been too bad this year! In particular having the last few months with London as a base has allowed me to both accept and organise various nights out, cinema, theatre, etc., which I’ve really enjoyed. Of course you meet amazing people when you travel by yourself but it is nice to have the opportunity to see the same people on more of a recurring basis!
- Romance – Hmm well I wouldn’t call it romance really but there has been some activity in this area this year, let’s leave it at that. As you can imagine, it’s not very easy when you’re constantly on the move. It’s a bit of a strange one as it’s not the kind of thing you can just address with an action plan!
- Making a difference – Well this final one sounds quite vague but I know what I mean by it. It’s one of the main reasons I quit my job a few years go, leaving behind a corporate role where I didn’t connect with the fundamental purpose of my work. I’ve found some of that purpose in supporting other people in identifying and working towards their own purpose via my coaching, as well as my pro bono work as a mentor and coach. My social entrepreneurship course was also meaningful in this context as it really helped me to think about how I can apply my business and marketing knowledge to make a bigger social impact.
Reviewing our specific goals
Now I’m a huge fan of goal setting and it’s something I often write about and encourage others to do in my coaching. I have to admit something, though, which is that I haven’t been very good at setting specific goals in my own life. To some extent this is because I’m still averse to having too much structure in place and I want to allow myself the flexibility to go where my energy is and move things around as and when needed. I’m also very happy with how things are going and I’m pretty self-motivated even without setting explicit goals with hard and fast deadlines.
I did set a few three-month goals, however, which I achieved – albeit often much later than I had planned:
- My friend and I published the book How to Succeed in Your First Job – my first ever – on Kindle and then in a print edition.
- I launched a five-day email course for my coaching business.
- I created automated email sequences for all my website resources.
- I recorded videos for the first time and did several Facebook live broadcasts.
- I ran my first live webinar.
- I gained my ACC (Associate Certified Coach) credential.
- I’ve created a group coaching programme.
So that’s my annual review!
As I move onto planning for 2017, you’ll see that these three pieces will be key: an annual theme (this annual framework will guide the next 12 months); your fundamental values and the Wheel of Life (these are your “big picture” long-term priorities); and your specific goals.
The Bucket List
And, just to finish off, I thought I’d have a look at the items I’ve ticked off my bucket list! Five ticked off this year, not bad at all:
#7 Visit Mount Rushmore (July)
#14 Eat sushi and sing karaoke in Japan (April)
#45 Visit Iceland (January)
#93 Have an article published in a known publication (January)
#94 Have a book published (July)
I’ve also made progress on this one:
#47 Visit 100 countries (3 new countries this year: Iceland, Japan and Turkey)
And, as an added bonus, I was sleepless in Seattle – not actually on my bucket list, but it should have been!
So how have you done this year on your theme? How is your wheel looking? And what about your goals? I’d love to hear how you’ve been doing in the comments below!